I know I spent my last column taking a hammer to plenty of past Ferrari designs, but it’s a bit like when you talk trash about your own family. They know you still love them. This week, though, it’s all about loyalty. I’m in my rosso corsa gang colors talking about why Ferrari is still the untouchable Boss.
Remember early Lamborghinis, all sleek and minimal? Through the years they’ve became overwrought, almost Baroque. They dare you to not look, like the automotive equivalent of Bernini’s “Rape of Persephone.” If that famed sculpture captures Lamborghini, Ferrari lives in the moment where the right hand of Hades meets Persephone’s thigh, his fingertips pressed into her marble flesh. You see, at its best, Ferrari renders solid material so exquisitely that it suspends the imagination and appears to breathe life, while brands like Lamborghini continue to rely on deafening maximalism.
There’s no better expression of this design philosophy than the godawful Lamborghini Veneno, which looks like the doodles of a comic book-loving preteen come to life. Half its bodywork is irrelevant to aerodynamics and I honestly think I would feel silly driving one as a grown man. Their other seven-figure misfire, the Reventon, has not aged well either. It’s basically an Aventador with a painfully boring interior, and it’s the only $1M+ car actually losing value.
Other purveyors of boyish maximalism include early Koenigseggs (the new Regera finally tames some of the brand’s sillier design ideas) and the fugly new McLaren Senna. As for the other obvious culprit, Pagani, it took a visit to the factory and the release of the Huayra to bring me around to them. (There’s still no justification for tartan upholstery.)
Horacio Pagani, a Lamborghini disciple, created a worthy competitor with even deeper Baroque theatrics and outlandish futurism, yet I’ve come to respect how far he pushes passion, imagination and obsession with detail. Pagani’s impossible-to-follow naming system is a whole other discussion…
Ferrari, on the other hand, reinvents its design language across a truly diverse selection of models every 7 to 10 years. A new anniversary hypercar sets the tone, and subsequent models borrow from it throughout the design cycle, resulting in a fresh and exciting lineup.
Look at the F355, the car that modernized Ferraris for the ’90s. You can trace its swooping side air scoops, backend design and nose elements right back to the F50. With the Enzo, we see interpretations of its backend, tail lights and front air intakes – as well as its overall angularity – neatly incorporated into the F430.
The 488’s front end, with its nose scoops upheld by thin pillars, comes directly from the LaFerrari. It’s also interesting to see Ferrari continuously rethink how to deliver air to a mid-mounted engine. The 458’s closed-up body design broke from the trend of large openings and went back to the F40 and 288 GTO’s discreet intakes tucked behind the windows. Then the 488 reversed course and brought back wider intakes that actually contain mini-wings to create extra downforce. (As an aside, I love the Sicilian necktie on the front end of the 488 Pista; it reminds me of the F40LM.)
If you step back and look at Ferrari as a whole, there is a consistent design philosophy with ideas that tie the generations together, but aside from the color red, they don’t rehash too many ideas. They keep it fresh.
This is also my main issue with Porsche. Whether the 911 has been refined or recycled over decades is in the eye of the beholder, but honestly, they all look the same to me. I can’t be the only one who finds this boring. Likewise, Lamborghini has been using the same basic profile since the 1980s – a (delicious) wedge (of parmesan). The Countach, Diablo, Murcielago and Aventador reinterpret the same idea. Granted, il toro has an awesome silhouette, but carrying on in the same direction for decades lacks some imagination.
This is why Ferrari is the ultimate supercar brand. No other carmaker offers such an interesting, diverse, beautiful and consistently great lineup. Agree? Angry? Leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram @drvnbydesign.