There are things in life that you enjoy because of a combination of nature, nurture, and good old fashioned conditioning – and then there are the anomalies – things that you simply take as desirable, despite any evidence to the contrary. Modern Ferraris are undoubtedly the latter, and we’ve all been had.
Before some intrepid readers skip to the comments to blurt out “great JOURNALISM lol turvish should be fired,” consider this fact: I admire Ferraris. I think that they’re amazing automobiles that can do amazing things and when their owners aren’t busy being pulled over and/or on fire, I’m sure they spend their time being amazing people. The particular issue that I have is when people look at any Ferrari made in the last two decades and don’t realize that they’re throwing heaps of praise on the hand-built Italian aesthetic equivalent of a Toyota Sienna.
A quick look into the past reveals a sordid history in which Enzo Ferrari, an old, set-in-his-ways curmudgeon by all accounts, had one burning passion. No, that passion wasn’t making the best and most exotic sports cars that people could buy. It wasn’t even pissing other people off so much that they created entire companies from scratch to compete with him, although he was oddly quite good at that.
No, his raison d’etre and claim to fame was wheel-to-wheel automobile racing, in which he put such extreme pressure on his drivers to perform that within the span of a decade, seven of his drivers died, and none from mechanical failure.
Just as Enzo distanced himself from his drivers, he distanced himself from the customers of his production car business. To him, they were the cattle being necessarily sent to the slaughter, providing him with enough of a kickback to fund his racing habit for another season.
He didn’t give so much as a lukewarm shit about what he gave customers to drive, but he did have an appreciation for the art that was car design—and during Ferrari’s death-riddled, pre-emissions racing heyday, some of the most beautiful cars of all time were created.
When one speaks about beauty, it’s not enough to just stare at something with a dat ass face and expect others to agree—there has to be a qualitative element available as an objective standard, so third parties are given the chance to either see the light or give you the horrifying news that you’ve been hallucinating for years.
Beauty in a car, in this particular context, means that the car possesses no bad angles – or it least it does a good enough job of hiding them. The car follows the golden ratio as much as possible and maintains desirable proportions throughout and at no point does any one component look like an afterthought.
It also has to quintessentially define its brand without requiring the use of badging. Simply put, the worst picture you could possibly take of a car with these qualities could still qualify as the best picture you’ve ever taken, and it has to be apparent from a split second of viewing what car you’re looking at.
It’s universal poster-on-bedroom-wall material for kids the world over.
While that definition may be vague, it’s one that works because as humans, we’re all hard-wired to find certain things more appealing than others. There’s a reason why you’d find vintage F1 cars with their meaty rear tires and small front tires good looking, but if the tires were swapped front for rear, you’d immediately sense something wrong aesthetically, even if you couldn’t put a finger on exactly why.
And that’s why all modern Ferraris don’t actually look good – because they do have design afterthoughts, weird lines that go nowhere, and a plethora of bad angles, even if the core ideas are more or less solid. In the service of aerodynamics and lap times, true beauty—classic, timeless beauty—is an afterthought.
When a company asks the equivalent of the full asking price of a Texas mansion for a car, it’s not outlandish to expect a lack of compromise and a commitment to make unequivocally the best looking cars in the world.
As I’m sure I’ll have a torrent of comments outlining why a particular model of Ferrari doesn’t fit my sky-is-falling mold, I’ll address some of the cars that more or less set the tone for Ferrari’s design language for the last two decades specifically.
This, in my humble opinion, is the last truly great looking Ferrari as it took an already winning formula in the late ‘80s Testarossa, 288 GTO and 348 designs and smoothed out the lines, making the car less hard-edged and infinitely more elegant and timeless.
The proportions and gap of the wheels are just right, the door vents look like an organic structure, and there’s nothing on the car’s minimalistic body that doesn’t absolutely deserve to be there. This marked the hard stop for awesome looking Ferraris as we know it.
While I do admire much of the cosmetic flair that the 360 possesses, it has a few glaring drawbacks, mainly in the fact that its front bumper protrudes out past the separation with the front cowl because reasons. The front wheels look much too narrow, the bigger-at-the-top wheel gap is atrocious and the wheels seem to be pushed in an inch too far, forcing your eye to travel to the negative space between bumper and wheel. It’s like Ferrari tried to make the 360 look as if it was actually made from a 1989 Toyota MR2 with badly-fitting fiberglass body panels.
The F430 that was the linear successor to this car was quite a bit worse in all measurable aspects, so it’s not as if Ferrari learned from their missteps with the 360. If anything, they just doubled up on their accelerating trek down the rabbit hole.
There’s a moment in every horror movie when the protagonist finally gives in and realizes that the ghosts are real. This car represents that sinking feeling and the knowledge that things will only get better if you turn around and run as fast as you can. This car looks like a steamrolled parade float. It has a front wheel gap that would go toe-to-toe with a Range Rover and it has the overall curb appeal of an overturned port-a-potty.
This car looks loads better than its predecessor, the F50, but that’s a bit like saying standing in line at the DMV is loads better than being mauled by a grizzly bear.
Take a look at the dick-nose front end, the A-pillar that goes nowhere and the overwhelming amount of angles that make no sense aesthetically, and realize that this car was never designed to look good. While it may have been quite a capable track destroyer, I doubt anyone had this as an aspirational bedroom adornment as a child.
The back of this car looks like a beady-eyed flapping Canadian from South Park, and that’s something you can never un-see. The Ferrari California is exactly why scientists can now harness the centrifugal force emanating from Enzo Ferrari’s grave.
As a car, it’s great, but it betrays all the racing heritage and smooth flowing lines of the once-great car manufacturer and replaced it with The Nissan 370z Roadster, featuring Ferrari. When you can walk around the car and immediately find things you would’ve done radically differently, that’s when you realize that maybe the expensive car for sale in front of you isn’t exactly the looker they initially billed it to be.
The LaFerrari, as a car, isn’t bad looking at all, although its angles and exaggerated shapes can be a bit much. But that’s exactly the point of a hypercar with a V12 hybrid drivetrain—you don’t spend a million dollars on a car not to get invited on Air Force Trump, amirite?
The issue that I have is that it doesn’t represent something distinctly Ferrari. Had it sported a Lexus badge when it was first released as the new LF concept, no one would’ve batted an eye because it’s just the sort of car that any automaker would make as a one-off prototype.
If you take a look at a McLaren P1 or even a Porsche 918 without its badging, there’s something about their shapes that scream to the untrained eye that these are proprietary machines. The LaFerrari, however, looks remarkably open source – and at its ridiculous price, that’s simply unacceptable.
Do you remember the Simpsons episode that featured the No Homers Club, with one Homer already as a member because they were allowed to have just one? Well, the 458 is my technicality Homer.
Try as I might, I can’t fault this car. It exudes the same right hip-to-waist ratio that made the F355 such a runaway aesthetic success and it has just enough styled-by-science flair to keep the shape interesting without overloading it with airflow-goes-here scoops and louvers. This is the glorious exception to the rule.
You had ONE JOB, Ferrari. Alright, maybe a bit more than one. But still.
This Ferrari 488 looks like the full-price sequel to a successful game that could’ve been introduced as a simple DLC. The rear end looks like a hilariously confused squid and Ferrari has taken it upon itself to remove all inherent Ferrari-ness from the shapely 458 front end, leaving what looks like an anorexic Lamborghini in its wake. The 458 was a winning formula – why ruin it with the insane angles, louvers, flaps and regurgitated aggressiveness that every trend-chasing car manufacturer is going after?
I’m sure the car is a colossal performer and can lap Fiorano faster than the TARDIS, but it looks like an aesthetically dissonant after-the-fact hack at worst or a mid-cycle refresh at best. Ferrari, you had it. You freaking had it.
My biggest gripe, other than the admittedly nitpicky details, is the fact that Ferraris no longer set the trends of the decade. Years ago, when King Enzo was still alive, the company took a ridiculous amount of chances with their designs and technology. They set the tone for all other car manufacturers to follow, making the quintessential cars of the time. The cars didn’t need to be timeless because they represented their particular periods to a fault -they were rolling time capsules.
Now it looks as though Ferrari’s expanding lineup is styled by committee. It’s less about fulfilling the artistic expression of a madman and more about what demographic they can pander to by buying the opinions of journalists paid to sell you a narrative that Ferrari is in the business of making good looking cars. Buy them for their technological wizardry and performance, but don’t be surprised when the novelty wears off and you’re stuck with a numb-looking car that packs a six-figure sting.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.