No complaints about the 360 Modena? Here are a few: "Problems we found during real world use include the 360's low front end, which scrapes itself free of paint on most driveways. There's also that constant engine wail coming from just over your right shoulder. Those with sensitive ears won't last long, plus the cops hear you coming from a mile away. We think the semi-automatic gearbox, which adds $10,000 to the cost of the car, should shift smoother. It often snaps your neck on upshifts, and bucks hard off the line. But the transmission does have its good points..." The BMW M3's SMG II tranny kills the Modena's in speed and operation. It rotates with the wheel, unlike Ferrari's system. And doesn't cost $10K. "Ergonomic problems are limited to the odd offset of the pedals toward the center of the car, which takes some getting used to, the poor reception and poorly marked controls of the car's audio system, and the lack of any cupholders." That review came from newcartestdrive.com. This is from Car & Driver, quite a bit more respectable among automotive journals than, say, the NY Times: "It sounds wonderful from inside the car, but from the outside, it's oddly raspy, almost flatulent. "Geez," said one observer, "sounds kind of like my RX-7 with the muffler off." Yes, well. It isn't as sweet a song as that of the F355 it replaces, but it is compelling as hell. The Modena gave us only two genuine reasons to complain. As noted in two of the three counterpoints, when shifted manually, the transmission seemed reluctant to initiate a shift, and then when it finally did shift, it did so abruptly. Editor Csere, who was out of town when this Modena came to visit, did not have that complaint about the car he drove in Italy, nor have we uttered that complaint about previous Ferrari F1 trannies, so we suspect our car was in need of a tweak or two. Most of us would choose the six-speed manual transmission and save 10 grand. The other complaint had to do with the general complexity of actually starting the car and making it go. Unlock the car using the key fob, get in, and you have 15 seconds to start the car or the alarm system disables the ignition. The car won't go into gear without a foot on the brake and all the doors closed. For two staffers, however, even that ritual didn't always work. At least three times the Modena declined to go into gear--any gear--despite any combination of engine-on, engine-off; door open, door closed; foot on brake, foot off brake. Once, it would only go into reverse, then happily clicked into a forward gear and was trouble-free for the 60-mile drive home. Our suspicion is that the various interlocking anti-theft systems were having trouble communicating--likely a simple reprogramming job for a dealer. Larry Webster: 'The 360 isn't saddled with any substantive faults, except for the shift paddles, which should rotate with the steering wheel but don't.' Tony Swan: 'Give Ferrari credit for trying to share Formula 1 techno-thrills with folks who are in a position to buy this achingly gorgeous car. From that perspective, the latest F1 transmission is a nifty option. It would be much niftier, though, if it actually worked. Okay, if it worked well. There's a big pause between upshifts, and when engagement finally occurs, it does so with a bang--whether the driver uses the paddle controls or lets the transmission shift for itself. Shift-pause-wham! Shift-pause-wham! Besides retarding forward progress, it's a concentration buster. Tip: Get the six-speed manual. You'll save yourself USD10,070 and also spare yourself a fair amount of irritation.' Don Schroeder: 'Yeah, yeah, so the 360 makes some great noises. But I recall the F355 belting out a more inspirational tune at wide-open throttle. The F355's shriek was smooth and siren-like, whereas the 360's strikes me as hoarse and somewhat stressed, and definitely less distinguishable among exotics. I also remember the F1 gearbox shifting with more conviction and speed in the F355. The 360's structure is clearly superior, and its curves are even more alluring, but overall, this car moves me only a smidgen more than its predecessor.'" Only a smidgeon more than its predecessor. Only in this context does Dan Neil's NY Times article make sense: he's comparing the E46 M3 to its predecessor, the E36 M3. A car that was rated Best Overall by C&D among $40K cars (Supra Turbo, C5 Corvette, Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4). Rated as the Best Handling Car over $30K (beating out the Ferrari F355, C5 Corvette, Acura NSX, Porsche Boxster and 996, Dodge Viper, etc.). R&T wrote an entire article on "Why Does the [E36] M3 Steer So Well?" No such article was ever written for a Ferrari, F355 or 360 Modena. No wonder Dan Neil was slightly less than impressed by the new E46, he was comparing it to an Icon. Motorweek, on the E46 M3: "Thanks to extensive use of aluminum to reduce unsprung weight, a stiff body structure, and near-perfect balance, the M3 coupe is one of the most enjoyably tossable track cars we've ever driven. Initial understeer keeps things safe in normal maneuvers, but push a little harder and the M3 responds with controllable oversteer, quick side-to-side transitions, and unmatched stability right up to the limits of adhesion. Driver confidence is ensured by Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Brake Control with ABS, and BMW M's Variable Differential Lock. All systems work together seamlessly to keep the M3 on the right path without interfering in the driver's fun." So, at Dan Neil-limits, the M3 understeers just like any other road car. Taken up a notch by more worthy journalists, and it shines, just like most enthusiast cars. The difference is that Motorweek was WILLING to take it up that notch, at Summit Point Raceway. Dan Neil was probing the M3's limits and steering feel in low-speed corners, LOL. Another car that behaves similarly? Read on. Motorweek, on the 360 Modena: "Entering a fast corner, the 360 s first tendency is toward safe understeer. Now, that will keep most drivers out of trouble, but it s no fun for the rest of us. So, the simple cure is a heavy application of right foot, followed immediately by a handful of counter-steer, as the rear end leaps out under power and is just as quickly reined in by the precise steering." Motorweek, on the 360 Spider: "The only bummer is the plastic rear window. Necessitated by the tight storage quarters and the way the top must fold to fit there. But Ferrari tells us that it's easily replaced should it start to haze over." Plastic rear window? Good god, not even the M3 Convertible still comes with a plastic rear window. It's heated glass. And it comes standard. "Our staff complained about a few awkward placements, but Ferrari is paying more attention to ergonomics than in the past." Goodness, for $150K+ I should hope so. Now, back to the point. While both the 360 Modena and 550 Maranello have similar hp/weight ratios, there's just no way of getting around that weight deficit the Maranello has. 500-700 lbs is hard to overcome, no matter how you look at it. Yes, the 550 is 1 whole second slower at the short Hockenheim club circuit. But that it can keep up with and even beat the 360 at Hockenheim is in incredible acheivement; for such a heavy GT, this car rocks! Also startling is that in a same-day, same-driver track test, R&T found the 550 only 1.6 seconds slower around the Thunderhill Park racetrack (2.87 miles). C&D got the 550 to 60 in 4.2 seconds. And MT drove the 550 Maranello through the standing mile in only 31.2 seconds @ 168 mph. Its standing mile test for the 360 Modena was 32.6 seconds @ 152. Credit could probably go to the Maranello's outright hp advantage, plus it has less downforce. But in the lower speeds, it has a tough time keeping up with or beating the much lighter Modena.