BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Slotting chronologically between the hallowed 550 Maranello and the similarly lauded 599GTB is the Ferrari that history will probably gloss over. The 575M is at its best with GTC handling pack and F1 gearshift but this is a good but not great Ferrari. It doesn't do a whole lot that a BMW M6 can't better for less. The 550 Maranello was a sparkling return to form for Ferrari, reviving the days of the big, brutish front-engined sportster. Introduced in 1996, it was beginning to look a little tired by 2002 but the replacement was an evolutionary model that softened the 550's edge and which never captured the public's imagination. What's more, the 575M lasted just over three years before it was phased out, eventually 'replaced' by the hugely impressive 599GTB. If you liked the 550 but hanker after a newer car, the 575M is certainly not without its appeal, especially when fitted with the GTC handling pack. Here's how to find a decent used example.
Models Covered:: (2 dr coupe, 2dr convertible 5.7 litre petrol[GTC Handling Pack, Superamerica])
In many ways, January 2002 was something of a nadir for the flagship Ferrari sports car. The 550 had just competed in a European speed trial against the Porsche 911GT2, the Aston Martin Vanquish, the Mercedes SL55 AMG and the Lamborghini Murcielago. In terms of both acceleration and top speed, the Ferrari was leathered. It finished last on just about every objective criterion you could turn a stopwatch to measuring. Ferrari weren't accustomed to being the whipping boys of the supercar class. Fortunately, plans were well under way for the 550's successor, the 575M Maranello. Six years is a long time in the rarefied atmosphere of supercardom, and the 550 was getting, if not long in the tooth, then at least a little arthritic in ultimate terms. The 575M responded with an extra 29bhp and a whole raft of evolutionary improvements. The exterior changes were subtle in the extreme. Those who denigrated the 550's styling as being inelegant for a classic front-engined Ferrari were correspondingly unimpressed by the 575M but the shape has worn quite well and still looks cohesive. The 575M arrived in UK dealerships in summer 2002 and received a mixed review from a press rather unimpressed that Ferrari had softened the car's edge, despite giving it more power. Recompense came in summer 2004 with the launch of the 575M with GTC Handling Pack. An interim measure had been attempted to sharpen up the 575M's handling with a £2,215 Fiorano handling pack to the standard car but the latter GTC pack was fully £16,450 worth of extras and changed the car's personality quite markedly. Here at last was the sharpened model that many original owners demanded. A limited run Superamerica convertible model was introduced in 2005, shortly before the 575M was axed to make way for the 599 GTB.
What You Get
No, it isn't any great beauty, but the sheer muscle and purpose of that body shape has wormed its way into the affections of many and Ferrari have seen fit not to tamper too radically. The lower nose section is slightly more squared off and is punctuated by a pair of brake cooling vents. Less successful is the adoption of a set of xenon headlamps which, in an attempt to replicate the voguish jewel effect, merely appear more Elizabeth Duke than Tiffany. The interior has been tidied up agreeably. Much of the trim quality has been beefed up and the instrument panel is now dominated by a large alloy-rimmed tachometer, the speedometer relegated to a minor position stage left. It's a good idea in principle, highlighting the purist appeal of a car centred about its engine, but one can't help but ponder the fact that GATSO cameras don't differentiate between 4000 and 7000rpm, whereas the difference between 55 and 65mph could potentially equal a disqualification. Even for somebody with the means to afford a 575M. One of the key differences between 550 and 575M is the option of a paddle-change sequential manual gearbox. Two fixed position alloy paddles sit behind the steering wheel, left for down changes and right for upshifts. The GTC Handling Pack didn't just restore the 575M to the heights of the 550 Maranello - it comprehensively eclipsed it in the way the car goes, stops and steers. Much of the asking price is accounted for by a set of carbon-ceramic brakes that offer prodigious stopping power. Front disc diameter goes up to 398mm (compared to the 330mm cast-iron rotors worn by the standard 575M) and six-piston calipers clasp onto them with ferocious tenacity. Thus equipped, Ferrari have sent a 575M out onto their Fiorano test track to complete 300 laps without significant degradation in braking performance. In order to house the monster brakes, Ferrari upped the wheel size to 19 inches, the five-spoke wheels being slathered in some rather attractive Pirelli P-Zero Corsa rubber. The suspension was given a thorough working over. The front springs were beefed up significantly with the rear springs also being slightly tweaked. Revised dampers and a massively brawnier rear anti roll bar guaranteed a flatter, more poised cornering stance. Ferrari's test driver, Dario Benuzzi, reckoned these changes gave the 575M with the GTC pack a full 1.5-second advantage around the twists and turns of the Fiorano test track. A modified silencer gave the GTC-equipped car a slightly fruitier exhaust note than the standard model but the engine is still a background player.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The 575M Maranello is a surprisingly uncomplicated beast. The V12 engine feels unburstable, and hasn't given any major problems, but check for a weeping cam cover. Minor electrical problems have been reported, with spurious warning lights being an area of note. Check that the car has had its 18,750 miles or 3 year service. When the engine is warm, leave it running and open the bonnet. Listen for a loud metallic tap/slapping noise at the top of the engine. This sound indicates that the tappets need adjusting. They should have been adjusted as part of the 3 year service but is a £2000 job so negotiate accordingly. The 575M is, like many big Ferraris, one of those cars that seems to rack up a high turnover of owners with small overall mileages on the clocks, used, in effect, as a high days and holidays sort of toy. Look for a full main-dealer service history, check for accident damage and make sure the car is HPI clear. When you're spending these sums of money, it pays dividends to take a look at a few cars and take an expert with you.
(approx based on a 2005 575M Maranello) It shouldn't come as a blinding revelation to discover that spares for the Maranello cost a fair bit. A pair of front brake pads retail at £270, whilst rear pads are also £270 and a new alternator is, bizarrely, £270. Pay £270 for a new clutch assembly and your friendly Ferrari dealer will block your exit demanding another £80. A starter motor retails at around £170. If you need a new exhaust, prepare to part with nearly £5,000, including catalysts but excluding manifolds.
On the Road
Most owners opted for the F1 gearchange and it's not bad as these systems go. You'll get lightning quick upshifts and peachy throttle-blipping downchanges, all marshalled by some clever software that prevents the driver from selecting a potentially inadvisable gear. Like the Cambiocorsa system fitted to the Maserati Coupe, you're occasionally treated to the smell of lightly flambeed clutch during low speed manoeuvring and inelegantly timed downshifts can castigate the driver with an embarrassing clonk. There's also a similar choice of 'automatic', sport and winter modes. The Ferrari shift is even quicker than the Cambiocorsa system and the artificial automatic mode is smoother. The software that controls the clutch action is also said to be that little bit more intelligent. Of course, some will prefer the tactility of the excellent manual gearbox, but given that the F1 sequential 'box can swap cogs in a mere .22 of a second - around half the time of a Ferrari test driver armed with a manual stick - Ferrari quote two separate 0-60 times for the 575M, 4.0 seconds for the F1 and 4.25 seconds for the manual car. You'll have to pay for the privilege of shaving off that quarter of a second, but to those who want their Ferrari to have the edge in one upmanship, it'll be a price worth paying. Both versions have an identical top speed, the 575M now joining the true heavy hitters of the 200mph+ club, the 202mph quoted top speed now well on par with established rivals. The 575M still can't set the hairs on the back of your neck on end in quite the same way as its hardcore junior stablemate, but a set of exhaust butterflies neatly bypasses EU drive-by noise regulations and gives the car more of a throaty roar in the upper part of the rev range. It's still not that vocal compared with the best in class. With 509bhp at your disposal and a wet test track to play upon, you may well feel thankful for the 575M's standard ASR traction control. Switching the 575M into Sport mode raises the ASR threshold and allows a little tail-out fun. Kill the ASR completely and you'll find the Ferrari is a little flabbier and trickier than before. Choose the optional GTC Handling Pack and its sporting focus is restored.
The Ferrari 575M Maranello needs the GTC Handling Pack and an F1 gearbox if it's to make decent money and thus equipped it feels like the sports car it always should have been. Without the pack, it has to be said that a low mileage 550 Maranello is a more satisfying thing. Take care and don't be put off by multiple owner cars.