Being carried away- Ferrari 575M [review]


This 575M is fast, real fast and the speed that builds up easily escapes notice because it’s so refined. The engine is omnipotent and it just delivers punch at any revs, in any gear. I can remember the first time I met the 550 Maranello at Nurburgring in 1996, noting just how silent the 550 Maranello was as it whisked round the track with Michael Schumacher at the wheel. While it looked like a Ferrari it certainly did not sound like one. No matter, the charismatic Luca Montezomolo had taken this project under his wings. The more practical front engine rear drive layout would be used for the flagship in lieu of the mid-engined layout cherished by so many enthusiasts. 

Practical he said, because it carries a set of golf clubs, Montezomolo proudly demonstrated. But to us the real attraction of this car was how it drives and handles and we know it’s a true ace. Well, the good news is they have addressed the missing Ferrari sound. Though still erring on the side of political correctness, the V12 growl and snarl puts the flamboyance back into the Ferrari flagship. Though not as vocal as the 360 Modena, it will do nicely thank you.

These are part of a raft of changes under the guise of “Modificata”, the “M” that appears just aft of 575. And 575 represents the capacity of the V12 at 5.75-litres. The extra displacement from a 1mm increase in bore and 2mm in stroke alone does not totally account for the jump in power from 485 bhp to 515 bhp. There are new camshafts for both intake and exhaust in conjunction with a new redesigned intake and exhaust system. The compression ratio is bumped up to 11.0:1 and new forged alloy pistons are employed to cope with this. The latest Bosch Motronic 7.3.2 along with 4 knock sensors manage the engine which has now a servo controlled throttle. Firing the plugs are new integrated spark coils.

The corollary of this is 515 bhp and 588 Nm of torque at 5250 rpm, with an improvement of at least 14.7 Nm throughout its entire range. And the changes don’t end here, as there is the F-1 gearbox to talk about. This is its first such application in a V12 and it brings significant improvements.

It certainly is better than the gated manual shifter and is a natural on the track. Just during its acceleration to 100 km/h it is worth 0.05 second, 4.25 seconds with the manual and 4.20 seconds using the F-1 box. The gain is due to the fact the robotic shifter is quicker than the human hand just for that one gear change on the way to the ton.

But its advantage is more comprehensive than that. It has a launch mode that can perform the infamous Ferrari take off party trick consistently well. One must be in Sport mode which not just firms up the suspension but it also heightens engine response and although it also puts the ASR into near oversteer mode, for the take off, the ASR must be disabled. Left foot brake, release and stomp on the gas pedal, engine revs up and wham it catapults you into the horizon, turning the latest P-Zeros into so much blue smoke. If you think all this is pretty tough on the mechanicals, you are right. Ferrari has seen it fit to use triple cone synchronisers on 1st and 2nd gears, the two that take the most abuse. The others get regular double cone synchro rings. And if you perform this trick too often the clutch and tyres will wilt in double quick time. Curiously Ferrari tells us, the F-1 transmission actually saves on clutch wear in practise because many owners prematurely burn out manually operated ones.

For all that, the top speed increase seems paltry, just 5 km/h to 325 km/h but the aerodynamicists were bent on stability rather than top speed and there are larger openings for the hood scoop, radiator and brake cooling ducts. Having told you that it will still take a pretty sharp eye to actually spot the exterior changes. The most obvious change is the pair of Xenon projector beams in front and a set of new 18-inch alloys. It was revealed that 85% of customers have opted for the 19-inch wheels as they ride almost as well and look great in the process.

If driven with some sympathy, the next noticeable thing is the gear change in manual F-1 mode is much smoother, with less of a jolt during engagement of the next gear when compared to the 360 Modena. This was noticeable in full auto mode as well though for obvious reasons we only gave that mode a cursory once over. As noted, the F-1 transmission is a natural on the track as it did all the down shifts with a mere flick of the paddle while maintaining smooth braking and turning in. Since the computer will never choose a gear that will cause over-revving, the lowest gear selected by this default is always the right one for maximum acceleration out of corners. This downshifting even on the open roads and in town makes one feel like a hero as it blips the throttle and double declutches flawlessly for you every time.

Whilst the chassis is ultra precise and positive, the steering is a tad light for what is a supercar. However this lightness of feel, nimbleness and relatively quiet demeanour successfully hides a kerb weight of 1730 kg, not particularly light as modern sports cars go. But it is no slouch as the figures prove. Driving it highlights the triumph of sheer power over weight. Its power to weight ratio is almost 300 bhp per ton and that puts the 575M way over at the extreme end of the performance scale.

On the inside, Ferrari has decided to reward those who fork over a huge wad of cash with a new dashboard which features a large central tacho and the speedo relegated to the size and position of other gauges like water temperature and the like. There is also a new steering wheel with a small airbag that looks just right. Although there are sports seats available they are rather more confining and perceptibly less comfortable than the standard seats which now boast of a memory setting for the driver’s side.

Ferrari has only the two front bags claiming its unique body structure and seating arrangement negates the need of side bags. Their explanation is Ferrari is unique in that the passengers are actually seated much further from the outer skin of the car than others. Its strong body shell prevents intrusion and keeps the passengers from harms way. The strong body shell not only provides protection it provides a most stable platform for the chassis engineers to do their stuff. Now with accelerometers at each wheel and electrically actuated 80 ms response valves in the dampers, the suspension has an even bigger bag of tricks.

Ferrari has even alluded that the front wheels act as early detectors of imperfections and the rears will be sent the appropriate response to help counter this. For something so stiffly sprung the comfort is good and while the leather creaks occasionally, it feels as solid as a safe. Thanks to a 53:47 weight balance the car handles impressively well, one of our favourites. The new ASR sport setting even allows oversteer and it keeps out of the picture for so long that you are constantly worried if you switched it off by mistake. It seems Ferrari is intent on showing their 575M owners a thrilling time.

We were apparently the first group that experienced perfect weather during the exclusive launch at Marenello so we could explore the considerable depths of its performance envelope. We left some black stripes on some mountain road as a mark of our presence, though it must be said we were not alone. The mountain roads some 45 minutes away were our first destination. The light steering was disconcerting at first but as we became familiar with it, it proved to be a very sharp instrument indeed. The roads although beautiful were narrow and we quickly became aware this is not such a compact car. The seating is deceptive as we actually sit a distance from the outside of the door so estimation of the car’s size needs some readjustment. There is tremendous grip provided by the new P-Zeros and they are eerily quiet even in the face of tremendous abuse by the testing. Even when we did a burnout start, they never protested.

We knew the limits could never quite be reached with any satisfaction over these roads except for heavy braking where the anchors proved their worth several times. The road section merely gave us a glimpse of everyday life with the 575M, evaluating its comfort and ease of use. Although it needs concentration to pilot the 575M, it quickly becomes your ally. The responses are all positive and you find it is very wieldy even in the tightest bits. When I first tried the F-1 transmission I remarked that while it is really fast going forwards, reversing is something of a pain. It used to need that the driver select neutral by pulling both pedals simultaneously and then lift the reverse lever to engage. As you can imagine, during a 3-point turn it can take some time and one will find some frustrated road users waiting for you, not very glam when in a Ferrari. This latest transmission allows you to select reverse directly even if the transmission is in 1st or 2nd so long as one is at a standstill. A vast improvement.

To wring out the 575M Ferrari provided us with the use of the Fiorano track facility. Notably the tyres on the cars meant for the track were Bridgestone S02s. When asked, the engineers just replied coyly that they just happen to be shod like that. Of course its is not the run of the mill S02s and I’d speculate Ferrari wanted to impress us with the comfort aspect by using the P-Zeros over the road course. The Bridgestones had a meatier feel and what seems like better grip though I hasten to add that the track surface is probably far grippier than any normal road can be. Though a short course, being about one and a half minutes a lap, it has a very testing series of corners and straights. Like a kid in a candy store we screeched tyres, drifted sideways and even spun all in relative safety on the track, things we would never do on the open road. Ferrari were very sporting about our antics but we certainly we pressed for time because only one car could run on the track at a time.

What it proved is the Sport setting seems to curtail nothing via the ASR when going fast. The 575M will drift out and even oversteer when Sport is selected. This also means it will eventually spin off if one is too liberal with speed or power. But with a trained approach round the circuit it is close to not having an ASR at all. In other cars you can feel the brakes engage and the engine throttle off when the going just begins to become fun and this is frustrating to enthusiasts. Certainly a brave move by Ferrari.

One cannot help wondering if the 575M as their flagship can continue to fend off the attacks from Lamborghini and Porsche. There is no doubt it is an awesome machine and the 700 slated for this year has already been snapped up. Admittedly this is a happy problem for Ferrari but it may appear a little demure in the styling department to stand muster. But perhaps it doesn’t have to carry the torch, that honour must go to the car that the Ferrari press department was so busily shielding us from. We were bodily removed from Fiorano with their palms pressed over the front of our camera’s lenses as we watch the heavily disguised FX is being wheeled out onto the track just as we finish our test drive with the Ferrari 575M. As always, exciting and dramatic, not surprising since this is what Ferrari does best.

Fast Facts

CAPACITY : 5748cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : V12 65 degree V
BORE X STROKE : 89x 77mm
MAXIMUM POWER : 515 bhp at 7250 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 588.6 Nm at 5250 rpm

TYPE : F-1 Robotized 6-speed (6-speed manual available)

TOP SPEED : 325 km/h
0-100KM/H : 4.20 sec with F-1 and 4.25 seconds with manual box

FRONT : Double Wishbones
REAR : Double Wishbones

FRONT : 330mm Brembo Cross Drilled Ventilated
REAR : 310mm Brembo Cross Drilled Ventilated

TYPE : Pirelli P-Zero Rosso
SIZE : f: 255/40 ZR 18, r: 295/35 ZR 18

ABS : Yes
AIRBAGS : 2x front Air Bags

LENGTH : 4550mm
WIDTH : 1935mm
HEIGHT : 1277mm
WHEELBASE : 2500mm
KERB WEIGHT : 1730 kg


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