At the 1989 Frankfurt Auto Show, Ferrari unveiled the 348 tb and targa-top ts. As the replacement for the long-running 308/328 series, not to mention the first all-new model revealed after Enzo Ferrari’s death, the 348 had big shoes to fill. And, on paper, fill them it did.
The 348 introduced plenty of new thinking to Maranello’s V8 lineup. Most significant was the adoption of monocoque construction—in this case a pressed-steel chassis with welded-on body panels—in place of the company’s traditional steel-tube frame. In addition, the 348’s 300-hp engine was mounted longitudinally, compared to the 308/328’s transverse mounting, and paired with a transverse gearbox (first seen on the Mondial t) for better packaging and a lower center of gravity.
While the 348’s mechanicals were clear improvements over those of its predecessors, the same couldn’t necessarily be said of its styling. Abandoning the 328’s classic lines, Pininfarina’s designers developed a modern, angular wedge profile outfitted with Testarossa-style slatted side air intakes and taillight treatment. Reviews were mixed.
Reports of the driving experience were likewise mixed. There was no question the newest “baby” Ferrari came with a significant increase in performance, one that brought it closer than ever to its 12-cylinder big brother, but the 348 was accused of tricky, if not treacherous, at-the-limit handling. In an era when Acura’s NSX made owning and driving an exotic easy, this was a high hurdle to overcome. Extensive, well-publicized problems with build quality soon further blemished the new model’s image.
It wasn’t long before the 348 bounced back, however. Ferrari went to exceptional lengths to repair problems with existing cars, vastly improve the build quality of new ones and sort out the handling issues (’92-and-later examples received reworked suspension hardware and settings). The launch of the sportier Serie Speciale in 1992 and the debut of the Ferrari Challenge racing series in ’93 gave the model newfound credibility, while the 1994 arrival of the 348 Spider reintroduced a true convertible to Ferrari’s stables for the first time in more than two decades.
Today, the 348 continues to divide opinion. While many owners swear by their cars’ performance and overall reliability, the model’s reputation is still heavily influenced by its early teething problems, even though most of those issues have been resolved. Although it’s crucial to search out a fully updated, fully serviced example, the 348’s reputation is a boon for today’s buyer: It has kept prices relatively low.