FERRARI 575M MARANELLO F1
Ever wondered what it's like to spend time in a Ferrari V12 GT? Richard Fiennes has done just that.
(Dedicated to my late father who always wished to own a Daytona. Too many children prevented him. )
Genuine car enthusiast? Good! Do you remember as a child lying in bed late at night, when all is totally quiet and hearing in the distance a (beautiful) sports car being driven fast and properly extended in each gear? How it made your hair stand on end and you yearning to be alongside the driver experiencing it for real.
Perhaps this is one of the fundamental reasons for buying a Ferrari (especially
a V12 model) or similar Italian supercar.
Many people find Ferraris a bit flash, what with premiership footballers and pop stars opting for gaudy “look at me, look at me” colours. The big Ferraris however, are probably more respected and even admired. The 575M Maranello F1 is such a car and I have sampled nectar in the motoring firmament.
I must admit to hating the adulatory bullsh*t that surrounds the marque, but image is all these days. Some Ferraris have been dogs, not proper 24-carat diamonds. I felt pretty confident that the 575 would pass muster however. Draped in subtle “Grigio Titanio” gunmetal grey helped accentuate this arresting looking beast. From its shark nose to its purposeful, beautiful rear, you simply cannot miss this mobile Pininfarina sculpture.
What a beauty the body is from most angles. Like many objects, it is more alluring in the flesh than in photos, particularly side on. The rear has a lovely flowing form, melding into the appropriately truncated tail. The long shark nose, exaggerated by twin gills, gives it a balanced appearance befitting a big Gran Turismo. You can see the family resemblance to the 275 GTB /4 of 1964-68.
The more time I spent with it, the more it bewitched me. Lithe Italian couture at its best.
Every major stalk or switch falls to hand easily and includes a very useful tyre pressure readout panel set within the large dominant rev counter. This you can check whilst on the move. You cannot have a permanent readout however, which is a shame. Sat-nav neatly integrated in the radio / CD player is among the options available. I shan’t dwell on the sprinkling of tacky badges scattered around the cabin.
And you don’t need the physique of a gorilla, as the steering column adjusts every which way. As with the 360 F1, though, the gear-shift paddles are fixed to the steering column, making down-changing close to impossible as you enter corners with a handful of opposite lock. The steering, with 2.2 turn lock to lock, possesses beautiful weighting and a good 11.6 m turning circle, and doesn't writhe in your hands like earlier 911s for example.
The boot holds a reasonable amount of soft luggage -- those infernal golf clubs might fit in and you still have the suitcase shelf behind the seats.
Ready to roll? Side on, the 575M F1 squats panther-like, ready to pounce. And boy does it spring into action. It may weigh 1,730 Kg (where its F1-inspired F50 brother tipped the scales at 1,230 Kg) but with 515 bhp at 7,250 rpm and a torque figure of 434 lb-ft @ 5,250 rpm, this Ferrari flies. 202 mph should be enough for anyone, making trans-continental treks child’s play.
It struggles somewhat though compared to the big Lamborghini Murcielago’s 479 lb-ft at a higher 5,400 rpm. Mind you, 298 bhp per ton is not bad compared to the Aston Martin Vanquish’s 255 bhp per ton figure, whilst the Lambo musters 351 bhp.
With the big 5.7 litre V12 ahead, driving the rear wheels in traditional fashion, there is some considerable internal mass to awaken. This Maranello doesn't become a rocket-ship until it climbs onto the cam at around 4,000 rpm, and then it shrinks the horizon like the best big superbikes, but in complete cocooned, sybaritic comfort.
Power delivery is seamless and catapults you up the road. All of this translates into very useable, limitless reserves of silken power. It feels unburstable – like a mobile nuclear power plant, with a huge band to work in. In fact, it's worth paying some £162,960 ( £168,418 as tested ) for that engine alone.
The really telling thing is how balanced and nimble this big 1,730 kg GT feels. The handling is consummate. Nothing wrong-foots it apart from the odd bump. It may have been honed on Fiorano’s test track but that’s all to its credit. When you begin to step up the pace, it delivers big time.
Even in the wet, it is utterly surefooted, the car remaining perfectly poised, thanks to the 50:50 weight distribution, the suspension soaking up undulations whether the sport setting is chosen or not. British A roads can catch out the dampers, where normal mode suffices. I found the sport setting was best left for motorway work.
The well-placed brushed aluminium gear-shift paddles work in normal semi-sequential fashion. Pull both together for neutral and with foot on the brake you select first. Its that simple – and you’re off.
When you change up however, you find out how clunky the shift can be. Doesn’t get any better either, when the gearbox is fully warmed up. Perform changes under acceleration without lifting and your neck nearly snaps off.
Feathering the throttle slightly or coming off the power altogether is the only way to achieve a modicum of smoothness with the FI 'box. You have the three modes -- normal, sport or auto -- and practice does improve things, making smooth up-shifts achievable.
I can't comment on how much better the clack-clack, through-the-gate manual version is but it seems more in keeping with a big front-engined V12 Ferrari. Traditional too, yet around 80 per cent of British buyers choose the semi-sequential model.
So while you wrestle with the paddle shift, you notice how quickly this large (14ft 9.1in long) GT contracts around you, yet remains spacious inside. There are lovely metallic induction noises to arouse the senses when accelerating.
The standard exhaust is quiet too, eliciting a muffled howl. A sports system is included with the new GTC carbon brake upgrade although some dealers say that it's tiresome to live with. Somehow, it seems it doesn't suit this stylish Grade 1 Gran Turismo.
After some time undertaking exhaustive testing, I found the car utterly relaxing. It eats distance like the Starship Enterprise, treating it with disdain and is never tiring. The optional Daytona style seats mar the love affair relationship – they lack under thigh support, whilst having reasonable side bolstering. However, £4,815 buys you carbon-fibre shelled, leather clad racing buckets with four-point harness belts.
Yes, membership of Ferrari-land is tres cher.
The 23 gallon fuel tank gives you an average range of approximately 325miles, equating to 14.1 mpg. This figure will fall somewhat when you maintain the serene 160 mph cruise that the Maranello enjoys. Supper in Naples? No problem. The 575 hardly breaks sweat at 180 mph on the autobahn. However, if you need to brake hard from such warp speeds and the large 330 mm cross-drilled Brembos begin to wilt. GTC carbon rotors must help here.
You'll be glad to find the driving lights extremely effective, especially on main beam, and you will probably find yourself using the air-con most of the time as the large glasshouse creates a lot of heat soak.
So have I become captivated by the Ferrari magic? I was already and so will you be if you drive one far enough -- it's almost a religious experience. This big hearted car grabs your very soul and you fall totally in love with it. What’s more, you will find it as compelling years later.
So sell the house, live in a mobile home, and treat yourself to a wondrous everyday supercar. In the pantheon of useable, global supercar GTs, the Maranello is noblest king. You'll never stop smiling.
Words and pictures © Richard Fiennes 2004