Santa brought me a 1998 Ferrari 550 Maranello for Christmas this year!! I wasn’t even that good of a boy, but that’s another story. Several of my Rennlist buddies have asked for a writeup comparing the 550 to my Porsche 993 Twin Turbo, so here goes:
Acceleration: Probably my biggest disappointment for far has been the rather lackluster acceleration on the 550. I knew it wasn’t as quick as a stock 993TT, so it certainly wouldn’t be as quick as a modded out 480hp Turbo like mine. I had hoped, however, that the car would feel quicker than it does. This is an odd statement to make because the car is indeed very quick – it’s just a different kind of quickness than the Porsche. When the turbos spool up on the Porsche, it simply throws you back into the seat. On the Ferrari, when I jump on it, the acceleration is long and steady as opposed to abrupt and violent like the Porsche . My feelings regarding the Ferrari’s acceleration might be different once I have a chance to do a few runs from about 40 – 140 mph. From 0 – 80 mph, the Porsche is simply more fun.
Handling: The 550 has a huge edge in terms of just feeling more planted, with much less body roll. My Porsche seems to float around quite a bit more. Oddly enough, since I feel like I know what the Porsche will do near the edge of the envelope, I’m much more comfortable driving it at the limit, even though it does not feel as stable as the Ferrari. I haven’t figured out where the limit is on the Ferrari, and I’m not sure I’ll drive it there even if I ever do figure it out. Driving the 550 simply makes me want to get the PSS-9 system for my Turbo in hopes that it will feel as planted as the Ferrari. I loveto take my Turbo to recreational track days, but I can’t see myself ever doing that with the 550.
Engine: The Ferrari certainly makes the right noises, especially with the Tubi exhaust. The motor pulls strong right up to the redline at 7600 rpm. Torque is abundant in any gear. Driving the 550 is like driving a locomotive in that the car seems to just pull and pull in any gear before you need to shift. Driving the Turbo is more like driving my shifter kart, in that once it builds full boost, you better be ready to shift in a hurry or you’ll be bumping the rev limiter.
Gearbox: I’m trying to get excited about the gated shifter on the Ferrari, but I’m simply not there yet. I think the car would be much more fun to drive if you could shift it as quickly and easily as a Porsche. The are several tracks that I frequent where I might shift from 2nd to 3rd, then into 4th for a nanosecond, back down to 3rd for a turn, then up to fourth all over again. I simply can’t envision being able to do this so quickly with the gated shifter. Morever, the shifter is pretty balky before the gearbox oil is warmed up.
Styling: Now here is where the Ferrari picks up major points. It is flat out beautiful to look at. Granted that styling is subjective, but IMHO this is one of the few cars that makes a 993TT look somewhat pedestrian. I recently had both cars out in my driveway
while I was putting away Christmas decorations in my garage. Nobody took hardly a second glance at the Porsche, but people were stopping their cars to check out the Ferrari.
Fit & Finish: So far this is about a toss up. My Ferrari actually has a little extra room because the seat rails were modified for a taller driver, so it is actually much more comfortable and spacious than the Porsche. The seats are about equally comfortable in each car, but the Ferrari is much more sumptuous.
Driving Experience: The Ferrari absolutely kicks ass in the “Wow-factor” department. In my one month of owning it, I have had teenage boys doing the “we’re not worthy” bowing act when I drive by, 2 different people give me their card and beg me to call them first if I want to sell it, people ask to take pictures of it, and yes the ultimate compliment: my neighbor down the street who is a former Playboy bunny and now has an internet porn site asked if she could use my car as a prop for a photo shoot. Aaahhhh, decisions, decisions!
Driving the Ferrari is very involving and touches all of your senses. I liken it to drinking first growth Bordeaux – you don’t do it every day, but you certainly remember the times when you do.
The bad news for me is that at the end of the day the Porsche is more fun to drive. It is quicker, more nimble and tossable, easier to park, doesn’t attract as much attention, etc. Since virtually all of my street driving involves speeds of less than 100 mph, the Porsche is simply more fun. If I had more opportunities to stretch out the Ferrari, it might be more fun. As it is right now, the Ferrari feels a little like having the “Miss Budweiser” hydroplane on a 5 acre lake.
The bottom line is that if I’m going somewhere with my wife where I want to profile a little, we take the Ferrari. If I want to take the long way to the store and have a little speed therapy on my favorite twisties, I take the Porsche.