Maranello’s entry-level exotic is more expensive than all but a handful of car makers’ flagships. It’s also more beautiful, more exciting and more desirable. This time Ferrari have stolen the initiative. Rather than wait for arch-rivals Porsche to hike the power of their redoubtable 911 Carrera and erase the 308 QV’s small performance advantage altogether, Maranello’s engineers have stepped in with the 328, the automotive equivalent of a knee-wobbling left hook to the Teuton’s jaw in a needle bout that has been finely poised for the best part of a decade and looks set to keep us guessing for a few years yet.
Ferrari’s claim to the Junior Supercar title is more convincing than ever with the 328 which, in addition to its extra swept volume and power, gets a subtle styling update to improve drag and in-corporate new Testarossa-style moulded bumpers with integrated side lights and indicators. A deeper chin spoiler lends a more aggressive appearance to the front. At the back a plastic apron now extends down over the un-sightly plumbing of the four-pipe exhaust system while, attached to the trailing edge of the roof, is a neat and unobtrusive “ski blade” style wing. The bluffer nose and deeper rump make the 328 – both in GTB guise as tested and as the targa-topped GTS – look slightly stubbier than the 308, but if the sublime purity of the original shape has been corrupted, its striking elegance has not. In our book, this is still the most beautiful of all contemporary exotics – a gorgeous-looking car.
The 328 GTB buyer’s £34,750 pays for other improvements, too: a mildly re-worked interior with better dials, switchgear and heating and more attractively contoured alloy wheels, up in size from 6.5 x 15.3 in all round to 7 x 16 in at the front and 8 x 16 in at the rear (and wearing 205/55 and 225/50 Goodyear NCTs.
Otherwise the chassis is much as before with suspension by double wishbones, coil springs and an anti-roll bar front and rear, steering by unassisted rack and pinion and braking by large servo-assisted ventilated discs all round. All this is hung on the traditional tubular steel chassis clothed with those sensuously flowing steel and aluminium body panels.
|ACCELERATION FROM REST|
|0-120||16.9||Standing 1 km||25.4 / 129 mph terminal speed|
|Standing ¼ mile||14.1 / 103 mph terminal speed|
|ACCELERATION IN TOP|
|ACCELERATION IN 4TH|
The chassis cradles Ferrari’s 90 degree all-alloy V8 transversely ahead of the driven rear wheels: a limited slip differential is enclosed in unit with the five- speed gearbox mounted behind the engine. By increasing the bore and stroke from 81/71 mm to 83/73.6 mm, the quad-cam 32-valver’s capacity goes up from 2927 to 3185 cc and on a higher compression ratio (9.8 instead of 8.8:1) develops 270 bhp at 7000 rpm and 224 lb ft of torque at 5000 rpm, increases of 12.5 and 16.6 per cent respectively. Improved piston design with more pronounced “squish” and better combustion along with a switch to Marelli’s most sophisticated Microplex engine management system and smaller (12 mm) spark plugs for better heat dissipation help add muscle, too.
|Speedo mph||True mph|
It means that in terms of sheer power, the Ferrari now has significantly more at its disposal than either of its major price/performance rivals, the 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera (231 bhp) and the 1986 Lamborghini Jalpa (250 bhp), enough to win the power/weight battle in both cases even though the Porsche is nearly 200 kg lighter than the Ferrari. It’s also worth remembering that the 911 can put the superb traction afforded by its rear-slung flat-six to fine use off the line.
So although the 328 turns in a stunning 5.5 sec for the sprint from rest to 60 mph, shaving 0.2 sec off the 308 QV’s time, the Carrera is quicker still with 5.3 sec. The Lamborghini, a rapid car by any standards, is left trailing with 5.8 sec. To the Porsche’s credit, it keeps its nose ahead of the Ferrari’s all the way to 100 mph which it reaches in 13.6 sec, the 328 just 0.2 sec behind but the Jalpa well out of the running with 16.0 sec. From here on, however, it’s the Ferrari all the way, its more slippery shape and superior top end power stretching an impressive gap by 120 mph and, ultimately, logging a top speed round Millbrook’s high-speed bowl of 158.5 mph with a fastest leg of 161.2 mph. Not only does this put the Carrera (151.1 mph) and the Jalpa (147.6 mph) firmly in the shade, it’s the fastest speed we’ve ever recorded round Millbrook, the previous record being held, perhaps unsurprisingly, by the 308 QV with 154.5 mph. Such speeds are very close to Millbrook’s “limit” for cars on road tyres, up to 5 mph being lost through scrub. Make no mistake, the 328 is a genuine 160 mph car.
|Overall||18.9 mpg 14.9 litres/100 km|
|Touring*||22.5 mpg 12.5 litres/100 km|
|Govt tests||15.8 mpg (urban) 31.4 mpg (56 mph) 25.2 mpg (75 mph)|
|Fuel grade||97 octane|
|4 star rating|
|Tank capacity||63 litres|
|Max range*||367 miles|
|Test distance||630 miles / 1014 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||9.4 m 30.7 ft / 3.1 turns|
|Peak noise level under full-throttle acceleration in 2nd|
|Distance recorder: 0.6 per cent slow|
|Weight as tested||1530||30.1|
If all that seems too good to be true on just 3 litres, the 328’s overtaking punch in fourth and fifth gears is, if anything, even more impressive. Although the 32-valver feels a cammy unit on the road, its measured flexibility is astonishing. As if the 308 QV’s ability to put away all the 20 mph increments between 20 and 110 mph in around 5 seconds apiece in fourth gear wasn’t enough, the 328 cuts the time taken to cover each increment to around 4.5 sec. Even in fifth, 80-100 mph takes a mere 7.9 sec. Here the Carrera is shouldered out of contention. Without the width of powerband to run the Ferrari’s short overall gearing (24.3 against just 21.0 mph/1000 rpm) it never gets on terms, leaving it to the larger-engined but still high-revving Jalpa to challenge the 328 in the lower speed ranges.
|MAXIMUM SPEEDS AT TEST|
Another shock. The Ferrari sounds like a Fiat X1/9, only louder. At least it does at low revs with light throttle openings. The hollow, slightly harsh thrum tends to take admiring onlookers by surprise, so incongruous is its emanation from such an exotic presence. The driver’s only con-solation is that it doesn’t sound quite so boring from the inside and that, around town, fine tractability and a complete absence of temperament do nothing to detract from the “cooking car” illusion.
But illusion it is. Driven with purpose, the 328 has, perhaps, the most exciting engine in production. At around 3000 revs, the Fiat-like hum hardens and ac-quires a tingling, metallic edge. Beyond 5000, energy and pace build with the exponential fury of a nuclear reaction, the engine howling its savage approval. In the lower gears, the revs will slam into the 7700 rpm limiter with the force of a runaway express unless a watchful eye is trained on the rev counter. Punctuated by well-timed gearchanges, however, the fast-driving experience has race car-realism and is guaranteed to set the adrenalin flowing as urgently as the car itself. The engine should carry a government health warning, and not just because it’s so loud.
Drive hard, and petrol is consumed with similar vigour. Our overall consumption of 18.9 mpg is certainly better than the Jalpa’s 15.6 mpg but falls some way short of the 911 Carrera’s 21.1 mpg and the old 308 QV’s 19.6 mpg. A projected touring consumption of 22.5 mpg shows what can be achieved with appropriate restraint and permits a useful maximum range of 367 miles on a 74-litre (16.3-gallon) tankful of 4-star.
The Ferrari’s metal gate gearchange is regarded as a challenge by some and a curse by others. In truth it isn’t nearly as intimidating to use as its uncompromising looks would suggest and, guided with deliberation, the slim chrome lever slips home with a nuggety precision you come to admire. A more casual approach, however, is punished by obstinate baulking, especially into the dog-leg first. It pays to play the gearbox’s tune in the long run: driving pleasure is easily tarnished otherwise. Only between fourth and fifth do the ratios feel anything other than closely stacked but with such a wide power band it isn’t a problem. The clutch is surprisingly light and extremely well-cushioned.
Centre console now displays a pleasing lack of chrome and electronic heater controls work well. Cabin is comfortable but short on headroom.
It almost goes without saying that impeccable road manners are expected of the 328, and in normal fast driving on dry roads you’d have to look hard to find any better. The steering combines lightness with direct gearing and excellent feel. The elegant leather-rimmed wheel doesn’t writhe in the driver’s hands 911-fashion but there is just enough kickback to let him know when the front wheels are being deflected by bumps.
Helm responses are deliciously quick and accurate without any hint of twitchiness and, in the dry, understeer is the predominant characteristic – strong on tight bends entered too fast, very mild on fast sweepers. Such is the grip generated by the fat Goodyears that even drivers of modest skill can travel almost absurdly quickly on demanding country roads without putting their car control to the test. More ambitious pilots, however, had better know what they’re about because, while the 328 is forgiving up to a point, liberal applications of the ample torque will push the tail out a long way even on 70 mph third gear bends, and unless the correct amount of opposite lock is applied quickly, the results can be untidy to say the least. The Ferrari is more slideable than, say, a Lotus Esprit Turbo and, treated with respect, is more fun. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t have as much grip as the Lotus and needs a better man at the wheel to drive near the limit, especially in the wet – though, by the same token, it needs a better man still to master a 911.
The Ferrari’s ride quality is seldom less than impressive with more than reasonable small bump absorption around town, an ability to soak up major surface disturbances without structural shuddering and simply superb suspension control at speed. No car in our experience has felt as smooth and composed round Millbrook’s far- from-flawless high-speed bowl at 150 mph-plus as the 328. But for their propensity to lock a front wheel prematurely in the wet, the brakes would be beyond criticism, too.
So noisy is the Ferrari’s engine that the generally low levels of wind noise, road roar and tyre bump-thump don’t count for much. Cruising at 120 mph is tolerable but to go any faster is to drown out the radio or any chance of conversation with your passenger altogether.
For the rest, the 328 differs little from its 308 QV forebear. It remains one of the most practical and habitable of supercars with a pleasantly un-Italianate driving position limited more by a paucity of headroom than legroom. There’s a usefully squareshaped luggage compartment behind the engine and an assortment of cabin cubbies for oddments stowage. Visibility is excellent by mid-engined supercar standards and both the new instruments and heater/air conditioning controls are a big improvement on the 308’s.
Anyone who has visited Ferrari’s Maranello factory – and many Ferrari owners regard it as an essential pilgrimage – will have seen the great care with which prancing horse products are assembled, yet detail execution still leaves something to be desired. The Maranello Concessionaires demonstrator we borrowed had wonky door handles and mediocre paint finish in places. That said, the cabin looked convincingly expensive and the whole car felt tight and rattle-free.
Ferrari must still give best to Porsche when it comes to build quality but, in every other respect, the contest between the two big names in junior-league exotica is hotter than ever. The £36,577 Lamborghini Jalpa joins the £34,750 Ferrari and £36,676 Carrera Sport on price and driver appeal but is beginning to look a little slow in this company. Lotus’ value-for-money Esprit Turbo (£23,440) is worth a mention, too, and as well as having competitive performance, can out-corner any of its German or Italian rivals.
But ultimately, it is exactly what the Lotus and, to a lesser extent the Porsche, lack that makes the Ferrari great: a charismatic presence.
The 328 is a rare and beautiful car, as close to a work of art as any modern car can be. That it is also faster than ever and easier to live with makes it a car you ache to own. It is, after all, a Ferrari.
Engine’s architecture is a joy to behold. Noise and power are formidable.
|Car||1986 Ferrari 328 GTB|
|Car type||mid-engined, rear wheels drive 2-doors and 2-seats coupe|
|Number built||1985 – 1989 / 7.400 all models|
|Cylinders||8 / 80|
|Bore, mm (in.)||83|
|Stroke, mm (in.)||73.6|
|Capacity, cc (in.)||3185|
|Valve gear||DOHC – 32-valve/ 4-valves per cylinder|
|Ignition||Marelli Microplex Electronic breakerless fully programmed|
|Fuel injection||Bosch K-Jetronic fuell injection electronic system|
|Max power||270 bhp / 198.6 KW (DIN / ISO) at 7.000 rpm|
|Max torque||224lb ft / 304 Nm (DIN / ISO) at 5.500 rpm|
|Clutch||Hydraulic, diaphragm spring|
|Final drive gear Ratio||Hypoid bevel 3.70-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||27.4 cm / 11 in. dia. ventilated disc|
|Rear||24.9 cm / 10 in. dia. ventilated disc|
|Servo||Vacuum, ABS Bosch system 4-chanels anti-lock|
|Handbrake||Centre lever, rear drum within disc|
|Type||Light all alloy 16in|
|Rim Width||8 x 16 in dia|
|size||205/65 VR16 and 225/50 VR16|
|pressure||F30 psi, R33 psi / 2.3/2.4 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 TW20 8RJ Tel: 0784 36222
Total Price 1986: £34.750
Options: Air Conditioning (£1183.55)
Extras fitted to test car. None
Ferrari 308/328 Club: Drive-My Club
Other rivals include the De Tomaso Pantera GT5 5.8 (£34,247), Mercedes 500 SEC (£40,400) and Porsche 928 S2 (£38,519)
FERRARI 328 GTB £34,750
328 supersedes 308 QV and is more desirable still. With a top speed of around 160 mph and scintillating mid-range acceleration, outright performance now eclipses 911 Carrera’s, though engine is very loud and sounds disappointingly Fiat-like at low revs. Handling is impeccable and ride supple, but power can be used to out-gun grip and chassis won’t easily forgive wild slides. Still a beautiful car, minor cabin changes have improved habitability.
AUDI QUATTRO £24,204
A more civilised machine these days than its epoch-making predecessor, the 4wd Quattro is more than ever a milestone in car design. It combines phenomenal roadholding and traction with performance, refinement, economy, comfort and accommodation in a way that has no equal, against which its weaknesses – poor ratios (still) and slow shift, unprogressive heating, sparse instruments – are minor failings. Now available with anti-lock braking.
BMW M635CSi E24 £37,750
Fastest BMW available in the UK takes the decade-old 6-Series E24 firmly into supercar territory and more than holds its own. Fabulous 24-valve M88 six delivers lusty performance with good refinement but is very thirsty. Handling is both enjoyable and forgiving, ride firm but well-controlled. Interior is too ordinary for £37,000 but build and finish are first class. Generally well equipped but air conditioning is extra. Road test
LAMBORGHIHII JALPA 350 £36,577
“Baby” of the two-car Lamborghini range, the targa-top Jalpa’s ancestry runs back to the mid-engined Uracco of the early ’70s. Magnificently vocal quad-cam V8 delivers fine performance with massive mid-range punch, though economy is mediocre by today’s standards. Very safe and ultimately forgiving handling married to reasonable ride. Fabulous brakes. He-man gearchange and poor visibility not so appealing, but practicality and finish better than of yore.
LOTUS ESPRIT TURBO £23,440
Turbo power promotes Lotus towards the top of the first division in the supercar league. Stunning acceleration from smooth and vice-less turbo “four” allied to perfect ratios, strong roadholding, superb handling and tireless braking, all adding up to a driver’s car par excellence, with respectable economy and a comfortable ride as icing on the cake. But some shortcomings include the poor heating, visibility, pedal layout and lack of space for tall drivers.
PORSCHE 911 CARRERA SPORT £36,676
Little changed for the past couple of years but still at the top of the junior supercar acceleration league table – the 911 Carrera is also remarkably economical for its stunning performance. Still a great driving machine, with rewarding (though tricky in extremis) handling, potent brakes, superb ratios, good driving position and turbine-smooth engine. Gear change could be better, though, and remaining flaws include hard ride, and poor heating/ventilation.
|Car||Ferrari 348GTB||Audi Quattro||BMW M635CSi E24||Lamborghini Jalpa 350||Lotus Esprit Turbo||Porsche 911 CS|
|Torque, lb ft/rpm||224/5500||210/350||251/4500||235/3250||200/4500||209/4800|
|Max speed, mph||158.5||138e||149.7||147.6||152.1||151.1|
|0-60 mph, sec||5.5||6.5||6.3||5.8||5.6||5.3|
|30-50 mph in 4th, sec||4.8||8.2||6.7||4.3||6.2||5.6|
|Drag coefficient Cd||0.35||0.43||0.36||0.39||0.33||0.38|
|Boot capacity m3||0.16||0.21||0.35||0.12||0.10||0.28|
|Lenght||4.250mm / 167,3||4.400mm / 173,3||4.750mm / 187,0||4.220mm / 166,0||4.190mm / 165,0||4.290mm / 169,0|
|Width||1.730mm / 68,1||1.720 / 67,8||1.730mm / 68,0||1.650mm / 65,8||1.850mm / 73,0||1.770mm / 69,8|
|Height||1.130mm / 44,4||1.350 / 53,0||1.370mm / 54,0||1.120mm / 44,0||1.110mm / 43,8||1.320mm / 52,0|
|Wheelbase||2.350mm / 92,5||
2.520 / 99,3
|2.620mm / 103,0||2.450mm / 96,5||2.440 / 96,0||2.270mm / 89,5|
|Front track||1,480mm / 59,3||1.450mm / 57,3||1.420mm / 56,0||1.540mm / 60,5||1.510mm / 59,5||1.500mm / 59,0|
|Rear track||1,460mm / 57,5||1.420mm / 56,0||1.460mm / 57,5||1.480mm / 58,5||1.510mm / 59,5||1.430mm / 56,3|
|Weight disribution front/rear %||44/56||61/39||57/43||44/56||41.5/48.5||35/65|