Though 500+ horsepower and a make-me-look-like-Schumacher tranny are impressive, it's the active damping that makes the new car so noticeably improved over its predecessor. Ride quality is better than that of the 550, both when cruising on smooth surfaces or dealing with rough pavement. Yet, when it knows you're making time, it's stiffer and more controlled than before. Even over cobbled surfaces, we always felt that the tires stayed in contact with the ground, we were in control and the car was making up the difference.
The steering system remains wonderfully communicative, if perhaps a bit overboosted. No complaints with the Brembo brakes, either. There's stopping power aplenty, with good pedal feel, high limits and little sense of fade.
The Maranello's cabin was always an elegant, purposely comfortable place, and it remains so; we're particularly pleased with the new gauge cluster, which is more performance oriented, easier to see, and the instruments themselves are easier to read. Not so easy to spot, but worth looking for, is a tiny plaque that reminds you of Ferrari's 2001 F1 World Championship.
I know I'm supposed to do my job as a journalist and find some stuff to gripe about. Well, okay, if I must. First of all, the thing costs a quarter of a million bucks-big problem for most of us, but no biggie for the well-heeled clientele that already has its orders placed. After enjoying the banshee wail from the 360 Modena, I'm a bit disappointed in the quieter, metallic fizz coming out of the Maranello's exhaust pipes. Yeah, I know this car is meant for the more mature who are more likely to take it on a 500-mile-per-day vacation than a run around the race track. But it still doesn't sound like a Ferrari. Guess there's always a high-buck, stainless-steel aftermarket exhaust.
Even though its road manners are superb, you're always aware of the car's mass. With all this lux and tech, there's no way it's not going to be heavy, as long as the chassis and a few body panels remain steel. We hear that future Ferraris will rely more heavily on aluminum and composite materials in the name of less weight, but such a major redesign was not part of the plan this time around.
And one more complaint: Ferrari's fabulous new 575M Maranello would benefit from some rocket launchers and mortar fire, much like you'd find on a James Bond-spec Aston Martin. They would sure come in handy, should your favorite road become a little too overcrowded with commuter Fiats.