The Ferrari 550 Maranello and 575M Maranello represent Ferrari’s idea of the perfect grand tourer between 1996 and 2006. As such, these near-twins feature powerful V12s in the front of the car and enough creature comforts to make the cars suitable for long slogs. This was a layout that the manufacturer hadn’t attempted in over 20 years: not since the glamorous Dayontas of the 60s and 70s. Modern materials kept the weight low, and ample high-tech wizardry made the cars capable of holding their own when the going gets twisty. These models are easily identifiable by their smooth Pininfarina-designed lines and the conspicuous hood scoops near the front of the bonnet. Telling the 550 apart from the 575M proves more difficult and involves paying close attention to subtle variations on the exterior, such as the shape of the grill.

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Let’s discuss these models chronologically. Produced between 1996 and 2001, the 550 Maranello featured a 5.5-litre V12 producing 478 hp. The 550 was capable of hitting 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.4 seconds on its way to a 199-mph top speed. The 550 was noted for being one of the last Ferraris offered solely with a manual transmission. While the 575M offered a manual as well, the majority were built with the F1-style electrohydraulic transmission.

Ferrari gave the 550 Maranello a thorough overhaul for 2002, and the end result was sufficiently different than what they started with to warrant a name change. The 575M Maranello would stay in production until 2006, with the “M” on the name indicating that this is a “modificato,” or modified, version of another Ferrari model. Changes included enlarging the V12 to 5.7 litres, good enough to boost the horsepower rating to 508. The souped-up V12 meant that the 575M’s performance had been improved, with 62 mph now coming in 4.2 seconds and the top speed now crested the 200 mph barrier by 2 mph.

Other changes included on the 575M are the larger engine and brakes, updated interior, and an adaptive suspension. 2005 saw the addition of the Superamerica, a version of the 575M that used an electrochromic glass roof capable of flipping back over the car for top-down driving. The 575M also received a GTC handling package for 2005. Included in the GTC were ceramic composite Brembo brakes, tuned suspension, special 19-inch wheels, and a sports exhaust. After production finally ended, Ferrari released the 599 GTB as the successor.

Andy’s thoughts

When the 550 was launched I hated it. This was a car that was to replace the Testarossa, a car I had grown up with on my wall, with the replacement in comparison looking quite ordinary. Needless to say, the 550 never made it to my wall.

But as time went by I began to appreciate the design of the 550 a realised that it’s very different, yet still beautiful. The new layout with the engine at the front made this a very usable car, something that the Testarossa is not. But I think the greatest testament to the designers is that today, 20 years on, the 550 still turns heads. Not many 20 year old cars achieve that.

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