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Posts filed under ‘Ferrari’

Boring or Brilliant? Ferrari 456

November 20, 2016 by Matt

Ferrari 456

Is it an understated study in minimalism and proportion, or an overly-timid effort by a design house whose visual currency is Italian passion? The Ferrari 456, produced from 1992-1997, and from 1998 to 2003 in upgraded 456M guise, was the automaker’s top-of-the-line grand tourer, designed to convey two occupants (and their small children in the occasional rear seats) across continents in peerless style at breathtaking speed. Capable of cruising effortlessly for hours at triple-digit speeds, Ferrari equipped the 456 with its most powerful non-supercar mill, a 5.5l, 442-hp V12, and the car could be specified with either a 6-speed gated manual or a 4-speed automatic. The cabin is supremely comfortable and the chassis brilliantly capable, especially considering the car’s two-ton curb weight.

Ferrari 456

All that said, is it exciting enough to warrant a place alongside Ferrari’s greatest? There’s little dispute the car the 456 replaced in the automaker’s lineup, the unlamented yet underrated 412, is generally considered a sub-par effort, so the 456 arrived unburdened by the expectations inherent in following a truly outstanding Ferrari. Also, the market niche the 456 occupies is slightly different than that targeted by Ferrari’s bread-and-butter models like the contemporary F355, with a prospective buyer a bit more reserved, perhaps less interested in a hair-raising joyride than drivers of the smaller Ferraris.

Ferrari 456

Still, the idea of a Ferrari means something to enthusiast community, and given the strength of the brand, to the wider public as well: Speed, passion, excitement and a touch of flamboyance. Does the 456 live up to that preconception? I think it does, but it takes patience to extract those qualities from its shape and demeanor. The dramatic side cuts on the flanks of the car, for instance, and the way the character lines on its flanks change from concave to convex as they move back toward the rear—these elements admirably bridge the design gap between Ferrari’s outré ’80s and more restrained ’90s visual vocabulary. I love the way the 456’s proportions are allowed to come to the fore, accented with touches like the fender-top vents (sadly eliminated for the 456M) and the very obviously staggered 5-spoke wheels.

Ferrari 456

Above all, the 456 looks timeless and tailored, like an Armani suit, a shape with far more longevity than either the 412 that preceded it or its successor, the truly awful 612 Scaglietti. Would it look out of place in Ferrari’s current lineup? Perhaps—but the 456’s owners can rest easy knowing they have the pleasure of driving one of Ferrari’s truly classic shapes. And given my penchant for big GTs, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a bit jealous.

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Design Showdown:
McLaren P1 vs. LaFerrari

March 6, 2013 by Matt

McLaren Ferrari Logos

In anticipation of their reveal at the upcoming 2013 Geneva Motor Show, the automotive world is abuzz with talk of the latest offerings from perennial Formula 1 and road-going supercar rivals McLaren and Ferrari.

You can read more about their staggering technical specs here; for now, let’s examine them from a design standpoint and weigh in on which one is more aesthetically successful, or, to tip my hand a bit, which one is less ugly.

Our first contender is McLaren’s so-called F1 successor, the P1. Sinewy and organic, the eyebrow-like McLaren logo is echoed in many places throughout the bodywork. Like its little brother the MP4-12C, though, the P1 manages to look dramatic and somewhat anonymous at the same time. Its lines don’t strike me as being particularly resolved, and as such the whole car has a nervous, fragile, unsettled look about it.

McLaren P1 Yellow

McLaren P1 Yellow

McLaren P1 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

Next up is the brand new follow-on to the Enzo, the ridiculously-named Ferrari LaFerrari. Unveiled in the past couple of days, the LaFerrari certainly looks more conventional than its British competitor. Still, the black roof and stock supercar proportions combine to make it look like a cutting-edge supercar for, say, 1994.

Ferrari LaFerrari Red

Ferrari LaFerrari Red

Ferrari LaFerrari Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

On the merits of its styling, which do you prefer? I honestly can’t pick a favorite. I appreciate the creativity of the P1, but the LaFerrari’s lines are more resolved overall. Until an automaker can pen a supercar design at once fresh-looking, well-proportioned, with exquisite detailing and above all, beautiful—yes, I do believe it can be done—I don’t know that I will have a dog the burgeoning supercar fight, a conflict that includes not only the cars featured in this post, but offerings from Porsche, Pagani and Lamborghini as well.

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McLaren P1 vs. LaFerrari

Movie Stars: The Ferrari 328

January 16, 2013 by Matt

Alright, so maybe the fact that the car’s only in the clip for the first 20 seconds doesn’t really warrant its addition to the “Movie Stars” post series, but indulge me. Besides, is there a more inspired choice for a music video car than a mid-’80s Ferrari 328? Big kudos to whoever’s responsible for making the car a part of the intro sequence to Sleigh Bells’ video for their song “Infinity Guitars,” whether the band, the producer or the director, Phil Pinto. It sets up the tone of the rest of the video, and as a bonus includes a bit of engine noise, making the Ferrari more than just eye candy. Well done indeed.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Car Designs Inspired by Formula 1

July 17, 2012 by Matt

Ferrari Enzo Ferrari Red

Huge, un-fendered wheels. A long, thin nose. Wings at both ends. A single-seat cockpit backed by a prominent intake snorkel. Bulbous side pods.

On paper, the ingredients of a typical Formula 1 racer don’t exactly sound like a recipe for aesthetic success. That said, the sport has always been an extremely high-profile showcase for an automaker’s technical prowess (or lack thereof), so it’s understandable some would attempt to cash in, as it were, on their team’s on-track achievements by incorporating F1 car styling details in their road cars.

Enzo Ferrari. With the 2002-2004 Enzo Ferrari (shown at top), the Modena automaker was perhaps the first to do so overtly. The design cues are obvious, from the side pod-suggesting rear fenders to the anteater-ish nose and prominent front-end aerodynamics. The car was conceived as its manufacturer’s F1 team was in the midst of an unrivaled success streak, notching five driver’s World Championships in as many years from 2000 to 2005, so it’s understandable they would seek to showcase their domination. Whether the car actually works aesthetically is another story, but it’s at least noteworthy.

Mercedes SLR McLaren Silver

Mercedes SLR McLaren. This one’s a bit more of a mishmash of influences. Still, the F1 connection is strong with the 2003-2008 SLR McLaren, as evidenced by the long, thin nose motif running down the hood and the quasi-winged valence. To all that, Mercedes added touches of their classic 300SL Gullwing racer along with then-current Merc themes like the double ovoid headlights. If the car’s styling looks ambiguous, there’s probably a reason it was replaced in short order by the much more single-minded SLS AMG in 2010.

Caparo T1 Orange

Caparo T1. No ambiguity here. The high-strung, 2008-present T1 is an unabashed homage to Formula 1 shapes and engineering. A 1,000-lb car with a 575-hp, 3.5l V8 nestled amidships, its power-to-weight ratio approaches that of an F1 racer as well. If the design gets points, they’ll undoubtedly come from the pre-teenage boy crowd, who spend their study hours drawing such shapes on their notebook paper. Stunning in the purity of its interpretation of an F1 look, but of questionable utility in the “real world.”

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Ferrari 400, 400i and 412:
Forgotten Big Ferraris

March 19, 2012 by Matt

Ferrari 400 400i 412 GT 2+2 Silver

Most big Ferraris are usually overlooked anyway, deferring to their smaller, faster siblings when it comes to headline-grabbing, but Ferrari’s ’76-’89 400, 400i and 412 (collectively known as the 400-series) were especially demure. A certain flamboyance being a key quality of the brand in general, it’s easy to see why the 400-series faded into the background.

Ferrari 400 400i 412 GT 2+2 Brown Rear Quarter Back Taillights

Sharing a model year range identical to another big coupe, the BMW E24 6 Series (I’m a former 6er owner, so I immediately made the connection), the initial Ferrari 400 was a larger-displacement evolution of the awkwardly-named 365 GT4 2+2. Retaining that model’s mold-breaking Pininfarina styling, the initial 400 touted a 335-hp 4.8l V12, motivating the 3,300-lb car to 60 mph in around 6 seconds. The engine delivered the power to the ground through a standard-issue 5-speed manual or, in a Ferrari first, through a 3-speed, GM-sourced automatic transmission. In fact, the optional presence of the latter is perhaps the 400-series’ best-known attribute among car buffs in general; mention the car and it’s fair bet you’ll hear a comment along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that was the first Ferrari with a slushbox, right?”

Ferrari 400 400i 412 GT 2+2 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dashboard Dash Seats

Leaving aside the open question of whether an automatic genuinely better matched the big GT’s demeanor than a manual, or if it was just a capitulation to the effort-averse tastes of the all-important American market, I’m convinced the car itself was a diamond in the rough. Especially considering its Ferrari stablemates like the yuppie-ish Mondial or cartoonish Testarossa, the 400-series shone for its conventionality. The Italian automaker had waited until the mid-’70s—the last possible moment—to jump on the mid-engined bandwagon, and it would take the arrival of the Acura NSX in 1990 to convince them that it took more than simply dropping an engine amidships, with little attention paid to driveability or ergonomics, to make a compelling supercar. Thus, in the intervening years, the mid-engined Ferraris were comparatively half-baked, in contrast to a formula the automaker knew and could execute as well as anyone: Front-engined V12 + RWD. So the 400, 400i and 412 benefited greatly from Ferrari’s mastery of that layout.

Indeed, even if the ultimate 412 weighed perilously close to 4,000 lbs, dashing any expectations of a lithe and nimble corner-carver, the chassis was graced with double wishbones all around and delivered as polished—if not hair-raising—a driving experience as any Ferrari had up until that point. Also, even if its boxy, angular lines are resolutely stuck in the ’70s and ’80s, Pininfarina aced its proportions and penned a handsome, somewhat timeless shape that looks smaller than its mass would suggest. No, Ferrari’s 400-series deserves more recognition than it received in its day, and it has all the earmarks of a future classic.

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Forgotten Big Ferraris

New Ferrari F12 Berlinetta:
An Awesome Mess

February 29, 2012 by Matt

New Ferrari F12 F12B Berlinetta Sports Car GT Red

Well, at the risk of OD’ing on Ferrari this week, here it is, officially: The new F12 Berlinetta.

It seems the actual car matches pretty closely with the spy shot leaked a few days ago, complete with an aggressive, FF-like grille, dramatic BMW Z4-ish “flame surfacing” adorning its flanks, and amped-up rear haunches lifted from an Aston Martin. The technical specs are awesome—in both the classical and vernacular sense of the word—a 6.3l V12 delivers 730 hp through a 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle, enabling the 3363-lb F12B to inhale 60 mph from a standstill in 3.1 seconds on the way to a claimed top speed of 211 mph. Hugely impressive, but strangely numbing, given the number of exotics on the market capable of matching, if not the horsepower number, then certainly the performance figures. Above a certain level, the cars’ capabilities are so far removed from our frame of reference that we might as well be discussing fighter jets. Yes, that kind of “above the fray,” higher-plane prowess is partially what supercars are all about, but when the new “supercar fray” is as saturated as it is, the numbers lose some of their impact. But again, that’s a post for another day.

New Ferrari F12 F12B Berlinetta Sports Car GT Red

Another part of the supercar equation is visual impact, and the F12B has it in spades. I can’t think of another car that would be so readily identifiable at a distance; you’d know it was a Ferrari, and specifically an F12B, half a mile away. But is the new exotic beautiful, or even attractive? The Spannerhead verdict: No. As alluded to above, the styling amounts to a 3-D crib sheet of other cars’ distinctive features draped over classic front-engined GT proportions. Is Pininfarina running out of ideas? Have they painted themselves into a corner, styling-wise, unable to create a shape at once new and fresh and plainly beautiful? Who knows. As it is, the F12B definitely inspires awe, and engenders respect, but desire… The jury’s still out.

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An Awesome Mess

The Aesthetics of Racing: Ferrari 412T

February 28, 2012 by Matt

Ferrari F1 Formula 1 One 412T1 1994 1995 94 95

As much as automakers (especially those in the performance business) would like you to think otherwise, 95% of any road car’s external shape is driven by style. The aerodynamicists may have a bit of input around the edges, and there are certain interior volumes dictated by marketers and engineers, but by and large, style rules the roost.

Race cars, on the other hand, are designed and built with no concern over whether or not a pleasing shape results. If severe, brick-like contours will help it “do the job” and cut through the air faster on its way to a win, those are the priorities that shape the car. That said, in spite of the fact that form overwhelmingly follows function in the auto racing world, stunning and often beautiful bodywork frequently emerges from the engineers’ drawing boards. Today we begin a new series looking at race cars that, successful or not, in their single-minded pursuit of speed, happened to be visually arresting as well.

The Ferrari 412T, campaigned by the storied Italian team during the ’94 and ’95 F1 seasons, with Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi at the wheel, was the last hurrah for the Ferrari V12 in Formula 1. After turbocharging was banned starting with the ’89 season, teams had reverted to naturally-aspirated 3.5l V8s, V10s and V12s, Ferrari being the last holdout for the latter configuration. Compared to its competitors, the Ferrari engine was more powerful, offering more straight-line speed, but was heavy and complex, impeding handling and making reliability an issue.

Still, the 412T undoubtedly represented the beginning of Ferrari’s comeback after the championship drought of the ’80s and early ’90s, a resurgence that culminated with Michael Schumacher’s string of 5 world titles starting in 2000. Conservative and simple, the 412T also happened to be quite a beautiful car, and its shape, along with Ferrari’s underdog status that year, secured my fandom for the seasons that followed.

Ferrari F1 Formula 1 One 412T1B 412T2 1994 1995 94 95 Jean Alesi

In a constant state of development throughout the ’94 and ’95 seasons, the 412T appeared in two primary external shapes, the switchover happening partway through the ’94 season. The first iteration was called the 412T1 (shown at top) and featured a raised, rounded nose and smaller sidepod air intakes. The 412T1B and 412T2, the latter pictured above driven by Jean Alesi, eliminated the raised nose and greatly enlarged the sidepod intake area. Coupled with the knowledge that they’re sporting a hugely powerful, classic Ferrari V12, either variation of the 412T shape is brutally elegant and completely stunning. In my mind, it’s the last “classic” Ferrari F1 car, its immediate successor the F310 and all the cars that followed being maimed by safety and regulatory changes, and looking far too computer-designed as well. The 412T was the swan song of the organic, assembled-by-an-actual-human Ferrari F1 car, and as such it stands alone.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series examining the aesthetic merits of cars designed almost wholly with function in mind. Read the other installments here:

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New Ferrari F620 GT: Diabolically Boring

February 24, 2012 by Matt

New Ferrari F620 GT F620GT Silver Gray Grey V12

Hot off the presses (h/t Jalopnik and GTSpirit), here’s the first photo of the new front-engined V12 flagship from Ferrari, to be named the F620 GT.

The replacement for the outgoing 599 Fiorano will be the most powerful road-going Ferrari ever made, with a staggering output of 740 hp from its 6.3l mill. A RWD car, one can’t help but wonder how just the rear tires will manage to put all that power to the ground effectively. We’ve long reached the point where AWD is practically a necessity for any self-respecting supercar with an engine output north of 600 hp or so, but… That’s a post for another day.

Back to the F620. Design-wise, the car looks like an unfortunate pastiche of styling cues from past and current Ferraris, including the FF’s gaping maw, the 458 Italia’s vertical headlight lenses and even the long-dead 550 Maranello’s bulging rear fenders. Perhaps stung by criticism of the 599 as too avant-garde—specifically with respect to the jerky grille and “flying buttress” C-pillar treatment—Ferrari seems to have penned a very conservative-looking replacement.

Every new Ferrari has a chance to be a design trendsetter, perhaps none more so than their classic front-engine V12 model, and it’s a shame when Ferrari doesn’t seize the opportunity to push the envelope stylistically. Not only that, but if the car looks dated before it’s even rolled out at the Geneva Motor Show in a few weeks, the fact that Ferrari dialed down the design’s edginess doesn’t bode well for its long-term viability in a market so driven by looks and visual impact. With any luck, as with the reveal of the F-117 Nighthawk, the car will look much better in subsequent photos than it does in the initial first grainy snapshot.

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Ferrari’s Two Decades of Excellence

December 7, 2011 by Matt

Ferrari Engine Motor

Don’t get me wrong—they’ve always been good. But a recent Motor Trend interview with Ferrari chairman Luca Montezemolo, whose tenure began in ’91, gives a little insight into the Italian performance firm’s particularly outstanding last 20 years.

The interviewer and Montezemolo compare the remarkable improvement in Ferrari’s output to the qualitative difference between two cars which bookend the 20-year span: The early ’90s, dorky Testarossa-junior 348 and the recently-released, voluptuous, world-beating 458 Italia:

If you want to understand how dramatically Luca Montezemolo has changed Ferrari in his 20 years at the helm of the company, the transformation from 348 to 458 is an apt metaphor. Enzo might have created the Ferrari legend, but it’s Luca, born into an aristocratic family the year the company was founded, who’s made the legend real.

The two cars occupy roughly the same niche in Ferrari’s lineup, that of their “entry-level” mid-engined sports car, so the comparison works—Ferrari has come a long way, and much of their present mastery of the exotic car formula is due to Montezemolo’s steady, visionary hand at the tiller.

I don’t have much to add to the excellent interview summary other than to point out an often-overlooked contributor to Ferrari’s consolidation of its position in the industry: The revolution in their car’s usability starting with the 348’s replacement, the F355.

Prior to the F355—the first car developed on Montezemolo’s watch and a direct response to the threat posed by the Honda/Acura NSX—Ferraris were quick, to be sure, but unpleasant, ergonomically disastrous and evil-handling cars. The driver was expected to endure the car’s vices, more or less, for the privilege of experiencing its virtues. Upon its release, the NSX showed the world that high performance, benign handling traits and everyday usability weren’t mutually exclusive qualities in an exotic car. Ferrari took the lesson to heart, and with the F355, delivered the first in an unbroken series of ever-quicker, but also ever-more-user-friendly sports cars, culminating with the 458. It’s that sea change, more than even their looks or speed, that’s been the driver behind Ferrari’s climb, and we have Montezemolo to thank for the automaker’s enduring emphasis on that aspect of their cars.

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