Unveiled in 1996, the Ferrari 550 bucked Maranello’s mid-engined preferences and saw the Italian manufacturer return to front-engined power – this time, in the form of a 5.5-litre V12 power plant.
The 550 was in some ways considered to be a replacement for the F512M – the last incarnation of the iconic Testarossa, but was immediately acclaimed to be a faster and better handling car, despite the shift in engine position. Capable of putting out 478bhp and of reaching a top speed of almost 200mph, those looking for a prancing horse with genuine supercar status could certainly begin their search with this impressive offering.
With a shorter wheelbase than the 2+2 456, the 550 was designed as a pure 2-seater GT and the hand of Italian styling giant, Pininfarina created an alluring, flowing shape with impressive aerodynamic statistics that helped maximise the power on offer from the naturally-aspirated V12.
A space frame chassis clad with aluminium body panels clothed a rear-wheel drive, transaxle setup with 6-speed manual gearbox and limited slip differential, while double-wishbone suspension, front and rear anti-roll bars and power-assisted variable rack and pinion steering helped to provide a package that handled so well.
With an engine that boasted the hand of none other than legendary racer, Michael Schumacher helping to aid its development on tuning runs, you would expect the 550 to be far from a couch potato… and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Importantly however, it’s not a visceral experience and the power on offer is delivered in constant and smooth fashion – an ongoing surge if you will.
Evo magazine were certainly impressed and likened the ‘ease’ of the driving experience to that of a Mazda MX-5 – just with more excitement and power on tap! With the traction control turned off, they exuded about the 550’s ability to deliver controllable amounts of oversteer on a chosen bend – safe in the knowledge that the steering and handling could safely see you round and back on the straight with little drama.
If anything, they also delivered the perfect final verdict, claiming that as an everyday supercar, the 550’s only rival was the Porsche 911. High praise indeed.