When the 550 Maranello was introduced in 1996 (on sale in the States in 1997), it was a bit of a departure for Ferrari. The company designed this car to be a replacement for the Testarossa and all its incarnations of the past decade, but it wanted to add something a little new, a little different: Comfort. Driveability. Ease of use. These are attributes the notably testy Testarossa didn't so much have.
So the Maranello came on the scene with a full complement of twelve cylinders, this time up front, and a much more subdued body. It's a strategy Ferrari would return to ten years later when it trotted out the California convertible. In both cases, the cars had all the oomph you'd expect from Prancing Horses with an extra dose of livability.
Just over 3000 550 Maranellos were built before it was allowed to fade away in 2002 to make room for the 575 M Maranello.
The 550 Maranello has a V12 under the hood up front rather than a flat 12 in the back, as the Testarossa did. This served two purposes: The first was to keep the car in line with stricter emissions standards that were on the horizon in the late 1990s, and a V shape achieved that aim better. The second was to even out the balance of the car and make for an easier, more familiar driving experience, possibly luring new Ferrari buyers into the cockpit.
When the engine got folded up into a V, the car could become shorter, and shorter equals lighter, and lighter equals faster. When you're Ferrari, faster is almost always the goal. But since there was a secondary goal of comfiness, Ferrari lifted the roof more than five inches higher than the roof of the Testarossa, meaning taller folks could drive without bumping their heads or scrunching over the steering wheel. Much comfier.
When seen through the lens of the 2010s, the 550 Maranello doesn't look as special as some other Ferraris from the last decades. It seems to have a bit of the Ford Taurus about it, to my eye. I'm sure there are plenty who disagree and find that wide mouth shark-like and those curving lines liquid.
The insides of a Ferrari are never less than high-end, using the best and lightest materials. The 550 Maranello is no exception, but the redesign of the cabin means that there's more room to appreciate these finer things. And the new design allowed for a trunk in the rear that could pass the infamous golf club test. It's not the biggest trunk in the world, but in the realm of exotic cars, it's cavernous.
Ferrari 550 Maranello Specs
- Engine: 5.5-liter V12, front-mounted
- Horsepower: 485 hp
- Torque: 419 lb-ft
- Top speed: 199 mph
- 0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
- Price: around $200,000 new in 1996