Used 2001 Ferrari 550 Convertible Review
A glorious return to Ferrari's two-seater with a front-mounted V12 school of sports car design.
Introduced to the U.S. market in 1997, the 550 Maranello was an instant hit with both the Ferrari faithful and the general American public, due in no small part to its striking appearance. As a replacement for the outgoing 512M, itself an evolution of the '80s icon, mid-engine Testarossa model, the 550 signaled a return to Ferrari's legendary V12/front-engine/two-seat design philosophy that had endeared earlier models, such as the 365 Daytona and 275 GT, to fans of the prancing horse.
This time around, Ferrari had lofty goals in mind for their highest-performing GT car. Specifically, they wanted a car that could meet the driving needs of their most demanding customers while simultaneously providing a level of comfort and convenience previously unavailable in a Ferrari.
Named after the town from which all Ferraris originate, the 550 Maranello combines high-tech luxury features with a powerful 485-horsepower V12 engine to create the ultimate Gran Turismo automobile. The Bosch Motronic fuel injection system feeds into four-valve-per-cylinder heads while other engine components, like titanium connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons, contribute to light weight and durability. Power travels to the rear wheels via a six-speed transmission that is operated by a classic Ferrari gated shifter topped by an aluminum knob. This transmission is incorporated into the rear differential for improved weight distribution.
Riding on a high tensile steel tube frame, the 550 sports such performance aids as speed-sensitive steering, adjustable suspension (with normal and sport modes), Brembo four-piston brakes with four-channel ABS, stability control, and lightweight, five-spoke 18-inch wheels with Z-rated tires.
But, as stated earlier, performance is only part of the 550 equation. Creating an environment of pure bliss, even when lap times aren't a primary concern, meant addressing luxury and comfort issues as well. The Maranello answers with eight-way adjustable seats (five of which are even power!), a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, bright analog gauge displays, and automatic climate control with sun radiation sensors for improved accuracy. Behind the seats is a large shelf with room for golf bags and even leather straps to keep them from scuffing the interior panels during high G turns. A trunk-mounted CD changer is standard, as are automatically sealing windows for an airtight cabin at triple-digit speeds.
Yes, the 550 Maranello offers performance to impress the yacht club guys and convenience to keep the better half happy. But if the performance aspects of a Ferrari interest you more than luxury accoutrements, keep in mind that a 360 Modena stickers for over $50,000 less than the Maranello while offering superior performance.
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