The Best of the Best 2003: Sports Cars - Ferrari 575M Maranello

When all personal preferences have been considered, and all Asian poseurs and American pretenders have been set aside, enthusiasts are left with just two pure and uncompromised sports cars to ponder. There is the Porsche with its monorail handling, shapes akin to sculpture, and soul-stirring performance. And there is the Ferrari, a nation’s identity, a name forever associated with the fastest drivers and racing machines, and an expensive chunk of expressive red metal that lends romance to a death wish.

Now be honest. Would you rather arrive at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo in a Ferrari or a Porsche? Nothing else looks this good in red. With the 575M Maranello, Ferrari has ex- tended its legacy a length or two ahead of any contemporary sports car reared for speed and exhilaration.

The 575M could not be any better looking, and it need not be any faster. Its heritage is that of world classics and world-class passions for cars that are mostly handcrafted and have production runs in the hundreds. This low-volume, front-engine, $231,265 berlinetta enjoys an exclusivity usually reserved for treasures from past eras.

 

The 575M Maranello—the numbers denote a new displacement of 5.75 liters; the M refers to modificati, or changes; and the name is the hometown of the Ferrari factory—is Ferrari’s entry in the exclusive V-12 supercoupes category, which includes only the Aston Martin Vanquish and the Lamborghini Murciélago. While Newport Pagnell’s Vanquish is clubby and Sant’Agata Bolognese’s Murciélago is a bull in wolf’s clothing, the Maranello is sensual, elegant, beautifully bred, and very Italian.

The aria from its 515-hp, four-cam V-12 is an impatient, impeccable, wincing, feral, ripping wail peculiar to the species. With its electrohydraulic gearbox and paddle shifting, braking and driving by wire, and launch-control system, the car represents a faithful transfer of racing technology to a road machine.


Externally, little distinguishes the 575 from yesteryear’s 550. The front air intake yawns wider for better engine breathing, and the headlight clusters have been rearranged. Mechanically, the bore is bigger, the stroke is longer, and the Bosch management system is snappier, all of which enables the 575M to punch through the 200-mph barrier.

Still, it is the nuances—not the nuts and bolts—of a Ferrari that have always stirred our deepest emotions. It is about essence. It is about pace, handling, grip, acceleration, steering that is as quick as a thought, and driving a car that is so much steadier within its performance envelope than we will ever be.

Ferrari, www.ferrari.com

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