Best Ferraris – the greatest models from Maranello’s present and recent past
Ferrari is a brand with more than its fair share of illustrious highlights so we’ve recapped the best Ferraris sold in evo’s time…
Drawing up a list of our ten favourite Ferraris is not a new concept, but Ferrari still makes new cars and we occasionally get to experience older models anew, so there’s always wiggle room when it comes to deciding which models make the grade.
Even then, it’s tricky to set criteria. We have, for example, excluded the firm’s limited-run specials from this list. The 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo and LaFerrari would all undoubtedly be here if not, but then they’d push out five other great Ferraris that are far more accessible and arguably more relevant, which is why you’ll find those cars below instead.
What’s clear is that even as our list ebbs and flows between models and eras, Ferrari has made some remarkable cars over the years, and continues to build some of the most desirable and exciting models on sale. Long may that – and the mutability of this list – continue.
evo’s best Ferraris
Ferrari 458 Speciale
Specific output figures have grown less relevant as turbocharging has become the dominant force in internal combustion – anyone can whack up the boost and achieve a big number these days. But with 597bhp from a 4.5-litre unit, a figure of 133bhp per litre tells you much of what you need to know about the Ferrari 458 Speciale’s remarkable V8 engine.
What you can’t derive from the numbers is the spectacular sound it makes, nor the wild thrills of extending it to a 9000rpm red line, but Ferrari’s pursuit of weight reduction (the Speciale is 90kg lighter than a regular 458) and carefully-chosen technology and components mean even that engine can’t overshadow its chassis. Fast, focused and never less than a manic and enthralling experience, the 458 Speciale is almost the definition of a mid-engined supercar.
Ferrari 599 GTB
Draw a line between the Ferrari 550 Maranello and today’s 812 Superfast and sitting right in the middle, flanked by the 575M on one side and the F12 Berlinetta on the other, is the 599 GTB. It’s special for several reasons, but perhaps one that attracts the most attention today is that it was the last front-engined Ferrari V12 model to be available with a manual gearbox.
Even if you can’t find a manual, the 599 remains a high point in the marque’s history. Not for no reason did it top evo Car of the year in 2006, ahead of Porsche’s 997 GT3. Its aluminium chassis and slightly rear-biased weight distribution gave it almost mid-engined levels of agility despite a front-engined layout, and Ferrari was really getting a handle on magnetic dampers and sophisticated traction control by then too, helping to put its sonorous 611bhp to effective use.
Ferrari F8 Tributo
At the top of the supercar tree, the battle between Ferrari’s latest F8 Tributo and McLaren’s 720S is really quite fascinating. While they differ in construction (Ferrari prefers aluminium, McLaren has chosen carbonfibre) and each is wildly different to behold, both use turbocharged V8s, sophisticated electronics and clever chassis tech in a way that makes them a pleasure to drive on the road, even when you’re not exploiting their monstrous performance.
It’s a close-run thing as to which is better to drive, too. In Ferrari’s favour it’s definitely the sharpest of the pair, carrying over plenty of lessons learned on the 488 Pista (and is nearly as quick around Fiorano, despite being less focused) and on a track, its electronics make it more exploitable. Is it as satisfying as the fluid and more inventively-styled McLaren on the road? That’s harder to decide, but the F8 is another very strong effort from Maranello.
Ferrari 812 Superfast
A common theme that links all modern Ferraris is shockingly potent performance. It’s not that Ferraris have ever been particularly slow for their era, more that now we’re reaching up into the realms of six, seven and eight-hundred horsepower, you need nerves of steel to push that pedal all the way to the carpet. And none of them make that experience quite so thrilling as the 812 Superfast.
The Superfast is indisputably a supercar, despite its front-engined layout. With a howling 789bhp it is monumentally, brain-scramblingly fast; the first time you use every one of those horses in second and third gear you’ll utter a string of expletives to make a sailor blush. With four-wheel steering and Ferrari’s usual levels of chassis control though, it’s also a terrific road car, and above all a monument to the glorious work of engineering that is Ferrari’s F140-series V12, first installed in the Enzo.
Ferrari 488 Pista
Okay, so the Ferrari 488 Pista lacks two very important components that its predecessor, the 458 Speciale, delivered in spades: That spine-tingling shriek of a naturally-aspirated V8, and the searing top-end power that accompanied it. For that reason alone, the Pista will always reside in its shade, but that’s not to say the Pista isn’t itself one of the great Ferraris.
For a start, everything else that made the Speciale… well, special, was carried over or improved upon with the Pista. That includes evolutionary improvement to the 458’s already incredible dynamics, with handling so approachable you wouldn’t believe it possible from a car that’s putting 711bhp to the rear wheels. It remains awesomely exciting too, when you’re harnessed into a beautifully-trimmed bucket seat and in control of that kind of thrust, yet Ferrari’s expertise in damping makes the car as unexpectedly usable on the road as it is spectacular on a track.
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Like the 456 that had emerged earlier in the decade, the 550 Maranello was frequently compared to the Daytona. If anything, the comparison was more relevant with the later car – its sharky styling wasn’t as admired at the time as it is today but was just as sharp-nosed as the 365 GTB4, and like the Daytona the 550 was a two-seater, where the 456 made room for four.
It served not as a GT though, but as an effective replacement for the Testarossa-derived 512M, and next to that car it was a revelation, both in terms of its modernity and its accessible handling characteristics thanks to a front-engined layout. The transaxle arrangement gave it ideal weight distribution and the 478bhp, 5.5-litre V12 gave it considerable power. It was a fabulous super GT, and even made its mark in racing, with numerous privateer entries in GT series around the world, and a GTS class win at Le Mans in 2003 with Prodrive.
Ferrari’s California and Portofino front-engined V8 models never quite hit the mark, but the attractive and accomplished Roma shows it wasn’t the formula but the execution that was lacking. It’s perhaps the car those two always should have been – classically good-looking with subtle curves in place of Ferrari’s more recent aggressive shapes, free of visible aero addenda, and impressive grand touring abilities courtesy of a restrained and comfortable cabin and excellent ride comfort.
Most importantly though, it rolls genuine Ferrari driving characteristics into the mix more convincingly than the Portofino with which it shares much of its underpinnings. The 612bhp variant of the front-mounted, twin-turbo 4-litre V8 kicks hard, the handling is precise, and Ferrari’s typically quick steering doesn’t feel nervous here. The ride quality is tyre-dependent (we found it better on the Pirelli option) but the Roma hits far more than it misses.
Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale
There had been stripped-out, focused variants of previous mid-engined V8 Ferraris, but the 360 Challenge Stradale was the first time Ferrari had made such a dedicated effort to carry across the characteristics of its Challenge race series cars into a road-going variant. Particularly in red, with the tricolore stripe down the middle and lexan windows, it’s become one of the most iconic and desirable Ferrari road cars.
Those who ticked every box in the day received a car 110kg lighter than a standard 360 Modena, and 25bhp more powerful. On sound alone you’d guess it was making double the standard car’s power – the CS is loud enough to wake the dead, and with a minimally-trimmed interior it’s a long way from being as refined as more recent Ferrari track specials. Its by-now old-hat automated manual gearbox takes some getting used to, but the handling has that same lack of inertia you’d expect given relatively light weight, and probably the closest to the racer of any of Ferrari’s specials.
A recent influx of models to the market (and an even greater number said to be on the way) has blurred the line between supercar and hypercar almost beyond definition, but we’ll draw a line in the sand and say the SF90 is very much a hypercar. Its styling isn’t as wild as the LaFerrari it technically, if not spiritually, succeeds (it’s a series production model, rather than a limited-production special), but with 987bhp, could it be anything but a hypercar?
If there’s one issue, it’s that opportunities to meaningfully enjoy its performance on the road are so few and far between that it gives us that same sense of existential confusion as Chirons and Sennas. It’s a remarkably complete product, and extraordinary to drive, but if there’s one thing that absolutely defines it as a hypercar, it’s that the SF90 convinces us we could have more fun with something significantly slower and much less clever...
The 456 could scarcely be more different from its 412 predecessor. The car that had started its life as the 365 GT4 in the early 1970s was holding up well by the late 1980s but Ferrari itself was changing, reeling from Enzo’s death in 1988 and signing Luca di Montezemolo in 1991, who spent the 90s turning the company’s fortunes around. The pretty 456 was already in development, but di Montezemolo made his mark on the car’s quality.
Powered by a dry-sumped 5.5-litre V12 and driving through either a six-speed manual or, like the 412, a four-speed auto, it made 436bhp and could top 186mph, while the styling drew favourable comparison with the old Daytona. The body was aluminium and the suspension used sophisticated double wishbones front and rear. It was a genuine supercar grand tourer, and its relatively low values today make it one of the best routes into the brand, too.