If you’re going to launch a new car in the run up to a new millennium, it had better be pretty special – particularly if it’s going to be a successor to the model that gave Ferrari a much needed boost: the F355. Launched in spring 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show, the Ferrari 360 was a visual game-changer; gone were the last remnants of the chiselled looks that had ruled the roost of Maranello’s output for the previous 20 years or so, and in its place was a curvier, friendlier offering that still screamed for attention.
With a new Lamborghini in development, it was crucial that the 360 fought its corner of Italy’s motoring universe and it did so in not just style, but with a new approach to construction and technical design. Aerodynamically, it was capable of generating up to four times the downforce of the 355 and thanks to its aluminium structure, was only 40kg heavier, despite being roomier, stiffer and potentially safer in the event of a collision.
Of course, nobody buys a vehicle with a ‘prancing horse’ badge on the bonnet without even considering what makes it ‘tick’ and in the case of the Ferrari 360, it was a 3.6-litre F131, naturally-aspirated V8 that sat beneath the glass and treated the driver to a symphony of cylinders just over their shoulders. Generating 394bhp (nearly 20bhp more than the 355), it pushed the latest model in Enzo’s timeline to an alleged top speed of 183mph – reaching 60 in just 4.5 seconds. It was no slouch, but did it capture the imagination and did it possess the all important Ferrari magic?
Put simply, yes. The road testers loved it for a start and Evo gushed in their eagerness to praise it: “Don’t be fooled by the Modena’s soft lines… just below the surface is a hard-edged supercar.” They went on to describe it as a “Devastating road car”, and one that delivers everything expected of a Ferrari, but their evaluation from behind the wheel drew one criticism as they “Found it hard to get the 360 sideways”… perhaps not a natural aspiration for most potential purchasers!
In terms of power and handling however, the Ferrari 360 was a clear winner. Excellent throttle response and stability on the road meant that the driver merely had to point the nose in the direction of travel and revel in the thrust and noise of the tuned V8; ‘impressive’ just doesn’t seem to cut it somehow.
The Ferrari 360 was initially launched as the Modena (named after the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari), but the following year saw the unveiling of the 360 Spider. Ferrari’s design team had pre-engineered the 360 to incorporate much of the structural rigidity and strength required of a convertible and so this variant did not handicap the vehicle in any way. Perhaps the most enticing of the range however, was the Challenge Stradale – a Modena-based incarnation with track time heavily on the mind. Featuring a host of weight-saving modifications/deletions, the Challenge Stradale is over 100kg lighter than the standard Modena and shaves a fraction off the 0-60mph time as a result.