FERRARI'S F355 ON A WORLD TOUR [review]

Ferrari on their 50th anniversary has decided to celebrate their coming of age in a few well planned ways. The release of their 550M is one, another is the completion of the limited production run of their most expensive car, the F50. If you are interested to know it should make a neat dent in your bank account, about $1 million deep and $1 million wide but this gurantees exculsivity to a worldwide ownership of just 249 cars.

 

However famous they have been raising the image stratosphere, they have never had the reputation of being the most reliable of cars. Either by design or by chance, they have made the most reliable Ferrari of all, the F355. So is it then surprising that it is the most popular Ferrari of all? To prove this point, Ferrari have with their 50th anniversary celebrations, also organized a very ambitious World Tour for the F355. By World Tour they do not mean actually circumnavigating the globe but touring the countries in which Ferraris are actually sold, in in essence that really covers all of the populated continents.

As you would guess, Singapore is one of those countries and indeed some 40 Ferraris found new owners last year. Befitting the occasion, we were invited to drive the World Tour Ferrari 355 from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Would we turn down such an invitation?

The single F355 that arrived here for the trip was the same one that was registered in sunny California USA just for this purpose. It started officially in New York and has crossed over to Canada, Europe then to South America, South Africa, Australia and now it would run through South East Asia before heading for the Far East including China and Japan before returning to Los Angeles for its final leg. After all that it will be retired to Ferrari’s museum for posterity. If successful, it will have proven to a sceptical audience just how reliable a Ferrari can be. As proof that it is the same car, the invited drivers are required to put their signature against their country’s flag which Ferrari has kindly emblazoned across the flanks of the F355.

The Singapore leg began at the new Conrad International hotel and it first made its way to get a full tank of Shell petrol, what else, Ferrari’s current partner as it attempts to cross the globe. We were more concerned with mundane things like passports and customs doucments to cross the border. Needless to say, there was a “delay” across the causeway, one we would rather forget.

Nonetheless, the F355 made it through but rather late as the car was due to be handed over to awaiting journalists in Kuala Lumpur. We gave the F355 full wick and took it to its logical limits. The awe inspiring bellow from the engine located just inches aft of the occupants is something to relish and savour. Calling up all 380 horses at 8200 rpm from this 3.5-litre V8 with all its 40 valves screaming is really music to even the most jaded enthusiasts’ ears. Apart from its Pininfarina styling, the Ferraris are best known for their induction and exhaust roar. You must hear it to understand. Absolutely intoxicating.

The top speed of this red missile is a stunning 295 kph. Though we found no reason to doubt this figure, it was reassuring to know we were traveling well within its measured limits. While the power assisted steering remained lightly loaded it becomes more positive once above 240 kph. What doesn’t get light is the clutch and throttle pedals as they still require a hefty shove to operate. The brakes were something else though, stopping this F355 without drama from very high speeds. While ergonomics are not what can be considered perfect, it does endear itself once they are familiar. This redhead is certainly not one to give in so easily. Not even the fact that one can own one of these beauties will mean it can be conquered or be taken for granted. It will constantly demand one’s entire attention if not actually one’s devotion and it will occasionally remind you who is boss.

The F355 is the best selling Ferrari of all time and not all of it is due to styling. It is because it is relatively easy to use thanks to the power steering. For real enthusiasts, this fact is hard to swallow but there is a slow realization that it is far easier to market something that is easy to use than one that harbours traditional values that only the most seriously deranged enthusiasts can tolerate. The truth be known, we enthusiasts are a dying breed and as our tastes become more sophisticated, power steering and heaven forbid, automatic transmissions will become a thing of the future as the next F355 replacement will prove. For now, the F355 is the most reliable, user “friendly” Ferrari $750,000 can buy. AL

SPECIFICATIONS

FERRARI 355

BODY: Coupe, Mid-engine, Steel Monocoque Chassis with Semi-space frame rear chassis.

ENGINE: 3.5-litre, V8, 4 overhead cams, 5-valves per cylinder, 40 valves in total, Mid-mounted, Max Power: 380 Bhp at 8200 rpm.

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual transmission.

STEERING: Power Assisted Rack and Pinion

BRAKES: Ventilated Discs all round

SUSPENSION: Double Wishbones all round.

ACCELERATION: 0-100 kph: 4.9 seconds

TOP SPEED: 295 Kph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Irrelevant

STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Pininfarina Body, Ferrari engine, need anything else? (air-con, air bag, central locking)

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