After spending a hot but memorable July day driving the Ferrari 575M Maranello with its newly optional GTC handling package in the Apennines above Modena, Italy, our small band of U.S. journalists gathered around a picnic table under a shade tree at the Fiorano test track, mere yards from Enzo Ferrari's former office. Moments before, Ferrari's new deputy managing director, Amedeo Felisa, had alighted from his helicopter, fresh from Fiat headquarters in Turin, and he and his entourage joined our group to debrief us on our drive. Talk eventually turned to Ferrari's ever-improving competitors, such as Aston Martin and Porsche. Felisa acknowledged their existence, then said, a bit defensively, "When you close your eyes and start a Ferrari, you know you are in a Ferrari."
We certainly won't argue with Felisa on that point, as the sound of the 575M's 5.7-liter V-12 coming to life is sweet and unique indeed. Yet we couldn't help but think that when it comes to buying and owning Ferraris, it's helpful to close one's eyes often, if only so as not to see so much money flowing out of one's wallet. Ferrari might have a history of inertia, complacency, and indifference, but these days, the company is highly efficient not only at winning grands prix but also at increasing its cash reserves at a Bill Gates-like pace. The racing team must be paid, and buyers of Ferrari road cars need to pitch in.
That need no doubt accounts for some part of the $23,500 Ferrari asks for the GTC handling package, a new option on the 575M Maranello (the base price is $225,090 for models with the six-speed manual transmission, $235,539 for those with the F1 paddle-shift setup-but those figures do include destination, dealer prep, and gas guzzler tax). Now, we are not lying awake nights worrying that the millionaires who buy Ferraris might have to drive their 575Ms directly to skid row. And, to be fair, Ferrari is hardly the only high-end automobile manufacturer eager to fleece its customers with dubious option packages-Porsche has made a fine art of it-but the $23,500 figure does seem particularly egregious.
If you want to play, you have to pay. And the GTC package, which is named for Ferrari's 575GTC Le Mans-spec competition racing car, does provide some very nice toys, most notably ceramic composite material (CCM) brake discs from Brembo. The equipment also includes nineteen-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero Corsa competition rubber, a sport exhaust, and a firmer suspension setup (consisting of springs that are 35 percent stiffer in front and 15 percent stiffer at the rear, plus a 73-percent-stiffer rear antiroll bar) that had been offered heretofore as a $3600 "Fiorano" package.
Ferrari boasts that its ceramic brakes, unlike Porsche's, aren't noisy, a claim supported by our experiences both on the road and at Fiorano, where the brakes performed quietly, flawlessly, and reassuringly, especially when, coming over the rise leading to Turn 5, a turn we had forgotten existed, we had to hit the brake pedal like a mallet to avoid barreling straight off the track. Although we were allowed only three brief laps, we don't have a hard time believing that the GTC brakes allow the 575M Maranello to be driven-and stopped-hard all day long without "fading, thermal deformation, or disc wear" and with "wet efficiency." Thanks go to a special brake cooling system, six-piston calipers in front, four-piston calipers in rear, and lightweight, ceramic composite discs the size of a medium pizza, with diameters of 15.7 inches in front and 14.2 at the rear and with thicknesses of nearly an inch and a half.
We think that Ferrari owners who plan on a lot of track time will be better served by the 360 Challenge Stradale than by the 575M GTC (the money saved could go toward a Maserati Quattroporte), but better brakes are as much of a good thing on public roads as they are at Fiorano. The GTC's suspension tweaks, while sharpening the 575's handling, haven't adversely affected its ride comfort or its top-of-the-pack placement in the pantheon of GT cars. And the cost? Just close your eyes and open your wallet.