The Boxer was a hard act to follow but, in the Testarossa, Ferrari has a supercar to lead the world. Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche, watch out… 1984 will go down as a memorable year in the history of Ferrari. It is a long time indeed since Maranello unveiled two new cars both coveted by the wealthy and enthralling enthusiasts the world over. The magnificent pair of Prancing Horse machines couldn’t have been more different in make-up or character.
First the £75,000 homologation special, the GTO, of which only 200 will be built. Embracing Formula 1 technology and developed around the 308 GTB, the GTO emerged as the first Ferrari road car to be turbocharged, the twin turbos pushing the output of the 2.9-litre V8 up to 400 bhp. Weight was trimmed from the body by for the first time using carbon fibre and Kevlar composite material for lightness and strength. A car capable of 189 mph. according to Ferrari, and of sprinting to 60 mph in 4.9 sec. As desirable as the 250 GTO forerunner? Without question.
The other new Ferrari and the subject of this test is far from overshadowed by the GTO, as it takes over from the now obsolete 512i Berlinetta Boxer as the flagship of the normal Maranello range. The £63,000 Testarossa is already the ultimate Ferrari for those unfortunates who may have missed out on a GTO.
It is more than just a reskinned Boxer, being sleeker, lighter and more powerful than the car on which Maranello’s senior supercar reputation rested for more than a decade. Even the name “Testarossa” — a powerful evocation of Ferrari’s racing glory days when the V12-engined Testarossa of the late ’50s and early ’60s dominated sports car racing — is a confident assertion of superiority.
The new car’s red-painted camshaft covers (literally translated. Testarossa means “redhead”) cap an engine that looks little different from the Boxer’s famous flat-12. In fact, at 4942 cc. the capacity is unchanged. But instead of the Boxer’s two valves per cylinder, the Testarossa has four — 48 in all! In addition. Ferrari has modified the inlet tracts, the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and the Marelli Microplex electronic ignition while, at the other end of the engine, the stainless steel exhaust system has also been improved. The changes are designed chiefly to add muscle. The 5-litre quad- cam boxer unit now develops 390 bhp at 6300 rpm and 361 lb ft of torque at 4500 rpm gains of 15 and 8.5 per cent respectively over the old unit’s outputs. In the process. Ferrari has adroitly pared about 44 lb (20 kg) from the all-alloy unit’s weight. A moderate reduction in fuel consumption is also claimed.
The lighter engine makes a significant contribution to an overall reduction in weight of around 156 lb (71 kg); no mean achievement when you consider that the Testarossa is physically larger than the Boxer in every dimension and that, unlike the new GTO, high-tech honeycomb composites do not form part of its steel and aluminium construction. The execution of this, incidentally, is entrusted entirely to Pininarina.
What might be viewed an extravagant width — at 78 in (1.98 m), the Testarossa is some 5.7 in (14.5 m) wider than a Porsche 928 — is due almost entirely to the adoption of mid-mounted radiators on either side of the engine for more efficient’ cooling. The feature is stylistically highlighted by the deep fins which form part of the outer door skins and terminate just in front of the recessed air ducts midway along the flared flanks. The payoff is a shallower, more penetrating nose concealing a bigger boot and better ducting for the cabin ventilation system. Thus the Testarossa gains on two fronts, the practical and the aesthetic. Its “flying wedge” profile is arresting without being outlandish. the resulting 0.36 drag factor surprisingly good for such a bulky car.
In a similar fashion to the Boxer, the Testarossa has a separate subframe which cradles the engine and allows easy detachment from the car for “major rectification”. The family parallels extend to the mixed construction chassis with its side- frame trellis tubes reinforced by sheet steel, all-independent suspension by double wishbones, coil spring/damper units and anti-roll bars, huge all-round ventilated disc brakes and (non- assisted) rack and pinion steering. Because of its extra 50 bhp. however, the Testarossa has a larger clutch which is controlled hydraulically with the operating cylinder embodied in the thrust bearing as in Ferrari F1 cars. It’s part of a five-speed drivetrain that feeds power to the rear wheels via a limited slip differential. The wheels themselves are all-new alloy design but strongly reminiscent of the Daytona’a five-star items. Now that Ferrari’s racing allegiances have switched back from Goodyear to Michelin, it doesn’t mean that all Testarossas will be supplied on French rubber. In fact, the choice is offered, though our test car came on 240/45 VR 41 5 and 280/45 VR 41 5 Michelin TRXs (naturally, the French tyres are matched to the millimetric equivalents of the Goodyears’ 16×8 and 10 in rims).
It is almost pointless to try to put the Testarossa’s £62.666 (£64.257 if you have it with the designer seven-piece leather luggage set) price in a market context. That it is nearly £4000 cheaper than Lamborghini’s £66.631 Countach quattrovalvole means nothing if you’re in the £50.000+ market. You could buy two Lotus Esprit Turbos (£22.760 each) and still have change for a Jaguar XJ6 4.2. The only British supercar that approaches the Ferrari’s elevated price and performance is Aston Martin’s redoubtable V8 Vantage (£56.994), while Porsche’s swiftest model, the 930 911 Turbo, weighs in at a relatively modest £39.300. though it remains one of the quickest accelerating production cars available.
Even had we not been con-strained by the tightness of an engine that had barely covered 3000 miles and the wishes of an importer anxious for us to be gentle with its sole demonstrator. it is doubtful whether the Testarossa would have written itself into the acceleration league history books. In our hands, it sprinted from rest to 60 mph in 5.8 sec, hitting 100 mph in 12.7 sec and 120 mph in 18.5 sec: stunningly good figures and, perhaps, the best we could have hoped for given the dusty surface of an as yet unopened section of the M25, but not really in the Countach class (4.8, 11.3 and 1 7.4 sec for the pre-quattrovalvole 5-litre car).
On a good day, however, we’d expect the Testarossa to be capable of holding an Aston Vantage (0-60 mph 5.2 sec. 0-100 mph 11.9 sec) or a Porsche Turbo (5.3 and 1 2.3 sec) to 1 20 mph and pulling out an advantage thereafter. For, while we haven’t had the opportunity to measure the Testarossa’s top speed, the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport has: its testers recorded 181 mph and, judging by the ease with which we were able to pull a true 165 mph on a relatively short stretch of tarmac in our 3000-mile car (and the concurrence between its test car’s acceleration figures and ours), we’re inclined not to doubt its findings.
As impressive as its outright speed, however, is the Testarossa’s flexibility. In fact, its fourth gear pulling power is little short of sensational: all the 20 mph increments between 20 and 100 mph are disposed in less than five seconds apiece, and this a gear that doesn’t run out of revs until 140 mph.
|ACCELERATION FROM REST|
|0-120||16.2||Standing 1 km||24.7 / 133 mph terminal speed|
|Standing ¼ mile||14.2 / 102 mph terminal speed|
|ACCELERATION IN TOP|
|ACCELERATION IN 4TH|
It’s one of the reasons the Testarossa feels so blisteringly rapid on the road: for its reserves of turbine-smooth power between 1000 and 7000 revs, there is no other engine made that can match it. Words like “peakiness” or “camminess” are redundant. The power just flows smoothly and strongly, the sensation of quickly gathering pace being massaged by a noise that is unique and almost indescribably exciting. It isn’t loud by supercar standards, nor is it particularly complex. It’s just a muted growl of extraordinary purity, unsullied by excessive transmission or cam chain whine (the belts are rubber) and the better for it. In character, it has that unmistakeable “boxer” quality you find with a 911 but. in full voice, its cry is deeper and more resonant. In terms of interior noise levels, the engine is dominant but not overpowering: you’re aware of the big tyres rumbling over surface irregularities and a faint whoosh of wind noise at speed though, even at 120 mph. conversation is possible.
|Speedo mph||True mph|
Our overall consumption of 12.1 mpg reflects hard driving and performance testing concentrated into a much shorter than usual test mileage. Even so, it’s better than the results returned by the Countach (11.1 mpg) and the De Tomaso Pantera GT5 (11.6 mpg) though, judging by the official steady speed and urban cycle fuel figures, around 15 mpg should be nearer the mark in day-to-day use.
But soft-pedalling a Testarossa requires saintly restraint: the urge to exercise that magnificent engine needs constant watching and. in a straight line at least, succumbing to temptation is a fabulously rewarding experience, satisfaction coming as much from mastering the meaty slot gearchange as exploring the outer limits of the handling.
For, make no mistake, this Ferrari doesn’t have the race-car responses or electro-magnet grip of a Countach. In second gear bends, the tail can be kicked out a few degrees under power as a matter of course: grip is good but not fail-safe. Even so, this is the more appealing side of the Testarossa’s dynamic character. It’s a fine machine for blasting out of medium-to-tight bends with your right foot buried in the carpet: the resulting oversteer is flattering rather than intimidating.
On faster sweeps, however, the big Ferrari inspires less confidence. Where you would expect it to settle into the corner and stick to its line with just a suggestion of stabilising understeer it feels edgy, almost fidgety. Bumps taken at high speed can upset the car’s poise revealing a grand touring rather than overtly taut suspension set up. Neither characteristic particularly taxes the skilled driver’s ability or. indeed, desire to corner quickly in the Testarossa, but they remove much of the pleasure. Part of the problem is steering which, while impressively precise, sensibly weighted and decently communicative at all times, is a trace underdamped. At speed, small inputs generate exaggerated responses which makes holding a chosen line an exercise in sharp wits and unwavering concentration. Quite simply, the faster you go the more road you need, and the less wieldy the Ferrari feels. Matters aren’t helped by brakes which, although pulverisingly powerful, are much too light for good progression and feel when braking from 120 mph.
|Overall||12.1 mpg 23.3 litres/100 km|
|Touring*||19.0 mpg 14.9 litres/100 km|
|Govt tests||11.9 mpg (urban) 28.5 mpg (56 mph) 23.9 mpg (75 mph)|
|Fuel grade||97 octane|
|4 star rating|
|Tank capacity||115 litres|
|Max range*||475 miles|
|Test distance||190 miles 306 km|
|Based on official fuel economy figures – 50 per cent of urban cycle, plus 25 per cent of each of 56/75 mph consumptions.|
|Turning circle / Lock to lock||12.3 m 40.5 ft / 3.4 turns|
|Peak noise level under full-throttle acceleration in 2nd|
|Distance recorder: 1.4 per cent slow|
|Unladen weight*||1641||32.3 / 3,622lb|
|Weight as tested||1829||36.0 / 3,963lb|
The ride, on the other hand, is good news, striking a fine com-promise between small-bump absorption and high-speed control. Certainly, the Ferrari is a more comfortable car around town than either a Countach or a Pantera and, if it lacks the Lamborghini’s ultimate degree of damping control at speed, its inferiority in this respect isn’t significant.
Where is the door handle? Neatly hidden out of sight is the answer. Tuck your fingers under the flowing line of the door above the dramatic looking fins and squeeze the lever; the large door opens. Once seated, the first impression is of good visibility by supercar standards, and this is reinforced on the road.
Although the low bonnet is out of sight even to tall drivers, the A pillars are notably slim and the quarter light bar unobtrusive. Vision to the rear is surprisingly good. The generously proportioned side glass combined with “flying buttresses”, less bulky than they appear from the exterior, make the Testarossa an easier car to exit angled junctions in than many exotica. Neither is reversing a bind, although the driver is afforded a close-up view of the humped engine cover through the stylishly curved rear screen.
But there is a notable flaw, and any owner will soon come to curse the thoroughly unconventional wing mirror. The view of the road it provides over the flowing line of the rear wheel arch is unrivalled but on entering a roundabout any approaching Cortina is completely masked from sight by the mirror.
On a bright sunny day there is one further problem, one of severe reflections of the facia top in front screen. The culprit is the shiny leather covering — the GTO adopts a more practical black fabric surface.
The relationship between the rake-adjustable steering wheel, seat and slightly off-set pedals is good, though a consequence of the angled gear lever’s operating from the traditional chrome gate placed for left-hand drive models. is that it is set slightly too far forward for tall drivers. Our testers liked the large brake and clutch pedals, while the floor- mounted accelerator is naturally perfectly positioned for heel and toeing. In contrast the fly-off handbrake on the driver’s right is ineffective, because the driver’s hand is trapped by the door casing when the brake is pulled up.
Despite the space-saving device of mounting the massive flat-12 engine over the transmission, occupants of the Testarossa have 1 in (2.5 cm) less legroom than is found in the Countach. In practice the high position of the steering wheel ensures tall drivers will not find this a worrying deficiency, which is more than can be said of the headroom. Even with the seat cushion tilted into its most advantageous position our testers made contact with the sun visors and heavily padded roof lining all too frequently.
Top: Design by Ferrari, column stalks by Fiat. Above: main instruments are stylish and clear. Far right: Front seats are generally comfortable but adjustment is awkward. Right: Centre console houses auxiliary gauges and odometer. Below: Traditional slot gate, air conditioning and minor switchgear. Top left: Wedge profile, broad shoulders, drama in motion. Left: The redhead bares its muscles: 12 cylinders, four camshafts, 48 valves, 390bhp.
The seats themselves are not particularly good, though distinctly better than those of the Countach. Given the tremendous grip afforded by the chassis, more lateral support is needed, while the flatness of the cushion and absence of pleating to grip the driver is a disadvantage under heavy braking. The adjustable thigh support is only of limited use. The backrest release, rake adjustment and cushion tilt are operated manually from three awkwardly placed levers on the base of the seat. But the backrest itself is not tall enough to support the shoulders of even average height drivers, while the large slab-like headrests found little favour due to their positioning.
Compared with the Aston Martin and Porsche, the Ferrari suffers from being a strictly a two-seater, but, that said, it is a practical touring car. Lift the chrome Prancing Horse embossed lever on the floor by the handbrake and the bonnet is released. Revealed is an adequate boot which is deep enough to take a suitcase in addition to soft holdalls. Inside, a substantial ledge behind the seats will accept two or three holdalls. The answer for any discerning owner is to invest a princely £1 590.83 in Ferrari’s custom-designed seven-piece leather luggage. The fit is of course perfect.
For oddments there is a glovebox in front of the passenger which, as it swings down, rotates a huge vanity mirror into position. There is a non-lockable box complete with cassette holders between the seats. Each armrest has a small tray for oddments, and there are also small leather pockets on the rear bulk-head by the base of the seats.
The instrument binnacle is neatly laid out with just the oil pressure and water temperature gauges between the speedometer and rev-counter. Oil temperature and fuel gauges are mounted down in the centre console along with the odometer, trip and clock. The instruments conform to the trend to orange calibrations, which means that the 6850 rpm red line loses some of its legibility. The speedo inevitably appears rather crowded, as a 200 mph maximum is included. On a car costing over £60,000 it is easy to be disappointed to find Fiat Uno stalks for lights, wipers and indicators.
The slim centre console houses switches for the electric windows, remote glove box release, air conditioning controls and wing mirror joy-stick. Mounted in the roof lining are switches for the fog lights and heated rear window.
As befits a car of this price, air conditioning is standard equipment, and it proved to be as effective as it was necessary in the summer heat. Three pushbuttons on the centre console offer the choice of all-cooled air, ambient air or full demist. The temperature and fan speeds are steplessly variable. For each side of the car, the split between face and footwell flow is controllable via a pair of rocker switches at the rear of the centre console.
Face-level air flow, with modest fan boosting, via a wide centre vent on the facia and adjustable flaps at the base of the season is good — as igdeed is the flow to the footwells.
The extras list on a car of this price is short, in fact the Ferrari fitted-luggage is the only thing an owner can pay extra for. An unexceptional Clarion radio/ cassette is standard — it is concealed above the centre air vents by a lifting flap, and the aerial is integral with the front screen.
Our test car was the first Testarossa to be imported and so was subjected to the rigours of type approval. The fit of the carpets and some small incidental trim panels was not particularly good, but judging by the high standard set by recent Ferraris the Testarossas should attain a high quality aura.
Where the Ferrari fails to match the hand-made touch of an Aston Martin is in the interior. Owners may not want to play the “spot the Fiat switches and air vents” game, but the Aston definitely looks superior with its unique chromed fittings and detailing.
The day may not be far away when the opportunity to exercise the Testarossa’s 180 mph top speed is lost, probably forever. But when the day of reckoning arrives, Maranello’s dramatic-looking flagship will not be a lesser car because of it.
The joy of the Testarossa is a mighty and tireless engine which will go down in the history books as one of the finest ever to power a road car. It combines almost miraculous smoothness with a breath taking spread of power but without temperament or uncouth rowdiness. The Testarossa also has tremendous presence on the road and real Grand Touring flair. It’s less dynamically disciplined than Lamborghini’s granite-muscled Countach but a vastly more refined machine that makes up in urbane practicality for what it lacks in purity of purpose. That much it shares with the Boxer; in other respects it’s a mile ahead.
At the end of the day it is a great Ferrari, if not quite the greatest. GTOs take some beating.
|MAXIMUM SPEEDS AT TEST|
|Car||1984 Ferrari Testarossa|
|Car type||mid-engined, rear wheels drive 2-doors and 2-seats coupe|
|Number built||1984 – 1991 – 7,177 produced|
|Type||12-cylinders, horizontally approved Colombo-type|
|Cylinders||12 / 180|
|Bore, mm (in.)||82|
|Stroke, mm (in.)||78|
|Capacity, cc (in.)||4942|
|Valve gear||DOHC – 48-valve/ 4-valves per cylinder|
|Ignition||Marelli Microplex Electronic breakerless fully programmed|
|Fuel injection||Bosch K-Jetronic fuell injection electronic system|
|Max power||390 bhp / 287 KW (DIN / ISO) at 6.300 rpm|
|Max torque||361lb ft / 490 Nm (DIN / ISO) at 4.500 rpm|
|Clutch||Hydraulic, diaphragm spring|
|Final drive gear Ratio||Hypoid bevel 3.21-to-1|
|Front location||Double wishbones independent|
|Rear location||Double wishbones independent|
|Type||Rack and pinion|
|Wheel diameter||14.0 in.|
|Turns lock to lock||3.0|
|Circuits||Twin, split front/ front and rear|
|Front||30.9 cm / 11 in. dia. ventilated disc|
|Rear||31.4 cm / 11.7 in. dia. ventilated disc|
|Servo||Vacuum, ABS Bosch system 4-chanels anti-lock|
|Handbrake||Centre lever, rear drum within disc|
|Type||Cast all alloy 210TR 415 and 240TR 415|
|Rim Width||6 1/2 in.|
|type||TRX radial tubeless|
|size||240/45 VR 415 and 280/45 VR 415 TRX type|
|pressure||F41 psi, R46 psi / 2.8/3.2 bar|
|Battery||12V 66 Ah|
|Screen wipers||Two-speed plus intermittent|
|Interior heater||Water valve|
|Interior trim||Leather or cloth seats, pvc head-lining|
|Jacking points||Two each side, under sills|
Country of Origin: Italy
Maker: Ferrari Esercizio Fabbriche Automobilie Corse SpA
UK Concessionaire: Maranello Concesionaires Ltd. Crabtree Road. Thorpe Industrial Estate. Egham. Surrey 7W20 8RJ Tel: 0784 36222
Total Price: £62.665.80
Options: Fitted leather suitcases (£1590.83)
Extras fitted to test car. None
Ferrari Testarossa Club: Drive-My Club
With £63,000 burning a hole in your pocket alternative choices are limited to a select few, not all supercars: Aston Martin Lagonda (£65,999). Bentley Mulsanne Turbo (£65,033), Rolls-Royce Silver Sprint (£59,962)
FERRARI TESTAROSSA £62,666
Apart from the 200-off GTO, the Testarossa is the fastest and most prestigious Ferrari made, with a 180 mph top speed likely to be rivalled only by the GTO’s. Standing start acceleration sets no new standards, but flexibility offered by the fabulous quattrovalvole flat-12 is phenomenal. Testarossa is an ultra-rapid Grand Tourer rather than a street racer and ride quality is more impressive than handling. Comfortable if rather cramped interior, but fine visibility.
ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE £56,994
One of the most exciting cars made today, and a complete contrast in character to the Italian exotics. Fantastic performance (especially in Vantage form), superb handling for such a heavy front-engined car, excellent power steering, impressive brakes are major features. Rear seat accommodation is adequate more than a match for the mid-engined designs in this respect. Beautifully finished, and quite refined. A most exhilarating car to drive.
DE TOMASO PANTERA GT5 £35,216
Very fast, but big Ford V8 is very thirsty. Test car’s max was rev- limited but 155-160 mph should be possible with current gearing. Slot gearchange and clutch heavy. Low-speed ride choppy. Comfortable and roomy interior, good driving position apart from the offset pedals. Well sorted handling, but a bit too much understeer; extremely good road- holding, and the large ventilated disc brakes can cope with the power.
LAMBORGHINI COUNTACH QV £66,631
The world’s purest supercar is more rapid than ever with 5.2-litre quattrovalvole power but, handicapped by its outrageous shape, top speed is around 10 mph down on the Ferrari’s. Even with now obsolete 24-valve engines quicker to 60 and 100 mph than any other exotic. Nor can any match the sheer aggression and energy of the Lamborghini’s progress when driven hard. Handling is in a class alone but high speed stability is suspect without wing. Road Test /// 1986 Lamborghini Countach QV vs. Ferrari Testarossa Giant Road Test
PORSCHE 911 TURBO 930 £39,300
Porsche’s most expensive and most powerful model has thrilling performance combined with excellent handling and brakes. The gearchange is good, but an extra gear (only the four-speed is available) would be an asset. Like the rest of the 911 series 930, it is a comfortable two-seater with reasonable luggage space. Its docility, its long service intervals, its quality engineering and attention to detail make it perhaps the most practical of supercar.
PORSCHE 928 S SERIES 2 £35,524
In Series 2 form Porsche’s splendid 928S is usefully quick and respectably economical with its new four-speed automatic transmission. Handling and road-holding superb, and potent brakes now have antilock system as standard. Very spacious and comfortable cabin for twos (but a cramped 2+2), excellent driving position and instrumentation, ride and refinement a high standard. Manual option would be more in keeping with its sporting character.
|Car||Ferrari Testarossa||Aston Martin Vantage||De Tomaso Pantera GT5||Lamborghini Countach QV||Porsche 911 Turbo 930||Porsche 928S Series 2|
|Torque, lb ft/rpm||361/4500||Not disclosed||Not disclosed||369/5200||303/4000||295/4100|
|Max speed, mph||181*||168e||138.6||172e||160.1||149.1|
|0-60 mph, sec||5.8||5.2||5.5||4.8||5.3||6.5|
|30-50 mph in 4th, sec||4.5||7.2||4.4||7.0||9.6||2.2|
|Drag coefficient Cd||0.36||N/A||N/A||0.42||0.39||0.38|
|Boot capacity m3||0.21||0.25||Not measured||Not measured||0.28||0.21|
|Weight disribution front/rear %||45/55||53/47||41/59||38/62||35/65||53/47|
|*Auto Motor und Sport||Figures for pre-quattrovalvole model