Ferrari Testarossa: Performance and Design

Ferrari Testarossa parked on a city street

With its distinctive pop-up headlamps and unmistakable profile, perhaps no supercar captures the imagination and the spirit of the 1980s like the Ferrari Testarossa. The successor to the Berlinetta Boxer, the Testarossa is the most iconic Prancing Horse of its time, gaining huge visibility through appearances in Miami Vice and through ownership by celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jordan, Rod Stewart, and Miles Davis, among others. It’s more than just a pop culture icon, though: the Testarossa is also the last Ferrari with a mid-mounted flat-12 engine, making it a crucial piece of automotive history.

Ferrari Testarossa Design

Named for the legendary 1957 250 Testa Rossa sports racing car, the Ferrari Testarossa debuted at the 1984 Paris Auto Show, and was produced from 1984 – 1996. It’s a rear mid-engined two-door berlinetta that was conceived in part to address issues with the 1981 BB 512i, which suffered from a lack of luggage space and an increasingly hot cabin over extended periods of driving.

The Testarossa was conceived in part to improve wholesale upon the BB 512i — it’s half a foot wider, boasts an increased wheelbase, it’s longer, and has improved headroom over the BB 512i. As with many classic Prancing Horses, the design comes from Pininfarina.

Ferrari Testarossa from the side

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Testarossa were the car’s side intakes, which some derisively referred to as “cheese graters” or “egg slicers.” But, as with all Ferrari styling elements, these side strakes serve a practical purpose: they house twin side radiators instead of one large one, which allowed for a cooler cabin than the 512i; and after passing through the engine bay, the cooling air exits through vents in the engine lid and the car’s tail. Finally, these strakes made the Testarossa wider at the rear than the front, which improves both stability and handling.

Its styling was ultimately a significant departure from the Berlinetta Boxer that it replaced, which was at first controversial. Importantly, though, the Testarossa proved to be a trendsetter, as its aesthetic eventually became emblematic of its era.

What Does “Testarossa” Mean?

Testa Rossa translates literally from Italian as “red head.” While this refers literally to the engine’s red-painted cam covers, it’s also perhaps an homage to Ferrari’s most iconic color.

How Much Horsepower Does the Ferrari Testarossa Have?

The original Testarossa delivers 385 hp, though the 512 TR and F12 M deliver 428 hp and 440 hp, respectively. While this may seem quaint when compared to modern Prancing Horses like the 812 Superfast, it was stunning for its time, as were the full details of its powertrain.

Ferrari Testarossa Powertrain Details

  • Engine: 4.9L flat-12 cylinder
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual 
  • Horsepower: 385 hp @ 6,300 rpm
  • Torque: 361 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
  • Ferrari Testarossa 0 – 60 MPH Time: 5.2 seconds
  • Ferrari Testarossa 0 – 100 MPH Time: 11.4 seconds
  • Ferrari Testarossa Quarter-Mile Time: 13.5 seconds
  • Ferrari Testarossa Top Speed: 180 mph
Ferrari Testarossa from the front

Ferrari Testarossa 512 TR and F512 M

The 512 TR and F512 M are special editions of the Testarossa. Their raw engine specs differ slightly from the primary Testarossa models:

  • ​​512 TR Engine: 4.9L flat-12 that produces 428 hp @ 6,750 rpm and 362 lb-ft of torque @ 5,500 rpm. The Ferrari 512 TR has a top speed of 195 mph.
  • F512 M Engine: 4.9L flat-12 that produces 440 hp @ 6,750 rpm and 370 lb-ft of torque @ 5,500 rpm. The Ferrari F512 M has a top speed of 196 mph.

Each had a variety of other modifications as well:

  • 512 TR Modifications: A new center console split from the dashboard, relocated climate controls, new spoiler, new engine cover, and improved handling thanks to revised engine and gearbox positioning, which improved the car’s center of gravity.
  • F512 M Modifications: Revised front and rear lights, drilled aluminum pedals, a chromed gearshift knob, newly standard air conditioning, and optional carbon-fiber racing bucket seats.

2,261 512 TR models were produced, while only 501 F512 models were made. 

Continental AutoSports Ferrari Can Help You Buy a Testarossa

With all variations taken into account, nearly 10,000 Ferrari Testarossa models were made — and one of them could be yours! From our Chicago-area dealership, we’ve helped enthusiasts from Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and throughout the country buy Ferrari models, and we can help you, too. Contact us today to get started!

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