Breeding successful thoroughbreds involves knowledge, patience, money (usually) and the ability to stay focused on long-term goals. Throw in a little luck and just maybe you will someday create the perfect steed.
Ferrari knows this. The Italian automaker adheres to a similar formula when "breeding" its thoroughbred road cars. The combination of state-of-the-art racing technology, 50 years of production experience, millions upon millions of dollars and the desire to build the best possible sports car has resulted in the all-new F430.
From its 4.3-liter engine to its chassis' superior aerodynamics to its cutting-edge technologies (E-Diff, Manettino, F1 Cambio), every inch of the V8-engined berlinetta was derived from Ferrari's Gestione Sportive F1 racing division's engineering research. Even its seductive looks are the result of form following function; every curve, line and styling cue are a reflection of the car's exceptional engineering.
The F430 is powered by an all-new 4,308cc 90 V8. With 490 bhp on tap at 8500 rpm and 343 lb-ft of torque at 5250, the high-compression (11.3:1) flat-cranked eight-cylinder propels the 3,196-lb berlinetta from 0 to 62 mph in a mere 4 sec. And it does this while meeting Euro IV and LEV II emissions standards.
The extremely compact V8 is mated to either the classic open-gate manual gearbox or the F1 paddle-shifter, which has been improved to near perfection (it's even better than the 612's version), with gear changes now taking just 150 milliseconds. The gearbox's new software also allows for smoother shifts in automatic mode. One further refinement is the change from the "Superbowl-trophy" reverse lever to a simple push-button-the only downside is the continual backup warning beep.
One technical trait, and production first, that sets the F430 apart from its competition is the E-Diff (electronic differential). Used for years in F1 single-seaters, the system effectively transfers massive torque levels to the ground under extremely high cornering g-forces. On the F430, the E-Diff provides maximum grip out of the bends on a track and improves roadholding during "normal" street driving. The system continuously distributes torque between the driven wheels, with the actual amount transmitted depending upon driving conditions (accelerator pedal angle, steering angle, yaw acceleration and individual wheel rotation speed).
And it works: Compared to the 360 Modena, the E-Diff-equipped 430 reduced Fiorano laptimes by 3 sec. An improvement that isn't the result of the power increase alone. E-Diff is offered on both gearbox versions, with the manual using a different yet similar system.
That the E-Diff works so well is also a testament to the F430's adaptive suspension. It's forged aluminum double unequal-length wishbone setups, both front and rear, with anti-dive and anti-squat geometries are managed by new-generation software to provide the perfect balance between high-performance handling and comfort. The software's control logic adjusts the shocks' damping characteristics within a certain range based on the selected Manettino setting.
Manettino? Look closely at the image of the steering wheel. See the switch on the lower right-hand side? That's the Manettino, as it's called by the Scuderia Ferrari drivers. This switch quickly and simply controls the electronics governing the suspension settings, the CST stability and traction control, E-Diff and F1 transmission change speed, as well as the integration of these functions. There are five settings: Ice, Low Grip, Sport, Race and CST. The first two are self-explanatory. Sport is the standard setting for daily and open-road driving. Race mode is for the track and changes CST intervention to a minimum while maximizing gear-change times. The CST setting deactivates (or activates) stability and traction control, turning full control of the car's reactions over to the driver. All aids, expect ABS and EBD, are turned off. Gear-change speeds and damper settings are the same as in Race mode. CST's shorthand definition is the "Schuey" mode.
If you decide to throw caution (and a healthy dose of common sense) to the wind by deactivating CST, you should at least take comfort in the servo power steering, massive brakes and substantial rubber that are now completely in (or out of) your control. The steering feel is tight and direct; there is neither any extra play as with the Modena, nor a touch of the jitters as with the Challenge Stradale.
Four-pot calipers in Ferrari red clamp firmly on the vented and cross-drilled cast-iron discs, sized 330x32mm, on all four corners. Braking is swift and precise, as is the pedal feel. For those with an extra $14k or so, you can opt for the carbon-ceramic discs, sized 360x34mm in front with six-pot calipers, and 350x34mm with four-pot calipers in the rear. The ceramics increase brake longevity, allowing for at least 350 racing-speed laps at Fiorano. Alas, none of the press cars sported the ceramics so we didn't get the chance to verify that claim.
The huge rotors nearly fill the entire area of the 19-in. twin five-spoke wheels. High-performance tires, 225/35 front and 285/35 rear, ensure the Ferrari's all-aluminum chassis stays planted on the tarmac. (Note: Goodyear runflats are optional.) As with the Modena and the 612 Scaglietti, the F430's chassis is constructed at the Scaglietti factory in Modena. Spaceframe innovations have increased the F430's structural rigidity-in comparison to the 360 M-by 20% (torsion) and 8% (flexure). The result is an extremely tight chassis that has none of the bounce of the Stradale or the flex of the Modena.
Taking full advantage of the improved chassis rigidity, Ferrari's engineers and designers developed a body that modulates the airflow both around and under the car to great affect; its Cd is 0.33. The highly efficient configuration channels airflow for maximum downforce, as well as optimum brake, transmission and engine cooling. Every characteristic of Pininfarina's design (in collaboration with Ferrari's head designer Frank Stephenson) was wind-tunnel tested for aerodynamic efficacy. The two air intakes, inspired by the Phil Hill's championship-winning 156 F1; the vertically stacked headlights; the side air intakes; the Enzo-esque taillights; the integrated rear diffuser; all play a part in the F430's aerodynamic superiority.
Said superiority is also reflected in various styling details, both outside and in. Externally, your attention is drawn to the anodized aluminum tailpipes, the F430-embossed (and aerodynamically efficient) side mirrors, the engine bay's exquisite finish. On the inside, the surprisingly roomy cabin has everything you'd expect in a $188,000 supercar (estimated MSRP based on a 6% increase over the F1-equipped Modena).
The dashboard, instrument housing and center console have all been redesigned for improved driver ergonomics. The rev counter, which encompasses the selected gear readout and multi-function display, is in direct line of sight and features either a red or yellow background (recommendation: red car/yellow background). The leather dash is accented with either aluminum or carbon-fiber inserts.
There is ample storage areas, including electronically accessed compartments behind the electronically adjustable seats, which, in turn, have been redesigned for greater lateral support. There's even an in-dash CD sound system for when you tire of listening to the sweet, low-register rumble of the engine and the exhaust's deep burble, which we never did.
I spent a full day in the F430, either behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. My driving partner had an agenda that differed from the official program, and I was more than happy to tag along as it meant more seat time. We headed out of Maranello and straight for the Mille Miglia route, which took us up and over Passo Raticossa and Passo Futa.
But first we sat in an hour-long construction-caused traffic jam. The downtime gave us plenty of time to explore the Ferrari's sumptuous cabin. For such a high-tech car, the F430's control layout is welcomely simple. No layered screens, no multitude of tiny buttons, just well thought-out gauges, buttons and dials. Our press car was fitted with the optional carbon-fiber bucket seats, which fit me better than a Lycra-enhanced bodysuit and were much appreciated when we finally reached the twisty bits.
Traffic finally opened up on the autostrada and the F430 responded like a racehorse out of the gate. Whoosh, 0 to 62 in 4 sec., on up past 250 km/h (155+ mph) in a blink of an eye. There wasn't enough running room to reach the max speed of 315 km/h (195 mph), but we certainly came close a couple of times.
Once we reached the Mille Miglia route, all of the F430's Manettino components came into play. In Sport mode, the Ferrari swept through turn after turn with superior poise and balance. Corners were taken at speeds that should have proved the immutability of certain physical laws, but didn't.
The reworked F1 paddle-shifter was smooth, fast and easy to use. It even worked exceedingly well in automatic mode (activated via button on the lower center console), which I quickly exited, however, as the paddle-shifter was simply too much fun. Actually, everything on the F430 functioned exceedingly well. It's as though the raw power and exhilaration of the Challenge Stradale was cross-bred with the 360 Modena's refinements, creating a whole new and greatly superior animal.
The F430 exhibits the best traits race cars have to offer in conjunction with the most sophisticated characteristics of a superior road-going sports car. In short, the F430 is a thoroughbred (and thoroughly bred) supercar. As they say in the horsey set, "breeding will tell."