The Practical Pony

The Mondial delivers the Ferrari experience with room to spare.

March 10, 2016
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Ferrari’s four-seaters occupy a distinct space in the company’s stables. Neither as fast nor stylish as their two-seat contemporaries, they deliver a more relaxed, luxurious driving experience, one that makes them ideal for the metaphorical (or literal) crossing of continents.

In the early 1970s, after a decade of building V12-powered 2+2s, Ferrari decided to downsize. The Bertone-styled 308 GT4, introduced in 1973, combined an all-new mid-mounted 3-liter V8 engine with vestigial rear seats. While this reasonably financially successful model proved the concept, there was room for improvement when it came to implementation.

For its next mid-engine 2+2, Maranello stretched the GT4’s wheelbase by four inches to allow for more rear legroom and turned over design duties to Pininfarina. The result was the Mondial 8.

Named in honor of Ferrari’s 1950s’ 500 Mondial sports-racer, the Mondial 8 debuted at the 1980 Geneva Auto Show. Period press reviews praised the car’s looks, interior space, and comfort, but its anemic performance—the V8 delivered just 205 ponies in U.S. trim, and the Mondial weighed around 450 pounds more than the 308 with which it shared that engine—produced little enthusiasm.

Maranello remedied the power deficiency in mid 1982, with the launch of the Mondial QV. Now powered by the 235-hp four-valve V8 from the 308 Quattrovalvole and sporting a lower final drive ratio, the car felt more like a proper Prancing Horse. The interior also received a slight freshening, but the biggest news came in January ’84, when Ferrari unveiled a Cabriolet version, its first-ever four-seat convertible.

The model improved further in early 1985 with the debut of the 260-hp, 328-powered Mondial 3.2. The newest Mondial also received a full exterior update, with a 328-style facia, 328-style color-coded bumpers, and 328 wheels. In ’88, the 3.2 became the first U.S.-spec Ferrari equipped with anti-lock brakes.

If the Mondial QV and 3.2 were straightforward updates of the original 8, the 1989 Mondial t was more of a rethink. While the exterior remained mostly unchanged, the t’s interior was all new and much more modern looking; it even offered fold-down rear seats. More significant, the t received the 348’s 300-hp longitudinally mounted engine and transversely mounted gearbox, along with Ferrari’s first power-assisted steering setup and electrically adjustable shock absorbers.

Another first arrived for 1993, the final year of Mondial production, when Ferrari introduced the optional Valeo semi-automatic transmission. The Valeo system retained the classic gated shifter but eliminated the clutch pedal; F1-style paddleshifters were still several years away.

Although the Mondial quickly evolved into a excellent car, it never attracted the attention or carried the cachet of Ferrari’s sports cars. For that reason, the various Mondials are some of the least-expensive Ferraris you can buy. But for those enthusiasts who want a more refined, comfortable, and spacious car, the low price of entry only makes the Mondial more appealing.

 

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