Launched to the press at the N'rburgring in 1996, the 550 Maranello was Ferrari/'s answer to those who believed the performance of a front-engined V12 car could not beat that of a mid-engined sports car. The successor to the F512M, the 550 Maranello proved quicker and, thanks to its better front-engined, rear-drive packaging layout, far more practical. The 550 Maranello also benefited from Ferrari's maniacal attention to aerodynamics with a low Cd (0.33) and equal downforce over both axles.
The combination of uncompromising performance and aerodynamic efficiency helped the car establish new production car speed records on the 12th of October 1998 in Marysville, Ohio, covering 100 km (62 miles) at an average speed of 304.1 km/h, (188.88 mph) and covering 296.168 km/h (183.955 miles) in one hour.
Pininfarina designed the 550 Maranello with features that announced the return to the classic front-engined berlinetta. By adopting sober, functional cues consistent with tastes and requirements of the time, Pininfarina's bold understatement respects Ferrari's styling traditions.
The lines are clean and functional, not smoothed or tapered: the car's physical presence underlines its performance. Slim pillars make the unusually high roofline less visually obvious and stress the importance of the car's body. The optical centre of gravity is also lowered by elements such as the shallow, narrow air intake whose complex shape creates an aggressive interplay between the lights. The 550 Maranello is the first Ferrari designed with integrated front light clusters, themselves further highlighted by the engine's functional bonnet air scoop that recalls Ferraris past.
Typically Ferrari, the side aspect shows forceful dynamism in the relationship between the long bonnet, short rear cabin, and smooth link with the high tail. Similarly, two outlets for engine bay air in the front wings recall the classic front-engined berlinettas. The rear is simple and powerful and features an aerodynamic nolder. The double round lights are a characteristic Ferrari design.
A creature of the wind tunnel as well as the outdoors, the 550 Maranello/'s aerodynamic shape was the result of 4,800 hours of tests to achieve the targets of consistent downforce, minimal sensitivity to side winds, and minimal drag (Cd of 0.33). The car's undertray represented a step forward by Ferrari engineers, resulting in excellent stability and driving safety without the use of moving parts or unnecessary wing surfaces.
The bodywork adopts the criteria of a classic front-engined two-seat Ferrari berlinetta. The car is built around a tubular steel frame to which the light aluminium alloy coachwork is welded with Feran. Consistent with the aerodynamic features, all apertures have been styled for efficiency and beauty. Fixed, integrated homofocal light clusters were designed to improve lighting, airflow, and wind noise. Foglights are similarly incorporated into the front bumper and the door windows are flush with the body work, and fitted with an automatic device for better all-round sealing.
The highest standards of handling necessitate a strong chassis. The frame of the 550 Maranello is welded from variable-section high tensile steel tubes. Torsional rigidity is 10,850lb-ft/degree, and flexional rigidity is 69lbs/inch. The frame's design benefits from Ferrari/'s many years of racing experience and also guarantees a strong central cage and protective peripheral elements constituting a high energy-absorption system.
The 550 Maranello engine is a 65-degree 5.6 litre V12 that delivers almost all its torque from 3000rpm. Maximum power is 485bhp at 7000rpm, peak torque is 420lb-ft at 5000rpm, compression ratio is 10.8:1, all controlled by a Bosch Motronic M5.2 management system. The cylinder block, head, and oil sump are light alloy. The wet aluminium cylinder liners are coated in Nikasil. The crankshaft is supported by seven journals on anti-friction bearings. The con rods are light titanium alloy allowing counter-weighting of the crankshaft to be lightened, improving response and balance. The Mahle forged aluminium alloy pistons enhance thermodynamic efficiency. Lubrication is by a dry sump system. The four-valve per cylinder head is fitted with hydraulic tappets. This system helps to curb emissions, makes periodic adjustment almost unnecessary, and guarantees consistent engine performance.
Ferrari developed a torque- and power-enhancing variable geometry intake for the 550 Maranello's engine. The Ferrari patented system alters the fluid dynamics of the intake system through a third chamber linked to the manifold by 12 throttle valves with electropneumatic control. The additional chamber shapes air flow to enhance power and efficiency. The intake, like the injection and ignition systems, is managed by a Bosch Motronic 5.2 system for each row of cylinders, linked by a high speed serial line.
The 550 Maranello's stainless steel exhaust system employs variable back pressure through bypass valves situated on the rear silencers. The bypass valves are electropneumatically actuated by the engine management system, based on engine speed and throttle opening. Varying back pressure makes it possible to optimize engine efficiency in various conditions. Greater back pressure allows higher torque under average load, while lower back pressure enhances full load engine efficiency.
For optimal weight distribution the 550 Maranello employs a transaxle system with integrated manual six-speed gearbox and differential. Drive is transmitted by the clutch to the gearbox through a three-bearing propeller shaft housed in a rigid steel tube linking the engine and the gearbox. The hydraulic single-plate dry clutch is flywheel-mounted. The gearbox has six dual-cone synchronised speeds, plus reverse, with pressurized and cooled lubrication.
Unsprung weight of the 550 Maranello has been lightened to provide pinpoint steering and perfect control of the car in all conditions, especially in those necessitating excellent overall dynamic balance. The 550 Maranello has four wheel independent suspension with double wishbones all round, aluminium gas dampers with coaxial coil springs, and anti-roll bars front and rear.
The suspension incorporates a driver adjustable system to vary damper settings. An electronic control unit with four electric motors monitors each damper. Damping logic changes within each setting depending on speed, vertical acceleration, steering angle, throttle opening, and brake pressure. The same system controls car pitching during transitions. The front track is wider than the rear, improving turn-in, and the front axle is designed to ensure an anti-dive effect when braking.
A car's performance is determined not only by its acceleration and stability but also by the quality of its deceleration. Ferrari developed the braking system of the 550 Maranello with Brembo, applying methods from Formula 1 to the 4-piston calipers on 13" front and 12.2" rear discs.
The enormous amount of energy exerted on the front axle when braking required a system with large, extra thick diameter cross-drilled front discs and pads made of friction material that guarantees temperature-independent high performance. Brembo employed recent Formula 1 experience to develop thermally insulated pistons for the front calipers, ensuring an acceptable brake fluid temperature in all conditions. The system is completed by four-channel ABS incorporating electronic proportioning offering ideal performance in deceleration above 0.5 g. Like all unsprung components the brake system was designed to be light.
The 550 Maranello offers a unique driver-adjustable dynamic stability control system. Depending on the selected mode, the system intervenes by cutting off the torque delivered by the engine, or, coordinated by the ABS system, braking the two rear wheels independently. It is the first driver-controlled active anti-wheel spin system. The mode selection complements the suspension damping setting, giving the driver total control of the car/'s lateral and longitudinal dynamics.
The ZF speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system varies assistance in relation to speed.
The 550 Maranello has one-piece, cast magnesium alloy, five-spoke Speedline wheels reflecting Pininfarina/'s styling and Ferrari's technical specifications. These wheels pass stringent tests imposed by Ferrari and the German LBF Technical Institute. The front wheels measure 8.5 x 18" and the rear 10.5 x 18" as dictated by braking requirements. Each wheel is protected by a special anti-corrosion paint patented by Speedline.
Engine: Front, Longitudinal, 65 degree V12
Bore and Stroke: 88x75 mm
Unitary Displacement: 456.2 cc
Total Displacement: 5473.9 cc
Valve Gear: Twin Overhead Camshafts
Number of Valves: Four per Cylinder
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Ignition: Bosch Motronic M 5.2 Static Electronic
Lubrication: Dry Sump
Maximum Power: 478 bhp at 7000 rpm
Specific Power: 87.3 bhp/ litre
Transmission: Rear-Wheel Drive
Clutch: Dry Single-Plate
Gearbox: in Unit with Engine, 6-speed +
Body: Two-Seater Coupe
Chassis: Tubular Steel
Front Suspension: Independent, Double
Wishbones, Coil Springs, Anti-Roll Bar, Gas Dampers
Rear Suspension: Independent, Double
Wishbones, Coil Springs, Anti-Roll Bar, Gas Dampers
Steering: Rack and Pinion
Fuel Tank: 30.1 gallons
Front Tires: 255/40 ZR 18
Rear Tires: 295/35 ZR 18
Wheelbase: 98.4 in.
Front Track: 64.2 in.
Rear Track: 62.4 in.
Length: 179.13 in.
Width: 76.2 in.
Height: 50.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3726 lbs.
Top Speed: over 199 mph
In the best Ferrari tradition, the interior of the 550 Maranello harmonises the functional practicality of the sports car with the lavish equipment and finish of a luxury car.
The contoured facia links the central console, where all the car's instruments are concentrated. The cockpit's LCD analogue instruments are grouped in the central field of vision. Controls, positioned ahead of the gear lever, can be reached easily and instinctively. The 550 Maranello's cockpit excels for ease of access and roominess, and both occupants are protected by airbags.
Behind the wrap-around seats, whose simple design is enhanced by the quality of the upholstery, there is a large storage shelf, complete with classic leather straps. Racing seats are available on request.
The 550 Maranello came with a Sony radio and a 6-CD changer is located in the trunk. The trunk is also equipped with a tool kit, and provides 6.5 cu. ft. of storage space. The car incorporates an anti-theft system combined with the engine management unit (immobilizer) and activated by a radio frequency signal.