Ferrari F355 Buying Guide - Powertrain


Mounted longitudinally, the 90-degree V8 engine for the 355 was based on the 348's with stroke increased by 2mm to 77mm, while the bore was 85mm to give a 3495.5cc capacity. The biggest change, however, was the addition of five-valve-per-cylinder heads, with three inlet valves and two for exhaust gases to escape. Power jumped from the 348's 300bhp to 380bhp at 8250rpm in the 355.

Ferrari's new V8 was notable for being the highest revving road car engine at the time, with a limit of 8800rpm. It also boasted the highest power per litre for a normally aspirated engine at 109bhp/litre.

There have been problems with the valve guides in early 355s, which used bronze items that wore easily. This let oil leak past and created a smoky exhaust, so watch for this. Most cars will have been cured with steel valve guides, which were used on later (post-97) models, but as many Ferraris cover limited mileages it's still something to look out for.


The result of the new engine and six-speed manual gearbox was 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and a claimed top speed of 184mph. The exhaust bypass valve helped the engine pass noise regulations, but can become rattly. It isn't damaging to the engine but is expensive to replace and many owners do away with it completely by fitting an aftermarket exhaust.

Other exhaust problems commonly experienced with the F355 are worn catalytic convertors and cracked manifolds. Again, many owners get round the catalytic convertor problem by ditching it altogether and opting for an aftermarket exhaust, while manifolds can be reconditioned or replaced, though the latter is an expensive option when using original Ferrari parts.

Ferrari offered an F1 paddle-shift gearbox from 1997 that used hydraulics to operate the clutch via steering wheel-mounted levers and offered gear changes in just 150 milliseconds. The F1-equipped 355s dropped the 'F' from the front of the name.

Early F355s came with a Motronic 2.7 engine management, which changed to a Motronic 5.2 system in 1996. To tell the two apart is simple as the earlier version had two mass air flow sensors and the later models a single mass air flow sensor. To spot an early car, look for the air boxes in the engine bay with a piped leading forward from either to each side of the cylinder block. In the later 5.2 system cars, there are still two air boxes but they feed into a single pipe that goes forward and then branches off to each of the V8's cylinder banks.

Finally, there's the age-old dilemma of cambelt changes in a Ferrari. Yes, the 355 needs them changed every three years or 30,000 miles, whichever is sooner. Some American-spec 355s were sold with the advice of a cambelt change every five years, so beware of 355s imported from the USA. It's a 22-hour job to lift the body up and away to reveal the engine, hence the high cost of this procedure. Some independent specialists can change the cambelts with the engine in place and removing the fuel tanks, saving time and money.

Buying Guide Section Menu:

Ferrari F355 - Introduction
Ferrari F355 - Powertrain (viewing now)
Ferrari F355 - Rolling chassis
Ferrari F355 - Body
Ferrari F355 - Interior
Ferrari F355 - General experiences
Ferrari F355 - Search the PH classifieds...

Comments (15) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Murph7355 06 Aug 2010

    A few really pernickety bits of feedback... smile

    1) I think the run out 348s were alleged to have 320bhp. It's probably worth noting that *any* Ferrari power claims should not be used in a court of law!

    2) From what I can gather, there is no specific age at which valve guides were sorted by the factory. It seems to be true that most cars afflicted are older cars, but not guaranteed. As you note, it's worth looking for on any car (I think compression and possibly leakdown tests (if compression is iffy) are a must on these as part of an inspection).

    3) I actually thought VMax was 183mph.

    4) Potential addition:

    Cat problems are normally signified by white powder/dust appearing in the exhaust/engine bay. I believe aftermarket options are now available at more keen prices than OEM. (I left mine off and never had a problem at MOT, but technically that's not kosher, even though it encourages flames on the overrun smile).

    Manifold issues are usually highlighted by a hissing/ticking noise from the general area of the manifold that's faulty. The engine bay may also get much hotter and the engine may end up running lean, which isn't good. As the manifolds are covered by a metal heatshield, it's unlikely you'll see a crack etc, so if in doubt (elevated engine bay temps, unusual ticking noises etc), get it checked as leaving it could end up expensive.

    Recon manifolds are around 1100 from QV and other places, and allegedly they have never had to recon one twice. So the problem can be fixed "permanently" this way (they use better materials than OEM I believe).

    Exhausts - a sports exhaust is an absolute MUST on these cars. The std one is poorly made, heavy and sounds terrible. Capristo and Tubi are the general favourites and genuinely make the car sound like an F1 car at full throttle!

    5) Addition : "...Ferrari offered an F1 paddle-shift gearbox from 1997 that used hydraulics to operate the clutch/gears via steering..."

    6) Typo/clarification (?) "...To spot an early car, look for the air boxes in the engine bay with a pipe leading forward from them to each side of the intake above the cylinder block."

    7) Possible addition : it's said that the earlier ECU cars were slightly more powerful (5-10bhp) and sound better. Not overly convinced personally, especially with cars now being old and worn etc smile

    8) "...so beware of 355s imported from the USA..." - why so? This was a Ferrari sanctioned interval. The bigger question is WTF we have to change ours every 3yrs if 5yrs is perfectly fine in the US of A!

    9) "It's a 22-hour job to lift the body up and away to reveal the engine, hence the high cost of this procedure. Some independent specialists can change the cambelts with the engine in place and removing the fuel tanks, saving time and money."

    You're going to get lots of noise on this one smile

    I had mine changed both ways during ownership, and there was categorically no difference (except the cost!) in terms of how the car ran.

    Taking the engine out definitely allows a lot of other items to be checked, cleaned and replaced as necessary. But none of these are general service items so technically don't need doing every service anyway. It is worth doing every so often, but not every belt service IMO.

    Also, a lot of people bang on about removing the fuel tank is a pain/dodgy when the engine is left in. But then all the connections etc have to be removed when you take the engine out...

    It's a debate that will run and run. I did 40k miles in my car, and it ran faultlessly once serviced by people who knew what they were doing (an indie).

  • Cactussed 18 Aug 2010

    I would add that if valve guide issues have not surfaced by now, then you are probably going to be safe, unles its a very loow mileage car, and again highlights the point that you're possibly better off buying a well used and maintained example than a low mileage garage queen.

    Agree that cat problems are normally signified by white powder/dust in the exhaust. I replaced mine with some aftermarket cats however they only lasted a year before being blown to bits again.

    JP Exhausts make recon manifolds for £557 each (excl VAT). You can cnahge the manifolds without removing the engine, bit it is a tight job.

    "It's a 22-hour job to lift the body up and away to reveal the engine, hence the high cost of this procedure. Some independent specialists can change the cambelts with the engine in place and removing the fuel tanks, saving time and money."

    Having done it myself in the garage with just me working and minimal tools, I'd say 22 hours is a tough optimistic. I had the engine out in 5 1/2 hours on my own. Physically changing the belts takes about 5 minutes. Honestly. A pit, a hoist and some power tools and I expect oyu could knock a fair bit off that time.

    You can change the belts with the engine in by removing the fuel tank, however you still have to loosen then jiggle the engine slightly as you can't readily get to the crank bolt and pulley (which need to come off) as the main subframe crossmember is in the way.

    For simply changing the belts, either method works just fine. The advantage of engine-in is that it takes less time to do and you don't disturb other things, which lessens the chance of breaking them. The advantage of engine out is obviously better access and better ability to identify other potential issues at the cost of requiring more hours to do.

  • Murph7355 19 Aug 2010

    Cactussed said:
    ...
    For simply changing the belts, either method works just fine. The advantage of engine-in is that it takes less time to do and you don't disturb other things, which lessens the chance of breaking them. The advantage of engine out is obviously better access and better ability to identify other potential issues at the cost of requiring more hours to do.
    Spot on and a very balanced view.

  • Cactussed 19 Aug 2010

    I think once you really get down and dirty with the car, some of the mystery dissolves and you realise it's just like any other lump of metal.

    the advantage I've found with the 355 is that it's specifically designed to come apart periodically, so it's a lot easier than other cars I've pulled the engine out of.

  • Mroad 22 Aug 2010

    Inner CV Boots fail from heat exposure due to the location near the exhaust manifold. A replacement kit is about £40 and fairly easy to fit. Hub nuts are torqued to 275Nm so can take some shifting.

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