Autocar & Motor called it, "The finest automotive styling since the original Ferrari GTO... its integration of line and shape is superb, almost perfect, every visual element is harmonious and makes an expressive statement."
Despite its portly 3,300 pounds, the 1989 Ferrari 348 TS was among the very fastest cars in the world, its three hundred horses capable of rocketing to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and going on to 171 mph.
Never known for pragmatism, the Italian supercar manufacturer even put the transmission where it could be more easily accessed than in any mid-engined Ferrari before it.
However, the 348 was possessed of handling that some would term diabolical. Its lofty skidpad numbers indicated good grip, but in practice its tail could become loose in a bout of pronounced oversteer. Applying throttle to balance the car, as one might do in a Porsche 911, only caused the tail to swing out even further. To be more of a handful than the rear-engined German was quite a feat, but Ferrari had managed it.
The clutch was fussy, the brakes tended to fade under hard use, and the build quality wasn't up to the car's price. Early models also suffered front-end float at high speed. Ferrari tried to temper this by changing the front shocks and shock angles, and by moving the battery to the front left corner of the car, but the problem was never quite resolved.
Then along came the 1991 Honda/ Acura NSX. Mid-engined, like the Ferrari, the Japanese sports car brought together power, excellent handling, exciting styling, and typically high-quality Japanese fit and finish. Cramped cockpits, inadequate air conditioning, overheating engines, recalcitrant windows, heavy steering, a brutal ride, and a bicep-forming gearshift were no longer acceptable.
Ferrari took notice – or, more correctly, was put on notice – that things had to change. Its new CEO, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, was determined to create cars that were easier to live with; not least because he owned a 348. "With the exception of its good looks, I was utterly disappointed," he would later tell Automobile magazine. "This was clearly the worst product Ferrari had developed for some time."
The F355 of 1994 was dramatically better than its 348 predecessor. When the 360 Modena appeared in 1999, it exorcised the last vestiges of the 348 with an all-aluminum space frame chassis (like the NSX).
Neither of those cars had quite the aura of the 348, though.
As CAR magazine once put it of this final V8 mid-engined model to be developed by Enzo Ferrari himself: "A Ferrari – even a flawed Ferrari – is simply too bewitching."