The Ferrari 360 Modena isn't a car. Not really. Not in the traditional sense. Cars are about transportation, get to grandma's house, haul home the groceries, they're a necessity, like food or ESPN. But the Ferrari 360 Modena F1 has little to do with transportation, little to do with necessity. It's a 395-horsepower, $155,000 sports car. It's a pleasure machine, pure and simple. A toy.
Oh sure, it'll get you to granny's, quickly in fact, it's just not the reason why you own such a machine. You own a Ferrari 360 Modena F1 because you want to. Because you can. Because women will like you if you do.
Still, the 2002 Ferrari 360 Modena F1 is as close to a real car, a traditional car, a usable car, as the storied Italian car maker has ever produced. For the first time, Ferrari has addressed such things as interior space, basic ergonomics and overall comfort, not to mention our test car's automatic transmission, which makes this the first of the brand's mid-engined supercars that can truly be driven everyday.
The Ferrari 360 Modena F1 is one of the fastest cars you can buy, and with the exception of the Porsche 911 Turbo, it's the quickest car available with an automatic transmission. This car will blast from a standstill to 60 mph in a tick over 4 seconds and rip through the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds at over 112 mph. There are only a few cars on the market, besides other Ferraris, that accelerate quicker. They are the aforementioned Porsche, the Lamborghini Diablo, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the Lotus Esprit V8 and the Dodge Viper. These are also the only cars that can rival the 360's 180+ mph top speed.
During our days with the car in and around Los Angeles, we never approached such velocities, but we did explore the Ferrari's off-the-line punch, which will strain your neck muscles, and sampled its handling around Southern California's many mountain roads.
It only takes a few corners to realize that the fishtailing tendencies of its predecessors are history and the 360 Modena is one of the finest handling cars ever built. Thanks to its tuned aerodynamics, four-wheel independent suspension, ABS brakes and excellent traction control system, the 360 can make Ray Ramano look like Mario Andretti.
Such roadholding is usually at the expense of ride comfort. Not in this case. The 360's around town ride, while firm, doesn't shake your eyeballs loose, even over rough pavement. Don't misunderstand, this is no Cadillac. We gave it the coffee test, and have the stained pants to prove it.
Problems we found during real world use include the 360's low front end, which scrapes itself free of paint on most driveways. There's also that constant engine wail coming from just over your right shoulder. Those with sensitive ears won't last long, plus the cops hear you coming from a mile away.
We think the semi-automatic gearbox, which adds $10,000 to the cost of the car, should shift smoother. It often snaps your neck on upshifts, and bucks hard off the line. But the transmission does have its good points. First, it makes changing gears completely fool proof. The transmission is controlled with two paddles behind the steering wheel. You pull the one on the right if you want an upshift, the one on the left for a downshift. It's really that simple. You don't even have to take your foot off the gas and there's digital readout to tell you what gear you've just chosen. And second, it has a full automatic mode, which proved precious in LA's heavy traffic.
Once you're comfortable with the whole paddle thing, you can click off upshifts with the flick of a finger, even with the engine wailing away at 8500 rpm. Fun? Like Disneyland. It's as close to racing Formula 1 as we'll ever get.
If things get out of hand, the 360's brakes are at the ready. Stopping distances from 60 or 80 mph are among the shortest in the world. The ABS system works perfectly, and the 360's brake pedal never gets soft even after miles of abuse.
Steering is just as impressive. It's quick but never darty, with an effort level that doesn't require the arm strength of Arnold, and the road feel is incredible. It's as if the driver's hands are directly connected to the front tires.
This is truly one of the greatest cars of all time. Its performance is breathtaking. Its style, unequaled. Its engineering, truly world class. To quote Ferris Bueller, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."