The second important bit of tech news is the addition of fully active suspension damping. There's a damper/shock absorber at each corner equipped with electro-hydraulic valves. They respond to the inputs of six accelerometers placed around the chassis. The system makes its adjustments based upon input from two sources: the road and the driver's demeanor. It "reads" the road and, based on the surface, adjusts almost instantly; the valves can go from fully open to fully closed in 80 milliseconds. When the car is being driven aggressively, the dampers get the message and firm up accordingly. You can also pre-select Comfort or Sport mode should you wish to give the suspension some up-front guidance.
Nobody ever complained about the 550's looks, so Pininfarina, which designed both the original car and the updates for the 575, had relatively little to do. The grille area was enlarged and reshaped; the hood-mounted air intake is larger as well. The headlight clusters were redone, updated with gas discharge units, and washers were added. The 18-in. alloy wheels are new, too, but otherwise that's that.
The main cabin upgrades stare you right in the eye, in the form of an updated instrument panel that puts a large tachometer front and center. A new steering wheel incorporates textured leather and aluminum. Central tunnel controls are freshened, some switchgear has been repositioned, and the six-way adjustable seats are also new.
Ferrari now offers a carbon-fiber interior trim package, too, just one of many custom touches available through the Carrozzeria Scaglietti owner customization program. Later this year, even more aggressive two-piece 19-in. wheels will be offered, combined with Pirelli tires developed specifically for the Maranello (255/35ZR19 front, 305/30ZR19 out back).
Short-stroke V12s sound wonderful even on the starter motor; this one lights with a whump before settling into a smooth yet edgy idle. Our car was equipped with the F1 tranny; step on the brake and snick the right paddle to select first gear. While any Ferrari is certainly about handling, balance and high-speed cruising, there's something also to be said for a good hard launch and just running up through the gears.
Ferrari's engineers anticipated that and gave the F1-equipped Maranello an extra tool for the job called Launch Control. Select the Sport suspension setting, de-activate the ASR traction control and press the brake pedal; this tells the system you're looking for maximum launch velocity. Bring the revs up to 3500-4000 rpm, then let off the brake and stab the gas pedal. You'll get just enough wheelspin for a good launch, hit 60 mph in around 4.1 sec. and cover the quarter mile in 12.25 sec. Ferrari claims a top speed of just over 200 mph, and we've no reason to doubt it.
The wider torque band is easily felt, especially in the mid-range. There's power to be found most anywhere on the tach, and though you don't need to rev it to redline to get awesome performance, it's just stupid fun to do so. We're also surprised at how much we like the F1 gearbox in this car. Drive moderately, and the shifts are smooth yet positive. Go for it, and the F1's techno bits will back off the throttle, release the clutch, find the next gear, engage the clutch and go back to full throttle far quicker than human limbs can do the job.
These upshifts are impressive, but downshifts are even better, as the system will do all of the above plus perform a perfect throttle blip that results in ideally matched revs. This newest version of F1 shift control is the fastest yet in terms of actual shift execution speed. Ferrari confidently claims that the 575M is actually quicker in F1 form. There's never a reason to not be in the right gear. We also appreciate Ferrari giving us ASR traction control logic that actually allows more than a little wheelspin, then invades as late and as gently as is required to keep the shiny side up.