Ferrari 550 Maranello
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Ferrari made perhaps its boldest move for a quarter of a century with the 550 Maranello; they once again decided to put the horse before the cart, placing the car’s 5.5-litre V-12 where Enzo always thought it should be – in front of the driver.
The sheer ostentation, as well as the mid-engine layout, of the 80s Testarossa was also cast aside in favour of a more understated GT sports car look designed by Pininfarina.
Some thought it pretty, others ugly, but what can’t be denied is that the Ferrari 550 Maranello combined stratospheric performance levels with usability and comfort.
In terms of its look, you can see hints of the Daytona – the last front-engined Ferrari phased out in 1973 – but the car is nowhere near as beautiful as that automotive style icon, and some have even likened it to a Toyota Supra (ouch).
Launched at the Nurburgring, the 550 could hit 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds according to a road test by US car magazine Motor Trend, accelerating all the way to 199mph (couldn’t they have squeezed 1 more mph out of it…?)
After a lap of the infamous German racing circuit riding shotgun to Niki Lauda, Motor Trend’s Phillip Bingham wrote in 1996: “The power peak is right up there at 7000 rpm, and the V-12 rushes to it with a creamy, commanding growl.”
Lauda, who suffered severe burns in an F1 Ferrari on the very same circuit in 1976, was unequivocal in his praise: “You can forget the 512. No comparison. This is the first modern Ferrari, and the first I would really want to own.”
In total, the Ferrari 550 Maranello sold 3,083 between 1996 and 2002 when the upgraded 575 took over, but the accolades kept coming.
Evo magazine named the 550 as its greatest drivers car from the 1990s (“There’s never been a supercar that’s so exploitable and so rounded in its abilities”), and Car and Driver magazine eulogised over the silky V-12 (“This is an engine that revs almost to 8000 rpm but can pull smoothly in city traffic in sixth gear. It’s a gem of a motor, although some might wish it had been given a more generous voice.”)
Here’s a 550 doing what it does best – roaring through the countryside.