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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'