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Was the Ferrari Testarossa Really All That Great?

When you think of an exotic car, you might picture a McLaren or Lamborghini nowadays, but if you were born in the 80s, then the Ferrari Testarossa might come to mind. Why? Because the Testarossa was the quintessential Ferrari for decades. Posters of it adorned the walls of many childhood bedrooms and it was the “hero car” in many arcade and video games, not to mention a television show called Miami Vice. It’s safe to say that the Ferrari Testarossa was an exotic car icon, but was it really all that great?

The Ferrari Testarossa was a classic beauty

One look at the Testarossa’s Pininfarina-designed body and there’s no mistaking its famous side strakes and low-slung wedge shape for any other car. Although other Ferrari models after it donned those similar side stripes. The Testarossa was a true 1980s classic and it fit the time period well, in fact, some might say that its design is “timeless,” despite the fact that it had pop-up headlights and a boxier shape.

In case you’re wondering, “Testarossa” is actually Italian for “redhead.” And while it could have been true that the man behind the curtain, Enzo Ferrari, had a thing for red-haired women, the real reason behind the name lies in the car paying homage to the Ferrari race cars of the 50s, which had red-painted valve covers.

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Ferrari Testarossa
Ferrari Testarossa | Wikimedia Commons

The Testarossa was a redhead, too

The Ferrari Testarossa was produced from 1984 to 1991 and was the successor of the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer. The main highlight of this car was its mid-mounted, 4.9-liter V12 engine that produced 380 horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque, which was mated to a five-speed manual transmission that was controlled by a mechanical and slick-shifting gated shifter. As a throwback to those race cars, the Testarossa’s engine covers were painted red as well.

As far as straight-line performance, the Testarossa was able to get to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and down the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds and it had a top speed of 180 mph. Keep in mind that it was made in the 80s, so it was very fast then, but to be honest, those numbers are pretty good by today’s standards. Especially for a road-going exotic car.

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Ferrari Testarossa parked in italy
Ferrari Testarossa | Wikimedia Commons

It was all about the experience

While the Ferrari Testarossa could find a comfortable spot on just about any race track, it was a blast to drive on the street. In Doug Demuro’s review of the Ferrari, he noted that it was the “visceral experience” that made the car so great. And while many cars that came after it was faster and even more technically advanced, the Testarossa’s raw nature is what the car was all about.

After all, the interior was rather spartan and filled with quirky features that wouldn’t really pass in today’s world. And while you would expect some kind of upscale interior refinement from an Italian exotic, the Testarossa was more of a testament to the brand’s engineering ingenuity as opposed to sensible creature comforts.

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Was the Testarossa really that great?

Ultimately, the Ferrari Testarossa had what auto journalists like to call “soul.” It embodied what anyone would expect out of a true sports car; there was no traction control, no driver-assist aids, and not even a single airbag. It was just about the driver being connected to the road through the raw power and intoxicating exhaust note of the legendary car that donned the badge of the prancing horse. And yes, it was great.