The 550 Maranello also benefited from Ferrari’s maniacal attention to aerodynamics with a low Cd (0.33) and constant downforce over both axles. The combination of uncompromising performance and aerodynamic efficiency helped the car establish new production car speed records on the 12th of October 1998 in Marysville, Ohio, covering 100 km (62 miles) at an average speed of 304.1 km/h, (188.88 mph) and 296.168 km/h (183.955 miles) in one hour.
The body was a lightweight aluminium alloy welded to the steel frame via a specially formulated sandwich material called Feran, which permitted the welding of the two dissimilar metals, whilst the front and rear valances were composite mouldings. Independent suspension was provided all round with front and rear anti roll bars, and electronically operated driver controlled variable shock absorber settings, to provide either “normal” or “sport” mode, integrated with an ASR drive control system.
When in “normal” mode the brain places an emphasis on stability relative to road conditions, reducing power to the driven wheels via the engine management system, or bringing the ABS braking system into play, to maximise traction. When in “sport” mode the brain provides the driver with the facility to control the situation by his or her own inputs.
The adjustable dampers were provided with an electronic “brain” that monitored various factions, like steering angle, road speed, braking effect or acceleration, to optimise the settings for the driving conditions.
The interior was upholstered in leather as standard, with electronic adjustment facilities for the seats, and a large luggage platform behind them. Twin airbags were provided, as was air conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors, plus a stereo system with CD player. As an option sports seats were available, along with a range of items from the “Carrozzeria Scaglietti” personalisation accessories that were introduced in 1997, to enable clients to individualise their cars.
The steering was of the Servotronic speed sensitive power assisted type, the degree of assistance varying with road speed, being greatest at parking speeds and reducing as speed increased. The standard road wheels were stylised renditions of the traditional five spoke “star” alloy design, featuring elegant convex spokes and five bolt fixing with 18″ diameter rims, 8.5″ wide at the front and 10.5″ wide at the rear. Four wheel ventilated disc brakes were provided, each disc having a four piston light alloy calliper, plus a four channel ABS anti skid braking system, integrated with the ASR drive control system as mentioned.
The engine was a derivation of that designed for the 456 GT with the same cubic capacity, although the total cubic capacity was chosen as part of the model title, 5.5 litres (hence 550) rather than the single cylinder swept volume figure that had been used with the 456 GT, with factory type reference 133 A. The 65 degree V12 engine had an actual cubic capacity of 5474cc, with a bore and stroke of 88mm x 75mm, four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts per bank, and dry sump lubrication. The block, cylinder heads, sump, and sundry castings were constructed from light alloy, featuring Nicasil treated alloy cylinder liners, and titanium alloy con rods. A Bosch Motronic 5.2 combined fuel injection/ignition engine management system was fitted, plus a variable back pressure stainless steel exhaust system, to provide a claimed power output of 485bhp at 7000rpm, driving through a six speed + reverse transaxle.