Sunday, March 16, 2008

Now I Understand

The Ferrari needed exercise. It had sat in the garage, facing out, for seven days. It is (was) immaculately clean, and had about ½ tank of gas. It looked lonely, and pouty if a car can look that way. Our Porsche is stoic. Maybe that is because it is German, maybe cabriolets are ok sitting when the weather is not perfect.

I was planning on spending the day skiing with the girls but we only lasted about 1 ½ hours at the mountain so I was home early with nothing planned. I started the car and pulled it into the driveway to warm up. With it facing out it would have filled the garage with fume. Better to let it sit outside and annoy the neighbors. I have no experience with other Ferraris but the 355 needs to warm up. Seven to 10 minutes seem about right. I can hear the motor change pitch when the car is ready to go. Rush it and you are in for a bit of a rough ride. The motor is fine. It runs like a top but the transmission balks in both first and second. It is hilly around my house so better to let it take its time.

I had nowhere to go. No errands, no schedule, no goal other than take the car out for a drive and enjoy myself. The day was not particularly good, overcast and cool but at least it was not raining. I headed out of Portland into the country west of the city. You can find nice roads outside of town, curvy, good pavement, and not much traffic. The speed limit varies between 30 and 40MPH so it is mostly 2nd and 3rd gear stuff but fun. I often take the 911 on these roads when taking the long way home from work.
While I have been complaining about my experience with the 355 this car is the most fantastic, wonderful, vehicle I have ever driven. It is truly marvelous. I have not had the opportunity to drive many exotic cars but I believe the 355 embodies a nearly perfect balance of looks, handling, exhaust note, comfort, drivability, lack of driver’s aids, and Ferrari whimsy to make it one of the best Ferraris and one of the best exotics ever. For those reasons I think it will hold its value better than most modern Ferraris. This car is absolutely, totally, insanely fantastic.
Anyway I spend 45 minutes driving on nearly empty country roads. I tried to keep the RPMs between 3500 and 6000. I concentrated on driving smoothly and listening to the car. The Ferrari engages the driver in a different way that the 911. The dance you do with the Ferrari is graceful, the Ferrari being a gifted and willing partner. With the 911 you dance more carefully knowing your partner’s rear end has a tendency to get out of hand.

While driving I experimented with the suspension settings. The 355 gives you the choice of comfort and sport. After our wine country trip I had been driving the car in comfort. There is a noticeable difference in the balance and damping between the two settings. Unless the road is really bumpy I prefer the sport setting. The greater damping improves the steering feel and the balance of the car. After experimenting I left it in sport for the reminder of the drive.

I took a brief jaunt on the freeway heading home. At a steady 3500RPM you can hear the air rushing into the intakes located just behind your head. You can hear all 40 valves jumping around. What a wonderful car.

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