Although I am a great admirer of Ferraris, I confess that their cars would not be my first purchase option. Specially in Brazil, there are many troubles in owning a Ferrari. First, in my opinion, they are very delicate cars. Second, they are way too expensive to maintain. Third, they cost a lot compared to what they offer. Four, the idea of investing that amount of money in one car and have to fight to get insured brings chills up my spine.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that Ferraris are not special.
My recent experience behind the wheels of Ferraris consist of the F355 and the 458 Itália. With the first, taking into consideration its collectible character, although I was able to get a good feel of car, I needed to be extremely careful. With the second, I had the chance of experiencing all a modern Ferrari has to offer.
Curiously, although the 458 is a nearly flawless car, filled with technologies and high performance, I still felt the experience on board of the F355 more special. The fact that I was driving one of the heroes of my childhood, as well as the opportunity to play with manual gear changes, sinking one gear after another, pretty much made it for me.
I was lacking, however, the feel a Ferrari V8 with proper “stick” with more room to accelerate! Due to a great friend who owns a luxury car rental company in Brazil, I was able to experience that.
Among the cars the company makes available, there was a magnificent F360 Modena 2001, in mint condition. Prior to entering the car, one question I was had with me about old Ferraris was: “If you take out the exhaust note, what would you end up with?” This question has always disturbed me, because I was yet to experience what an “old school” Ferrari felt like under aggressive driving conditions.
Let’s run the numbers. The 360 Modena has a central engine, 3.6, V8. It produces 400 Hp @ 8500 rpm and 370 NM of torque @ 4750 rpm. The car is capable of going from 0 to 62 mph in 4,3 seconds and reach a top speed of 183 mph. All of that distributed in car that weights about 3,000 lbs (with fluids). It may not seem much by modern standards, but at the time of its release, back in the early 2000, it was surreal.
Compared to the F355, the Modena is a tremendous evolution. The driver seats in a more sport focused position than in the previous model. The alignment between the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals along with the steering wheel is a great improvement over the F355.
You manage to obtain a more aggressive driving position, but, at the same time, more comfortable than in the F355. The seats, although quite firm, are actually a nice place to be in and will not leave you with back spams after a couple of hours (at least not with me). I usually joke that if you are a big guy, F355’s driving position reassembles a go-kart. In the Modena you feel like you are on board of a modern sports car. In the F355 you seat a little bit loose, very characteristic of 90’s cars, meanwhile the Modena hugs you.
Another distinctive trace of the Modena is that its steering wheels is quite smaller in comparison with F355’s.
The experience of driving a car equipped with a manual gearbox is much more analogical compared to an automated one.
If the shifts in the F355 require you to be firm, in the 360 life is a lot easier. The shifts in the Modena are smoother, however, if this is good on one side, it is bad on another, because it makes you really pay attention not to ruin your gearbox and engine due to a mistake.
Modena’s clutch is also more civilized than F355’s. You can really can live with it on a daily basis.
Modena’s steering feels more sportier and direct, although it is heavier than in its predecessor. Another good thing about the steering is how it transmits the road feel very well, allowing you to understand road conditions.
I can be a little harsh on the Modena’s brakes. They can be quite easily subject to fading. Note that this test was not made in a circuit, but rather on public roads. After a few more aggressive jumps on the brakes, I could really notice some losses in the brakes’ efficiency.
CHASSIS AND SUSPENSION
Although Modena is a very stiff car, it is also quite versatile than previous models. Modena sits a bit higher off the ground than the 348 and 355. The stiffer chassis combined with drive height and a more comfortable suspension make the Modena a bit more predictable when driving over irregular tarmac. Don’t get this wrong though – the Modena is still a rigid and low to the ground sports car. On the highways, nonetheless, the all around conclusion is that the car is sublime.
INTERIOR FIT AND FINISH
Who cares for this when driving a Ferrari? I do. Since I stayed inside the car for a long time, specially driving around in the passenger seat, I was able to notice that the car combines very good interior fit and finish on some bits and very poor quality materials in others. For instance, the leather inside the vehicle is of great quality, however, the plastic pieces seem that they will brake at any time – honorable mention to the clock inside the cabin which seems to be a false electronic equipment from China.
My great friend from another website had just started to drive the Modena. As soon as the 3.6 V8 came to life, the TUBI exhaust woke up and the little conversation we were having about the car was shut down. All we could hear was the exhaust note. A couple of minutes without any words went by until we decided to talk again
From the passenger seat, I was knocking out all of my concerns about the 360 Modena. I always thought that it was a car with an incredible exhaust note, but without many dynamic skills. The first feeling I get from it was totally opposite – the car is very well planted and epic as the revs go up.
By the time I took the driver’ seat, it came to my that famous scene from the movie Scent of a Woman, when Colonel Slade, a blinded ex-military, starts driving a Ferrari through deserted streets of New York. What happened a couple of seconds later was one of the best automotive experiences in my life.
For a couple of miles, the road conditions didn’t allow me to explore the car’s full potential, but they gave the chance to get acquainted with the car’s pedals and gearbox, allowing be to master the heel-and-toe. The rough tarmac with several blind turns authorized me to play only with second and third gears. Each turn that approached, quick jump on the brakes, clutch and heel on the accelerator, sliding the stick gently in position.
As soon as we got to a highway, it was time to explore Modena’ straight line performance. As soon as I entered the road, I downshifted into second gear and pushed to the left lane. Immediately, my right foot as flat to the ground… 8700 revs… third gear… fourth gear… here comes traffic… jump on the brakes, downshift (which may have been the most emotional heel-and-toe in my whole life). I am astonished and totally immersed into adrenaline, in laughter, happy as if I was a teenager who had just spent hours seeing movies about these cars.
What happened for the next couple of hours was magic. A long time had passed since I last felt that happiness and satisfaction feeling behind the wheels of a car. Not that modern cars do not amuse me or surprise me, but I miss that emotional aspect with them, something that will go deep into your guts.
Modern car’s technologies are very welcome, because they reduce the number of accidents and allow a greater number of common drivers to dominate cars equipped with two to three times more power than regular cars. Anyone can jump on a 458 Itália, GTR or 911 Turbo and drive them quite fast.
The market requires safer cars. Unfortunately, if manufacturers were to build cars having in mind only the purists, those who appreciate a good and old manual gearbox or a car where the DSC is behind the steering wheel, they would all be bankrupt. Sad reality.
The days when having a sports’ car was a different concept from taming it are long gone, reason why you see owners trading their cars at a much faster rate than they used to. There no more learning curve or rewarding factor.
Nowadays, sports’ cars cannot be just fun. They must be fuel efficient, cannot pollute or be loud and must be sold to a much bigger consumer market… specially for those individuals who were intimidated by the “stick” or a heavy clutch pedal. The word “challenging” cannot be associated anymore to a sports’ car.
I put my experience driving the 360 Modena among the top 5 driving experiences I’ve had in my life (I will not say the other four, maybe in another post). It is a car definitely worth driving.