Ferrari F355 GTS Review - Is It Really That Good?
EVERY year, there's always stories which make the headlines that involve some cash-bathed business lord who somehow manages to dodge tax or make an annoyingly sneaky profit which affects people at the lower end of the spectrum.
I'm sure you've seen coverage on the paradise papers, right? The loopholes are pretty genius, if I may say. Ethically however, these people who become their own advisers and live in 12-bedroom mansions deserve a slap on the bollocks. If the majority of people pay tax and live off supermarket-branded butter, then why shouldn't the rich pay up?
It's fair to say that, for the most part, people were pretty surprised about the acts of these tax-avoidance schemes. So much so, that Lewis Hamilton received hate comments for not paying the VAT on his private jet.
I have a theory that because of how the rich are represented in the media, when middle-class Brits look at supercars, they see them as these vulgar, unnecessary posing jackets.
Honestly, if you drive a supercar in the rest of Europe, everyone compliments what a beautiful machine it is. In America, it's seen as an incentive to get up earlier and work harder - same with Japan, according to a friend.
But in Britain, you either get ignorant Renault-knobs who won't let you out at junctions, or some bloke in a 08-reg Transit going "Ya posh tw@t!" It literally staggers me how every time an orange Lamborghini pulls into a petrol station, and suddenly, everyone around develops communist sympathies. They just have to accept that people are successful.
All of which neatly brings me onto a cliche supercar I experienced last weekend: a Rosso Corsa Ferrari F355 GTS.
If you asked anyone - even if they weren't a petrolhead - what a fast sports car is, they'd answer a red Ferrari. Even isolated tribes in deep Amazonian territory could describe what a Ferrari is. The brand might as well be an 8th wonder of the world.
And the 355 is arguably what people would picture in their head, if Ferrari was said to them. The delicate, mid-engined symphony of Maranello. But what were my impressions of it?
To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect...
The first thing you notice, is that it's a very analogue car. With a gated 6-speed manual and very weighted power steering, it takes you back to a time when supercars were really occasional toys. You could never use it everyday!
And there are no electronic dials or computer gubbins to disturb you either - it's a mechanical car, and it feels it. There's a lovely sense of feel with what the front wheels are doing, and it's almost as if the car is pivoting around the bottom of your thighs - the suspension is super flat and very nicely balanced on winding country roads.
Another thing I like is the fact that it's not too quick. Okay, I'm not saying the 355 is slow, because it'll hit 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and go onto a top speed of 183mph, thanks to it's wonderful 3.5 litre V8 (more on that later!).
But if you look at the modern equivalents; 488, 650S etc. you have to break the law to be able to have fun in those cars, and possibly risk your life. Whereas with the analogue 355, you don't.
Yes, you can extract 375bhp from a 2.0 litre hatchback these days, but I don't bloody care. Once you shift down a couple gears and floor it through an underpass, your skin becomes rough in goosebumps, your hair has become like Einstein's. It's a fantastic noise with a distinctive howl unique to the 355 - not to mention that it throws you back as forcefully as a pull from Mike Tyson. Yet, it won't land you a speeding fine as quickly as a 488 would.
A review is never complete without a few buts, and this is no exception. Yet, as you can probably tell early on in this review, they're not necessarily about the car itself.
Firstly, let's look above: I experienced the GTS version - meaning that this is the targa top. The 355 could also be had in a full Spider form without the rear arches, or a standard hardtop coupe.
I love the looks and the idea of the GTS; the lines are perfect and you don't have to be a short, Italian playboy to enjoy it. I've got a convertible myself: an E36 BMW 323i, and the feeling of the breeze in the cabin and exposure to the elements is simply marvellous. You'd imagine that in a Ferrari to be fabulous, right?
It sure is, but there's no denying that you would look an absolute berk. Because let's face it, nobody who drives a 355 is Patrick Dempsey. Instead, you'll have Keith: he'll be in his '50s and end up waffling about crank angles and chassis numbers... and probably have a beard.
I'm sorry, but that's not a good look! Not to mention that Keith might get accused of tax dodging.
To sum up then, the F355 GTS is a fantastic driving instrument. It makes noises that only '90s kids like me will remember. The analogue aura is just wonderful to experience in a world of electrified computer nonsense. It's a genuinely exciting thing to drive with tight handling and the engine vibrating against your back and thighs.
Best of all though, it's got the prancing horse standing proud. And to answer the title of this review, yes, there's this unique atmosphere that can only be found in a Ferrari it's hard to explain why it feels special. You just have to try one for yourself to see what I mean. It really is that good!
But in Britain - where supercars are the epicentre of stubborn jealousy - I'd rather have the hardtop. Not because targa tops are expensive to replace, but because no miserable sod in a Citroen will sneer at you because of your 'flash sports car'. You can enjoy the giddy Ferrari thrill-ride, yet nobody will have to see who's been avoiding their tax payments ;)
Only joking, please do pay them!