Ferrari 550 Coupe 1996-2002

Ferrari 550 Coupe 1996-2002

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016

Pros:

  • Excellent handling and dynamic qualities
  • Comfortable and somewhat practical thanks to the boot space

Cons:

  • Very heavy clutch and a capricious gearbox
  • Eye-watering fuel consumption

Overview

The Ferrari 550 Maranello was designed to replace the old-fashioned 512 Testarossa as the company’s flagship car. Out of all the models offered by the company in the late 1990s, the Maranello was considered the top spec luxury model. It is different from the usual layout used in Ferrari cars – the 550 has a V12 engine at the front and a 6-speed gearbox over the rear axle, located transversely.

Exterior and Interior

The exterior of the Ferrari 550 Maranello has been designed by Pininfarina. They’ve produced a brave design. It is brave because they’ve paid a tribute to the 1970s style. It’s only from the front end that you can detect that this is a modern car as its silhouette is actually very old-fashioned… in a good way, though. The car is built on the Ferrari 456’s platform using a tubular aluminium frame construction with aluminium body panels. Hence the car is very light and with the massive gearbox over the rear axle, it’s got a perfect gravity centre. When it comes to the interior, you might be disappointed if you expect a Rolls-Royce style luxury and excess. There are no excesses in the 550. The Italians have their own concept of what a tasteful supercar’s cockpit should look like and there’s nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. There are no wooden inlays and very little shiny metal, yet the leather used is top quality and the seats are very comfortable. Unlike the majority of other Ferrari models (in fact the majority of other supercars), the 550 Maranello has a decent size boot space. It’s even big enough for a bag of golf clubs. Alternatively, it can fit in two medium sized suitcases.

Performance and Economy

It’s a pure supercar and there are very few cars out there that can beat the 550. Thanks to the well-balanced weight distribution, the car has a huge amount of grip, although, the grip decreases with cool tyres. A formation lap is highly recommended on a track day. Once the tyres are heated though, there’s almost no limit to the 550’s performance. It can reach zero to 60mph in just 4.3 seconds and its top speed is 200mph. The performance does come at a price. The petrol station will love you while the green campaigners will loathe you, the 550 Maranello can deliver just 12mpg and will puff out 530g CO2 per kilometre.

Like to Drive

It depends on where you stand. There have been people who find driving a Ferrari a rather disappointing experience. The car is certainly more difficult and less practical than anything else that you can think of (other than the luggage space). On the other hand, people who don’t enjoy a Ferrari, will definitely be in the minority because after all, a Ferrari is the ultimate supercar and it hasn’t gained its reputation for nothing. Driving a 550 is quite difficult, but definitely rewarding. The car feels amazing and sounds amazing. One criticism that some owners of the 550 Maranello have is the ultra-heavy clutch and gearbox. It takes a lot of effort to operate the monster efficiently, especially in the city traffic.

Faults and Repairs

Being the flagship of the Ferrari range, the car is very expensive. The price remains stubbornly high even on well-used models. Owning a Ferrari is all about the costs. It is extremely expensive to keep it full with fuel and equally expensive to keep it in a good nick. Servicing has to be done regularly at much shorter intervals than a normal car would. You also need a well-equipped and specialised garage, so taking a Ferrari to your local mechanic will not be an option. The 550 should be well looked after and stored in a garage until the car is ready to be used. It’s certainly not an everyday car and shouldn’t be driven during winter, 485bhp and ice don’t mix well, and the salt on the roads will damage the paintwork. The 550s are reliable and well-built, but you have to make sure the used car comes with a full service history.