360 Buyer's Guide

The Ferrari 360 overthrew the exotic-car establishment with its radical combination of performance, refinement and all-around usability. And now it’s affordable, too.

March 2, 2012
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If you’re looking for a new-ish Ferrari without the new-car price tag, there may be no better choice than the 360. Sure, the performance of the Modena, Spider and Challenge Stradale has been eclipsed by Ferrari’s more recent V8 models, but the 360 remains a seriously fast car by any measure. Plus, you can pick up a good Modena for as little as $60,000.

Introduced in 1999, the 360 Modena helped revolutionize Ferrari’s road-car lineup. That lineup needed change, because the late 1980s and early 1990s had not been kind to the company, with falling sales of older models (412, Testarossa, Mondial) and a poorly received new one (348). The man behind the revolt was Luca di Montezemolo, who arrived as president in 1991. The 360 Modena was the first V8-powered car designed from scratch under his leadership, and while Montezemolo’s demands were conflicting—the new model had to be larger and more refined yet lighter and faster than its predecessor—Ferrari’s engineers and designers proved they were up to the challenge.

The 360 was different from any Ferrari that came before it, most notably because it was Maranello’s first car to utilize an all-aluminum chassis (co-developed and built by Alcoa inside the Scaglietti works), which helped make it both 130 pounds lighter and 64-percent more torsionally rigid than its nine-inch-shorter, one-inch-narrower, steel-framed predecessor, the F355. The 360’s Pininfarina-penned body was equally radical, with 5,400 hours of wind-tunnel testing resulting in a sleek, streamlined design that produced nearly 400 pounds of downforce at 180 mph without the use of an external wing. (It was the first road-going Ferrari to create downforce, rather than just reduce lift.)

Thanks to its 400-hp 3.6-liter V8 engine and six-speed transmission, the 360 sprinted from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and topped out at 186 mph. It was also three seconds a lap faster around the Fiorano test track than the F355, as well as more comfortable and much roomier inside. In addition, it was every-day usable, reliable and much cheaper to service.

That was 1999. The following year, Ferrari unveiled a convertible version. The 360 Spider was identical to the Modena, aside from its fully automatic soft top and some additional chassis bracing. Performance was reduced only by academic levels: It was 0.1 second slower to 60 mph and 6 mph down at the top end.

Then, in 2003, the 360 received a serious performance boost with the introduction of the Challenge Stradale. Inspired by the 360 Challenge race car, the Challenge Stradale featured lower, stiffer suspension, extra-sticky tires, launch control, a faster-shifting F1 gearbox, carbon-ceramic brakes, revised bodywork, a minimalist interior and plenty of carbon-fiber components. With 25 more horses, 240 fewer pounds and more downforce, the CS hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and lapped Fiorano 3.5 seconds faster than the regular 360.

So which 360 model is right for you, and how do you choose a good example? Read on.

 

Pricing | Driving Impressions | Problem Areas I Ownership

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