Ferrari 360 Modena Test Drive

Ferrari 360 Modena Test Drive

Cutting loose in a blown 360 Ferrari

What's it like to test-drive a 560-hp, twin-supercharged Ferrari 360 Modena at 200-plus mph-on a public road? And more important, what do you say to the Highway Patrol if you're caught?

Answering both questions at the same time on a remote route across the high desert of California was Claus Ettensberger, of CEC, a high-end tuner of European sports cars, and Wolfgang Hagedron, managing director of Novitec, which makes Ferrari performance upgrades.

Whoa, Nellie!

These two German gentlemen were calibrating the fuel maps for the intercooled pair of Rotrex centrifugal superchargers fitted to a 2004 Ferrari 360 Modena as part of Novitec's Rosso F360 project. In addition to a brace of blowers, Novitec includes a number of aerodynamic body components, carbon fiber trim pieces, three-way adjustable lowering shocks, and stainless exhaust. To absorb the massive infusion of power, the Novitec Rosso F360 comes to a clenching halt from enormous 380mm ceramic discs at all four corners, and AMG eight-piston calipers in the front. Weight savings for the aftermarket brake upgrades is 45 pounds. Rolling stock consists of center-lock 19-inch wheels wrapped with custom Pirellis in the rear, measuring 355/25YR19. All told, the package adds as much as $100K to the price tag of a new 360, when installed by CEC. A menu of separately sold items is available as well.

After several blistering runs across the barren landscape, they paused for a much-needed breather. "It was really scary," Ettensberger frankly admitted. "We weren't in a controlled situation."

"Do you realize ...?"

Apparently some desert rats spotted this red-hot cruise missile at full speed in top gear, and called the cops. Four police cars appeared out of nowhere at the dusty rest stop. "So what are you guys doing out here-" was the officer's polite but testy inquiry, Hagedron recalls.

Back to the specifics of the Rosso F360: Why supercharging? Hagedron explained that space and heat issues ruled out turbos, and the blowers provide more low-end torque as well.

As for using two superchargers instead of one, he points out that the 3.6-liter V-8 engine is actually more akin to two four-cylinder blocks, with a separate ECU for each bank. Adding to the complexity of this power upgrade is the need for not only remapping the ECUs, but also installing additional computer modules to override the Ferrari software with new fuel maps to compensate for the increased airflow. When asked how Novitec cracks the codes, Hagedron is secretive on the subject.

If one is good ...

Novitec has a lot of experience with using Rotrex superchargers on Alfa Romeos. Instead of a conventional gear-wheel setup, inside the Rotrex is a patented planetary traction drive basically consisting of an oil film between two rotating surfaces. The viscosity of the traction fluid increases suddenly under high contact surface pressure, becoming solid to transmit the force. In addition to providing power transfer, Rotrex says the traction fluid has superior lubrication characteristics for roller bearings, and the lubricant also cools the heat generated by the slip within the compressor.

The primary benefit, though, is a lot of power from a small compressor. On the Rosso F360, the superchargers are tucked in right behind the cockpit on the front of the mid-mounted, 3.6-liter V-8. Pumping up the engine with seven pounds of boost, the dual puffers are good for about a 40-percent gain, from 400 to 560 hp. (European versions go as high as 600 horses with higher octane fuel.)

What a difference in acceleration-the Rosso F360 goes ballistic right off the line with a mind-bending launch. The view through the windshield is like looking through a rapidly stretching zoom lens that instantly rushes the horizon up to your face. Figure on a 0-60 mph time in less than four seconds.

Rips Silk

In marked contrast to the sound of ripping silk emitted by the engine exhaust, the paddle shifter crunches like an overworked dump truck's tranny. Road-course enthusiasts generally prefer the six-speed manual instead, but the paddle shift comes into its own in heavy traffic, where a clutch pedal would wear out your leg (and the clutch disc) in no time.

On curves and switchbacks, the F360's low-slung suspension hugs the apexes with neck-twisting intensity. Dive headlong into a deep bend and the car whips through it effortlessly. Just hang on and the car carries you through at speeds you never thought possible on familiar twisties.

While the factory 360 is no slouch, Ferrari enthusiasts intuitively know that the engine and aluminum chassis are more than able to handle far more power. The Rosso F360 decisively proves that intuition is an exhilarating reality.

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