Ranking the Ferrari 288GTO, F40, F50, Enzo, & LaFerrari

Two things have happened recently that have generated a discussion on Ferrari’s hypercars.  The first was a question whether the Enzo are now “lost gems”. The second was a good friend, with a spectacular collection and who’s taste in cars is unmatched, bought a LaFerrari.  These discussions always have a tendency to start with a debate on the pros and cons of each of the five iconic Ferraris and end up with some sort of ranking. Having owned 2 of the 5, the F40 & F50, and having come very close to owning 2 more, the 288 GTO, and the Enzo, it’s a debate that I definitely come to with a bit of bias.  If anything, in the last several years my points of views on each of the cars hasn’t really changed, if anything it has strengthened. 

288 GTO

I came very close to buying a 288 GTO back in 2006.  Back then they were actually slightly less expensive than the F40.  It was an either or decision for me at the time and I had decided that I would buy the one I preferred after a series of test drives.  The F40 won out and that car sits in the garage to this day.  I still stand by my belief that the F40 is the more exciting car to drive.  From a financial standpoint, it would have been better to choose the more conservative option (288 GTO) but then again, I am not sure we would still have it fifteen years later.  The 288 GTO though is an incredibly special car in its own right.  In many ways it’s the more civilized alternative to the F40.  I found it an easier car to drive and its certainly less intimidating.  Having owned a very early fiberglass 308 GTB, the 288 GTO felt very much like the last ultimate version of that line which then got dunked in a big vat of steroids. 

F40

After the 250 GTO, the F40 might just be Ferrari’s most famous model.  It’s an icon and deservedly so. In many ways it was the 1st hypercar in terms of both looks and a top speed exceeding 200 mph.  It’s always and exciting, engaging car to drive and one that will bite you if you are not paying attention.  Below 4500 rpm the F40 is quite docile and doesn’t feel much different to a Ferrari 328 GTB, push above that number and it turns feral.  To this day there is no other car that delivers the same ferocity and sensation of speed as an F40 on full boost.  If the 288 GTO has a well-trimmed luxurious interior, spartan is about the nicest thing you can say about the F40s cabin.  It’s held together by green gel and you get to hear every pebble on the road as it gets kicked up into the carbon fiber body panels.  The F40’s steering is heavy until you get it moving and the clutch requires a strong left leg.  Don’t ever get caught in a traffic jam in an F40 unless you are looking for a really good work out.  The gear box is stiff and requires commitment.  We have had ours for 15 years (F40’s 1st Road Trip) and I can’t imagine ever parting with it.

F50

If the F40 & F50 are siblings (F40 vs. F50) , then while the F40 is the more charismatic, popular, attractive, sibling, it’s the F50 that’s actually the better athlete.  For those that know a bit of American Football history, it’s a Joe Montana vs. Steve Young type situation.  Having spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a F50, in both the wet and dry, I believe it is simply the best car Ferrari has produced in the last 40 years.  The engine alone is worth the price of the car.   The F50 has the best 6 speed gearbox that I have ever manipulated, and the steering is absolutely perfect.  From a driver’s perspective, I can’t think of a single thing I would change or improve on the F50.

 

Enzo

It’s hard to believe but the Enzo is 18 years old now and the fact that it even came up in a conversation as a potential “lost gem” is quite insightful.  When our children were about that age, they were what I would call man-child.  Not quite an adult but not a kid anymore.  In many ways this is how I would describe the Enzo.  It’s a long way from being the new new thing but it still far from being a classic.  The Enzo has a magnificent engine and huge presence on the road.  However, its electronics all are dated now and the gearbox is to put it politely, crap.   Where the F50 shines in its mechanical purity, the Enzo is let down by its reliance on what was cutting edge technology circa 2003. 

LaFerrari

I’ve always had the thought that the LaFerrari looks a bit like the offspring of a Zonda and a 458 Speciale.  The fact that my friend just bought a LaFerrari would indicate to me that this is a good thing and Ferrari got it right.  In the Ferrari hypercar world, the LaFerrari is still the new thing but probably not for that much longer.  I would expect the LaFerrari’s successor to be announced within the next 18 months.  The LaFerrari was Ferrari first hybrid road car, and its development was accelerated to match up with the launch of the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918.  Of the “Trinity”, the Porsche 918 is regarded as best of the three on the road while the McLaren P1 took the honors on track.  The LaFerrari thought is regarded as the best all-around package of the three.  The LaFerrari is mind boggling quick, stops as impressively as it accelerates, and is surprisingly less intimidating to drive than it looks.  The steering is light and precise and gear shifts are near seamless.  Like the McLaren P1, if the battery pack goes, you are looking at a bill for a replacement the size of a nice used 458 Italia.

 

The Rankings: EVO’s

My favorite issue of EVO Magazine is #65 February 2004, “The Ultimate Ferrari Supercar Test”.  For the article, the EVO team got their hands on a 288 GTO, F40, F50, & an Enzo and then let a team of their best writers loose with them for two days on some of the best roads in Wales.  After getting over my initial shock that people got paid to do this and that maybe I might have made a horrible career choice, I think I read the article about a dozen times.  The conclusion at the end of the brilliant written piece had the F50 ranked #1 followed by the 288 GTO, Enzo, and F40 last.  What was really shocking was the Enzo at #3 as the car had just been launched the year before and all the tech that now seems quite dated was cutting edge then.  The F40 placing last was also a bit of an eye opener but in re-reading the article after owning one for many years, I get the feeling that the car on loan was not a particularly well sorted example.  This was also the article that first got me interested in the F50.  I would love to see EVO recreate the article and this time include the LaFerrari.

The Rankings: Karenable’s

My experiences with all the cars in question are much more varied and range from the very light to extremely extensive.  I have driven a few of them in anger and a couple of others with a huge amount of care and caution as they belonged to others.  I don’t think additional time with any would change how I would rank the five as they all immediately imparted strong impressions that haven’t really changed over time.  Ranking them is not an easy task though, it is similar to having to answer the question on who’s your favorite child.  While you love them all, if you are being truly honest, deep down inside we all tend to have a favorite.  In the case of the fabulous five, I have to agree with EVO, it’s the F50 (The F50 Review) that sits on the top of my rankings.  After that I would beg to differ rather significantly.  I would put the F40 at #2 followed by the LaFerrari at #3, the 288 GTO in fourth and the Enzo in fifth.  The hardest two to decide were the LaFerrari and 288 GTO as they are so different from one another. 

 

Summary

Any of these five would make for a great centerpiece in a very nice collection.  There are a few very fortunate collectors that have all five and some of these even drive them regularly (Low Mileage Tyranny).  Perhaps my favorite collector was an older Italian gentleman I met many years ago, he had over 100,000 km on his F40.  I knew he had an Enzo, an F50, and multiple other Ferraris at the time.  He told me the Enzo and the others were more for his kids, it was the F40 he loved so that’s the one he drove all the time.  He was clearly a man who knew his Ferraris, had ranked them based on his personal preferences, and then based his usage on where the different cars sat on his ladder.  There really is no right answer, it’s all personal opinion, but if you can live and enjoy your preferences, it’s a doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks.

Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.

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February 2021

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6 Thoughts on Ranking the Ferrari 288GTO, F40, F50, Enzo, & LaFerrari
    Rich
    22 Feb 2021
    4:15am

    Excellent post, thank you. It’s intriguing that you rank the F50 above the F40, but it’s the latter which is the keeper? And how does the Carrera GT compare – seems like your next target with a similar use case to the F50 perhaps?

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    Jas Dhillon
    22 Feb 2021
    12:01am

    Well thought out article as always ! Having just acquired a LaFerrari recently to go alongside an F40, part of my decision was spurred on by a son and daughter that have prattled in about the Laf the last few years. I’ve always gravitated more to the analog cars…manual gearbox, least amount of aids and intrusion between driver and road. I’ve been stunned by how much I’ve enjoyed the Laferrari in the short time we’ve had it. The way it surges forward and consumes road is shocking…and the direction changes are precise and cutting….did i say it’s breathtaking quick ??!! While I’m completely content seeing the joy on my kids faces (and Mrs D who is smitten by the color)…I’ve been taken in too…I love it. The lines of the car, the way Ferrari integrated the aero and the leading edge of the doors into sensuous swoops and curves, make for lovely static art as well. I think it’s a car that will age beautifully…and when the next gen batteries are lighter and gen more power, it’s hard to imagine this will be even quicker.
    That being said, the F40 sits in the corner…still the King. The sounds of the overrun and the pops and bangs coming from the exhaust…the click of the gear changes…the hiss and the cacophony of mechanical splendor behind you…pure magic. The F40 will be the last one to go !
    I agree with your rankings although my bias after having driven both the F50 and the Laf, is towards the sheer competence of the Laferrari….but we’d be splitting hairs 😄

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    Karim
    23 Feb 2021
    3:19pm

    Thank you for your recent article on the big 5. Your writing is very insightful and I always hoped you would cover that topic, and voila!

    I always struggled with such comparison (which is really besides the point) and you would get different ranking when considering:
    1. aesthetic perspective,
    2. driving experience angle (with sports exhausts or straight pipes),
    3. original accessories/toolkit/launch material collecting perspective, or
    4. value-growth-over-next-decade consideration.

    I would agree with you that the F50 ranks top on 2 above (jointly with F40 for me), and I would say also 3 and 4.

    Many thanks again for all your contributions and if you are free sometime in the future, it would be my pleasure to meet you and discuss them while being next to some of these beauties…

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    lessismoremike
    23 Feb 2021
    3:30pm

    Great insights.

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