Ferrari 360 Modena

"It lapped Fiorano 3 seconds less than the old car." claimed Amedeo Felisa, the man who responsible for the development of Ferrari’s latest 360 Modena. For your information, Fiorano is the little test track around the Maranello factory where Schumacher’s F1 program takes place. Apart from race cars, every new production Ferrari were tested and tuned there. Also in there, Ferrari let the media to drive the 360 Modena. 

Inevitably, another word needed to be explained is the name of the new car - there are several naming systems in Maranello, such as the engine capacity per cylinder (e.g. 250GT), the capacity plus no. of cylinder (246GT, 308GTB and 512TR etc.), the capacity plus no. of valves per cylinder (F355), the no. of years Anniversary (e.g. F40 and F50) and recently the engine capacity plus a geographic name. 550 Maranello and 360 Modena belong to the last type. While most people know Maranello, few know that Modena is the place where Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini located around thus gave it the reputation as the capital of sports cars. 

Styling and Aerodynamics 

The first sight of 360 Modena gives mixed impression. Since the first Dino, every "mass production" Ferrari emphasised a low waist line (some call it "shoulder") which deliver a feeling of low center of gravity. In front of A-pillar the 360 is also quite low, but the waist line rise gradually towards the C-pillar, where a big piece of muscle tops the rear wheel. The waist line flat out towards the little tail spoiler. Therefore what you see is a wedge, or a car that looks purely a mid-engined Ferrari in the front but a muscular 550M at the rear. 

Pininfarina admitted the shape is more the work of wind tunnel job, where 5400 hours was spent during the development. Aerodynamists coming from the F1 team got rid of two of our favourite features : 1) the pop-up headlights;  2) a pair of flying buttresses and the flat engine lid separating them. The former is replaced by a pair of glass-covered headlights which are not only lighter but also drag free. On the contrary, the fastback rear window adds weight, but its benefit to aerodynamic drag and high speed stability is worthy. As in F40, the red-head engine and chassis frame can be seen through the huge screen. 

Engine breathing and cooling have separate intakes. Breathing is via those air scoops over the muscular rear arches, and they look as if inspired by the classic 250LM, Le Mans winner of 1965. Cooling takes place in the nose, behind a pair of huge blackholes. Having learned from Formula One, the radiators are positioned in a tilt angle against the wind thus reduce drag. Placing the radiator at the nose not only improve cooling efficiency (due to more undisturbed fresh air) but also contribute to the improved, 43 / 57 front to rear weight distribution. No wonder the new Porsche 911 did the same thing. Another reason to this change is to free up several extra inches behind the seats in order to make room for a golf bag, though Ferrari is less willing to admit. 

Aerodynamic revolution lies under the car - a longitudinal channel has been added to the originally flat carbon fibre undertray, drawing air towards the raised diffuser at the tail. Speak more clearly, this introduce ground effect thus greatly enhance high speed stability. At 180mph, there is 180kg of downforce, roughly 4 times of the F355. One source even said this is more than the huge-wing F50, believe or not ! Furthermore, the distribution of downforce matches exactly the front to rear weight distribution, thus contribute to a consistent handling irrespective to speed. The trade-off is quite modest - coefficient of drag increases from 0.32 to 0.335. 

Chassis and body 

If the styling and aerodynamics are deemed to be big changes, chassis and body are even more so. In dimensions, 360 Modena has grown a lot from F355, more than one can imagine. The length increases a massive 227mm, wheelbase jumps by 150mm to 2600mm which eclipses even 550 Maranello’s 2500. Height grows by 44mm to benefit head room. Oddly, the width has been reduced by 22mm to the still respectable 1922mm. Despite of the growth in wheelbase, larger proportion of the extra length has been spent to the overhangs in order to accommodate the radiators and diffuser, therefore to certain extent it seems not as radical as its predecessor. Overall speaking, the 360 is not only a replacement of the small Ferrari, but also fills the vacuum left by the mid-engined flagship Testarossa / 512TR / F512M. 

Most magazines just briefly described the Modena’s aluminium spaceframe chassis, even though they know it is the highlight of the technical aspect. So let us dig deeper ….. Record book reminds me Honda NSX was the first car adopting aluminium chassis in so-called mass production. Compare to the Japanese, Ferrari seemed rather reluctant to try new technology. Except the experimental 408GT of 1990 (an ugly concept car developed by Fiat rather than Ferrari), Maranello always rely on traditional tubular steel spaceframe as their production chassis. As time goes by, they found themselves lagging behind the Lotus Elise, Renault Sports Spider and even Audi A8 in chassis technology. Sure, they are leading in carbon fibre chassis, but cost and vibration problem prevent it from adopting to production cars. No wonder they ask the American aluminium giant Alcoa for help. If you still remember, Alcoa is the one developing the ASF with Audi.  

360’s chassis is the combination of monocoque and spaceframe, both of which are made of aluminium alloy. The cabin section is monocoque (like F355), from which spaceframe mounted and extended to the front and rear. Most of the spaceframes are made by extrusion like the Elise, which requires the simplest tooling. However, unlike Elise but like Renault, individual frames are bonded together by welding instead of rivet and glue, quite conventional. The evidence of welding can be seen on the frame mounting the engine.  

The chassis is 27% lighter than F355’s steel one. Torsional rigidity has been increased by a massive 40%, thanks to the larger section of the frames. Although rectangular section seems less favourable than the original circular section in terms of stiffness, it provides flat surfaces for mounting the aluminium body panels, thus the latter can also contribute to the overall rigidity. As usual, the body panels are made by its long term partner Scaglietti (now fully owned by Ferrari).  

Having learned from F50, the rear suspensions’ wishbones and shock absorbers are partially mounted to the aluminium transmission casing. The latter is now mounted longitudinally behind the rear axle instead of transversely beneath the engine, this lower the V8’s center of gravity. The wishbones themselves are made of aluminium, which is an increasingly popular trend to improve ride quality as well as saving a few kilograms. Suspensions are double wishbones all round, but a vertical toe-control link is added to each of the rear suspensions. Six-setting adaptive damping is still there. 

All the weight saving works well to keep the car lighter than F355. Ferrari claimed the kerb weight 1390kg is some 100kg lighter than its predecessor, but as usual the official figures from Maranello are less reliable. My record book, again, tells me the F355 weighs 1422kg, therefore weight saving is just 32kg provided the figure for the new car is honest. Anyway, for a 400-horsepower supercar, it is still a super lightweight. 

Lightweight means better braking, however, Ferrari insisted to upgrade the brakes - 330mm discs all round actually exceeds 550M’s 330mm / 310mm, let alone F355’s 300/310. In addition to the four-piston Brembo callipers, stopping distance is roughly shortened by 10%. Wrapping around the discs are 215/45ZR18 front tyres and 275/40ZR18 rear rubbers, sandwiched between is the 18 inches magnesium wheels. 

Engine and Performance 

Thankfully, the heart and soul of F355 hasn’t changed much. The 40-valve V8 with titanium con-rod is further developed for the new car. It is not only as high-revving as ever, but low and mid range torque spread are also greatly improved. By adding 2mm stroke to the cylinders (now totally displaces at 3586c.c.), a Kevlar variable intake manifold and a phase-shifting variable valve timing to the exhaust valves (intake side is overcrowded), 20% more torque is accessible below 4,000rpm. Peak torque now occurs at 4750 instead of 6000, where an extra 7lbft is available. Maximum power increases 20hp to a full 400hp, and amazingly, this occurs at an even higher 8500rpm (compare to the previous 8250) ! 

Another important new item is the individual, drive-by-wire throttle. Firstly, its lightning action sharpens the throttle response. Secondly, it works in concert with the Bosch ASR traction control. Thirdly, it improves the downshift quality of the F1 transmission. Click the downshift pedal, the electronic throttle will speed up the engine automatically, increasing the engine rev to match the new ratio thus guarantee a smoother transition. Within a few tenths of a second, the computer does this precisely without nervous. Otherwise the F1 transmission’s hardware hasn’t changed, the same for the manual box. 

Those criticised 550’s V12 as too quiet will be pleased by the Modena. To overcome the EU noise regulation, Ferrari’s clever engineers installed a tricky variable exhaust, which uses different length to generate different level of noise. It takes the advantage of the flaw in EU’s measurement method, switching the exhaust to the "loud" setting as soon as the measurement stopped. 

In terms of performance, 360 is marginally quicker than F355. Ferrari claimed the top speed is "more than 183mph", 0-100km/h (62mph) in 4.5sec, 0-400m in 12.6sec, 0-1km in 22.9sec. While all English magazines can just believe these figures, the Italian media has been given the first chance to test it against the clock. Quattroruote magazine took an F1 transmission car and timed 185mph top speed, 0-100km/h in 4.5sec, 0-160km/h (99.4mph) in 9.7sec. 0-400m in 12.7sec, 0-1km in 22.8sec, this confirmed Ferrari’s data. For your information, F355 F1 did 0-60mph in 4.7sec and 0-100mph in 10.8sec.  

Road test impression 

It’s a little bit disappointing to see the interior design. The upright facia makes no sense for an exotic mid-engined supercar. The modernised center console and dashboard cover with the most popular aluminium trim which you can find in any Audi TT. Luckily the traditional circular air ventilation holes are still there, and there are 5 of them. The extra dimensions boost more room in every direction, even behind the seats there is space for a full set of Golf clubs. (Enzo would have been disapproved this !!) Today Ferrari takes care of millionaires. 

At least the driving position is good and the seats are as superb as ever. The new 3-spoke steering wheel is far more stylish than F355’s, also feels nicer to handle as it is angled more towards vertical. The classical aluminium gear knob for the manual car remains in the familiar place, so is the paddles for the F1 shifter. 

Once fire the engine, all the unfavourable impression will be washed away. From 2700rpm, the engine note starts getting serious, so does the driver. The improved torque digs in, raising the rev quickly towards 5700rpm, where the second phase of the variable intake and the tricky variable exhaust triggers, then a surge of power, noise and rev comes.... Just a hesitation on the gear lever will bring the rev meter to the 8,800 rpm limit. The scream approaches the level of racing car.  

Not even the F355 delivered such experience. In terms of drivability, it would pull decently from 2,000 rpm. 3000rpm is more likely for F355. 

Enter the first corner, the 360 demonstrates its superiority over F355 and virtually all other greatest cars in the world. It balances so well in the corners, making power slide an easy job. When you just thought you’ve entered too fast, the downforce still press the rear rubbers firmly on the road : Welcome to the world of Ground Effect ! Go deeper, brake the super Brembo later, you eventually reach the limit of the car. Where a F355 will swap ends nervously, Modena will slide its rear end gradually and let you have the time to rescue - back off the throttle and apply an opposite lock, the car tightens its line without sweat. The chassis balances so well !  

The communication also comes from steering wheel. Thanks to the narrower front tyres (10mm reduction in width) as well as the quicker steering ratio ( lock-to-lock reduced from 3.2 to 3.0 turns), steering becomes sharper. On-lock feel is improved while kickback is reduced. 

The conclusion is : Ferrari has succeeded to replace the highly appreciated F355 with a car even more capable, more exciting yet more practical. This is a good news to those millionaires as well as car dreamers like me, but could be a nightmare to the forthcoming Porsche 996 turbo. 

The above report was last updated on 4 May 99. All Rights Reserved.

A super run by Autocar

Some car makers are very cautious in supplying cars to journalists for test. To newspaper or independent journalists, it does not matter which car to be chosen. However, to some influential magazines, they must make sure to choose a well conditioned, well run-in sample in order to record a set of headline-topping performance figures. Among all magazines, I believe Germany’s Auto, Motor und Sport are the most influential to the whole Europe mainland while British magazine Autocar rules the world of English motor writing. What about R&T or C&D ? Don’t their staffs also read Autocar for the latest development in Europe ? 

So it is not very surprising to see Autocar’s test result better than others, especially is it performed the test 4 months after the launch of 360 Modena, hence allowing a good run-in probably in the hands of Ferrari’s test drivers.  

However, seeing the figures recorded can’t help astonishing how good this car was. Although 0-60mph of 4.2 sec is just marginally faster than the 4.3 sec recorded by Road & Track, the 8.8 sec to 100mph is really amazing, which versus R&T’s 10.2 sec. Within a little bit more than 20 seconds, the car reaches 150mph. This is really quick. We don’t know if the transmission contribute to the difference - Autocar tested the F1 semi-auto car, R&T’s was the standard 6-speed manual. Is that meaning the F1 hydraulic shift is really quicker than the manual ? In feeling it is not. Because you no longer need to perform heel-and-toe action and travelling your hand between shifter and steering wheel, you have a lot of time to observe the whole process thus you may subjectively feel the shift takes longer time. In reality, gearchange takes just 0.15sec under Sport mode, probably faster than R&T’s testers can do. 

Today, any cars reaching 100mph under 10 seconds can be described as supercar. Under this rule, the F355 F1 (10.8s), Skyline GT-R (10.8s), Lancer Evo VI (11.2s), 911 Carrera (10.5s), Lotus Esprit V8 (10.3s) are refused from the gate of Supercar Club. Only Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cebera, McLaren F1, Mercedes CLK-GTR, Ferrari F50 etc. can be comfortably classified as supercars, while 550 Maranello, Dodge Viper and 911 GT3 might marginally pass the test if try hard. Among all the club members, 360M has the smallest engine capacity (if turbo engines are multiplied by the boost pressure in bar), torque is also the lowest bar the junior member 911GT3. Thanks to the VVT, variable intake manifold and variable exhaust, the small V8 output usefully more mid range torque than F355, hence the performance gain. 

The magazine also measured a record-breaking 60-0mph deceleration of 2.4 sec. Last thing to be noticed is the kerb weight of 1447kg measured, which is 52kg more than Ferrari’s claimed and it is actually 22kg heavier than the F355F1 measured by the same magazine, in contrast to the company’s claim that the newer car weighs 100kg less than its predecessor. Anyway, this doesn’t prevent the 360M from being one of the fastest cars in the world. 

The above report was last updated on 4 Sep 99. All Rights Reserved.

360 Spider

Since the debut of Mercedes SLK, I have not been interested in talking about convertible cars. You know, 99% such cars were derived directly from the hardtop version, with the roof chopped, added with a soft top and a hood cover, that’s all. Electric or not, how many seconds it takes to open / close the roof ... these questions can hardly raise my interest. In my memory, only the SLK’s foldable hard top and Porsche 993 Targa’s sliding glass roof have really interesting innovations and worth a few hundreds of words to describe them.  

So what drive me to write about the Ferrari 360 Spider ? firstly, I loves the 360 very much from the beginning, so are many readers. Secondly, the Spider isn’t just a roof-deleted coupe, it has its own character and innovative styling. In my opinion, it looks even sexier than the Modena coupe. While the coupe has sacrificed the classic "flying buttresses" and employ a fastback design to enhance aerodynamic, the Spider has a pair a half-size flying buttresses, a flat engine lid so to deliver a strong sense of mid-engine. This makes it looks even more supercar-like than the fastback coupe. 

However, the real stunning feature is on the flat engine lid - a huge glass screen is incorporated there, solely for showing the whole red-head 40-valve V8 and aluminium chassis frame. This is probably the first time an engine lid is deliberately made in glass for displaying the engine. Ferrari tried similar thing in the F50, but that screen was made of composite and on which there were a lot of ventilation holes, so the visual quality is far worst than the 360 Spider. Moreover, the Spider’s one is shaped artistically, with mesh grilles at either side. For those criticising Pininfarina’s job in the 360 coupe, the Spider should be able to shut them up. 

Ferrari claims the chassis of this open-top sports car is the stiffest ever seen in the industry, although it is just 60% of that of the coupe. Considering the reputation of the coupe’s aluminium space frame chassis, you can see 60% of that is already very outstanding. In fact, the chassis of the coupe was designed with Spider version considered from the beginning, as experience from the F355 Spider proved that the lack of rigidity results in worse handling. Base on the coupe’s computer-designed chassis, the Spider strengthened the windscreen frame, with additional frames behind the cockpit and under the leading edge of windscreen. Twin roll-over bars are provided behind the seats, contributing to safety as well as chassis rigidity. Road test found the Spider is very stiff and hardly display any differences in handling compare with the coupe. The only trade-off is 60 kg extra weight and raising drag coefficient from 0.33 to 0.36. Therefore the Spider is likely to take a couple of tenths more for doing 0-60 and the top speed just barely hit the 180 mph mark.  

Now comes the hood mechanism, which is designed and built by CTS - the joint venture by Porsche and Mercedes and who engineered the SLK and 993 Targa’s mechanisms. It is fully electric operated, the whole process takes 28 seconds - not too quick by today’s standard. It is quite compact and store neatly under the hood cover. However, due to space reason the rear window is plastic and without heater. With the wind deflector up and roof down, buffeting is kept to minimal. Roof up, wind and noise sealing is quite good. Therefore refinement is quite good. 

Otherwise, the Spider is mechanically identical to the coupe. Ferrari expect it to outsell the coupe by a ratio of 3 to 2. Is that too conservative ? 

The above report was last updated on 8 July 2000. All Rights Reserved.

360 Challenge Stradale

A couple of months ago, I declared Porsche’s new 911 GT3 beating the Ferrari 360 as a driver’s car. That’s not a surprise, as we all know the GT3 is designed to be the most driver-focused model in the 911 range while the 4-year-old Ferrari was originally designed to be a playboy supercar - to please the young millionaires with speed as well as look and quality. Now, finally, Ferrari decides to strike back with the first truly driver-focused 360, the 360 Challenge Stradale.  

For the conversion to Challenge Stradale, Ferrari reworked the 360 thoroughly. Firstly, they gave the 40-valve V8 another 25 horsepower at the top end by using sportier intake valve timing, by raising compression ratio from 11.1 to 11.2:1, by adopting a lower resistance air flow meter and lower back pressure exhaust. Now the engine generates 425hp at the same 8500rpm while 275 lbft of torque remains unchanged. 

Secondly, a serious diet has been made to the whole car. As much as 110kg is slashed from the already lightweight car (remember, it already has aluminum chassis and suspensions). To do this, Ferrari has to adopt some expensive materials. For example, the floorpan and the door panels are carbon fiber. More carbon fiber is used inside the cockpit - the transmission tunnel, the instrument panel and the shells of the racing-style bucket seats. Carpet and audio system are eliminated, although air-conditioning is retained.  

The use of ceramic brakes and titanium springs in suspensions also contributes to weight saving a lot. As a whole, the Challenge Stradale weighs 1280kg in kerb (or 1180kg in dry), a full 100kg lighter than the Porsche GT3. That not only helps the Ferrari to accelerate quicker (4.0 sec to 60mph,versus 4.3 sec) but also gives it a significant advantage in handling, as every race car engineer will tell. Ridiculously, it was Porsche who used to be famous of producing stripped-out version of 911, such as the 2.7 RS, 993 RS and 993 GT2. Today, the GT3 is heavier than the regular Carrera because it made virtually no effort in weight reduction, a sharp contrast to the new Ferrari. And this is why the 360 Challenge Stradale can beat the Porsche GT3 in handling, as you will see soon.  

Thirdly, the new Ferrari has a set of super brakes - Brembo’s CCM carbon-ceramic brakes, like that used in the Enzo supercar. As you might know, the advantage of ceramic disc is that it is highly resistant to heat, thus there won’t be any fade of braking power after the hardest use for all day. The Brembo brakes enhance stopping power by 15% yet saves 16% weight. It measures 380mm in front brakes and 350mm at the rear, clamped by 6-piston and 4-piston aluminum monobloc callipers respectively. Porsche GT3 also has ceramic brakes, but the Ferrari’s are bigger and needs to cope with less weight, thus you can easily see which one provide the strongest braking. 

Lastly but not least, the Challenge Stradale has its suspensions tuned to deliver sportier handling. The body is lowered by 15mm. The suspension setup is stiffer by 25% front and 15% rear. Bigger 19-inch wheels (with titanium bolts) are employed to house the huge CCM brakes. They are shod with specially developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires which can produce up to 1.3g of lateral force. The tires are 10mm wider and are lower profile than the standard Modena to ensure greater grip. 

Externally, the Stradale distinguishes from the standard Modena by its sexier wheels, the black tail panel and the more aggressive chin spoiler which, together with the improved undercar airflow management, adds 40kg more downforce at 200kph. And that is achieved without altering the 0.335 drag coefficient. 

Talking so much about the conversion, all we want to know is how the Challenge Stradale drive. Those who tested it are all amazed how good it becomes. Initially, you will be amazed by how noisy the cabin is - the Ferrari V8 is always crazy loud when you rev it hard, but the lack of sound-deadening in the hot version makes it either a) unacceptably loud for ordinary drivers, or b) very thrilling for keen drivers. However, you won’t easily feel the extra power unless you can keep the engine revving beyond 6200rpm, where the power curve starts deviating from the standard V8’s. Also, the Ferrari V8 was never renowned for torque, thus this is where it can’t match the GT3 engine. 

Nevertheless, once enter the first corner and you’ll realize how much better the Stradale is. Its stiffer setup keeps roll and pitch nearly non-existent. Brake hard into a corner (so easy with the powerful ceramic brakes!), the nose barely dives a little. Turn the steering wheel, you’ll feel the chassis is lighter and response is sharper. It changes direction more eagerly and correction is equally easy. The steering is also more communicative, transmitting surface information honestly to your hands.  

The worst problem of the standard Modena is that at the limit it becomes tail-happy. The new Stradale has completely sorted out this problem, thanks largely to the new Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. These tires keep the rear end stick to the ground and, when they approach their limit, they let loose progressively thus the driver has plenty of time to adjust cornering attitude. As a result, the Stradale is easy to drive at the limit. You can turn it smoothly yet quickly into and out of corners, using throttle to correct its attack angle without worrying the rear end suddenly break away. Put it this way, it corners more like a Lotus Elise than a V8-powered supercar. 

Now, you might think the ride quality must be worsened by the stiff suspension. No, because the lightweight ceramic brakes and titanium springs reduce unsprung weight dramatically, ride quality is surprisingly good. Sure, it is firmer than the standard Modena, but totally acceptable on anything other than the poorest-surfaced public roads. And perhaps more forgiving than the GT3. 

Predictably, the ceramic brakes is super-powerful. Lap after lap of exploiting in the Fiorano circuit and it shows no sign of fade. According to Ferrari, the Stradale is 3.5 seconds a lap quicker in Fiorano than the standard Modena. Without doubt, the ceramic brakes is one of the main reasons. 

All these qualities come at a price. In UK, 360 Challenge Stradale is priced at £133,000, or 30% more than the 360 Modena. That’s almost twice the price of the 911 GT3. Does it worth that amount? yes, this is the most driver-focused production Ferrari ever since I know. Only the 288GTO / F40 / F50 / Enzo breed of supercars could be more serious. 

The above report was last updated on 20 Jun 2003. All Rights Reserved.


360 F1 Modena
360 Challenge Stradale
Mid-engined, Rwd
Mid-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4477 / 1922 / 1214 / 2600
4477 / 1922 / 1199 / 2600
V8, dohc, 5v/cyl, VVT,
var intake, var exhaust.
V8, dohc, 5v/cyl, VVT,
var intake, var exhaust.
3586 cc
3586 cc
400 hp
425 hp
275 lbft
275 lbft
6M semi-auto
6M semi-auto
Suspension (F/R)
All: double-wishbone
All: double-wishbone
Tyres (F/R)
215/45ZR18 / 275/40ZR18
225/35ZR19 / 285/35ZR19
1390 kg
1280 kg
Top speed
185 mph***
186 mph (c)
0-60 mph
4.3 sec*** / 4.3 sec**
4.0 sec (c)
0-100 mph
9.8 sec*** / 10.2 sec**
Figures tested by: * Autocar,  ** R&T,  *** Quattroruote

Copyright© 1997-2009 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine