I purchased my F355 Berlinetta in January of 2001 and kept it for 3 years putting a little more that 6K miles on it in that time. What was it like to own?
Well, Ferraris are often the target of criticism and I can confirm that much of that criticism is warranted. In my mind, it's an odd marriage of some of the finest materials coupled with some pretty sloppy build quality. Its specific faults include a lack of low-end torque, "sticky" throttle break away, impractical, and very expensive and time consuming to maintain.
With respect to that last point, my car actually spent nearly 7 months in the shop to take care of such minor items such as cracked headers, bad catalytic converters and the dreaded worn valve guides coupled with bad lifters. You can read more
about some of my reliability headaches here if you're keen.
Simple maintenance items were also incredibly expensive. I had a big brake upgrade from Brembo (F50 front/F40 rear) and a set of pads set me back $800!
However, much of this is forgotten once behind the wheel. The sound of the engine is so sonorous it actually makes the hairs on your neck stand up on end. And while the lack of low end torque might disappoint those familiar with the midrange punch of say a Porsche Turbo, it has some real top end horsepower. Its chassis also communicates so cleanly it constantly encourages you to fully explore its handling envelope.
It's not an easy car to drive well, however on the right road and under the right conditions, the Ferrari is an unbeatable experience. It's something that just can't be described by objective performance numbers. Just read Doug Hayashi's website
and you'll begin to understand why he and Wayne have owned Ferraris for the past 5 years.
Handling - NSX versus 355:
I've had people asked me how it handles compared to an NSX and having driven both the NSX and 355 extensively on the road and the track, I can offer the following observations:
- The 355 has the advantage in ultimate grip and corners flatter than the NSX. The tighter roll control also allows the 355 to be quicker through transitions.
- The handling balance of both cars has been described as unforgiving, however I find both to inspire confidence because they communicate honestly and cleanly. Both will ultimately oversteer at the limit but you get lots of warning and they can be easily throttle steered in the lower gears. Both also do a good job of keeping understeer at bay.
- Tire quality and condition are important to the handling of any sports car, however I found the 355's handling would become very lively (lots of oversteer) for the last third of the rear tires' life.
- The Achilles heel for the 355 is its steering. It's precise but lacks any real feedback and it's also somewhat low geared. This combination makes for a tricky recovery from a slide, particularly at higher speeds. The NSX has slow steering too, but it's so much more communicative and ultimately far more rewarding. I also like the way the steering effort loads up in the corners and in that sense the NSX reminds me of a Porsche 911 with manual steering.
- The last issue worth mentioning (again) is the throttle tip in (aka break away) for the 355. This is a well-known problem that affects many if not most 355s and while there are many theories on the cause and its cure, it's an irritant when trying to pick up the throttle at the apex of a corner.
Someone once said that owning an Italian sports car provided him with the two best days of his life: the day he bought it and the day he sold it! I sold my Ferrari to an acquaintance of mine and I have to admit I haven't once regretted that decision.
Here are various pictures including when the car was first picked up in 2001 in northern California.
Click on the thumbnail to see a larger size photo.