motoring: Maximum horse power

Ferrari's radical new 360 Modena is an all-round success - it's bigger, lighter, stronger and faster. Michael Booth was invited to fling it round some corners

The existence of the glorious Ferrari must have first entered my consciousness 25 years ago. I can't remember the precise moment of epiphany - it may have been a picture on a Top Trump card, a poster in Athena, or even the opening sequence to Hart To Hart, where Robert Wagner duels with Stephanie Powers in a Ferrari Dino. Whichever it was, that first flash of scarlet sculpture captured a corner of my dreams.

Now, lost on the outskirts of Maranello in the industrial heartland of northern Italy, I catch a glimpse of Ferrari's latest creation: a sunflower- yellow 360 Modena, the radical new "entry level" model, launched earlier this year. Hoping it will lead me to my destination - the Ferrari factory where I am about to test drive one - I try to follow it. But with a twitch of the driver's toe, the car is a speck and I am lost once again.

Some time later, I find the Ferrari factory. In the waiting area, I dribble over the current range, including the pounds 167,700 456M GT (as owned by Rowan Atkinson) and the pounds 149,700 550 Maranello (as pouted in by Posh and Becks). The 360 is the most beautiful of the three, a lean sprinter among chunky decathletes. It stands at belly-button height but melts out to the same width and length as many saloons. Eighty per cent of those made are expected to be sold with the Formula One-style clutchless, paddle-operated gear shift, and in a few minutes, I will be driving one such version. No one at Ferrari knows this, but I have never tried a paddle-shift car before.

The pounds 101,244 masterpiece, to which Ferrari's English head of PR, Tim Watson, hands me the keys, is the very same yellow 360 I have seen earlier. Fortunately, once I've got it on the road, my fears about the paddle shift vanish; it feels entirely natural to change up and down by tapping back the two metal flaps on either side of the wheel. One day all cars will change gears this way, but for now there are still glitches - up changes are jerky and take an aeon. On the other hand, down changes are fluid and thrilling, thanks to an engine management system which cleverly blips the throttle to simulate the finest heel-and-toe change.

On a mountain route, the car explodes from corner to corner, faster than electricity - and I hang on for dear life. On narrow, blind bends, the car's girth worries me and I stop for a meditative ice cream. Reverent locals emerge to pay homage, and a man jokes that Italy has two national flags: one with green, white and red stripes, and one with a prancing horse.

Sadly, my drive ends with me heroically flinging the car round corners at no more than 10mph. Thick fog has fallen, and I can barely see the little yellow rectangle on the bonnet, let alone the crazy arcade game that is the Italian highway.

It will take better drivers than me to reach the 360 Modena's limits - but my two-hour test drive was enough to convince me that, despite its impracticalities, this is unquestionably the world's greatest sports car.

The credentials

The 360 Modena, Ferrari's radical new "entry level" model, was launched earlier this year. Unlike the last few generations of V8 Ferraris, which have been a gradual evolution of the 1975 308, the 360 is an all-new, all-aluminium design, mating radical "cabin-forward" styling by Pininfarina to a 400bhp engine. It is bigger, lighter, better equipped, stronger and faster than its predecessor, the 355, and it also generates four times as much down force (the aerodynamic effect which draws car to tarmac as its speed increases); it is capable of 0-60 in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 184mph. The 360 is expected to account for 65 per cent of the company's production, and Ferrari limits its total production to just 3,600 units per year (about 11 a day), all of which are sold well in advance. Tim Watson, explains that every 360 Modena's engine undergoes four hours on a test bed and the completed cars are given a 100km shakedown before finally being delivered.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all