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Just thought I would post this.....

Driving The New
Ferrari F430
by Jim Kenzie

Maranello's new 490-horsepower, V8-powered F430 becomes the least expensive Ferrari, but it might just also be the most desirable.

Overall rating: 9.5 / 10

- Race-car performance with road-car accessibility
- Stunning presence
- A brand name that means never having to say you're sorry

- Rear visibility
- Exhaust note not as Ferrari-like as you might expect
- Limited practicality

More Maranello Magic
Ferrari - the name sounds as good rolling off the tongue as the cars do rolling down a race track, or an open road.

In the F430, the so-far geographical-name-free successor to the F360 Modena berlinetta, Ferrari has got it mostly right.

(Yes, berlinetta - Italian for "coupe" - only, for the moment; the F430 Spider is still a year or so away. And yes, rumours persist that the F430 will get a geographical nickname somewhere along the line. Early line betting favourites are "Fiorano", after Ferrari's in-house Formula One test track, or "Monza", home of the Italian Grand Prix.)

Formula One Benefits
Giuseppe Bonollo, Director of Product Strategy for Ferrari, said the objectives for this car were to continue the transfer of Formula One technology to road-going cars, to introduce a new V8 engine, to make ultra-high performance more attainable and safer for customers, and to build on the success of the outgoing F360.

That car sold some 10,000 copies in six years, and earned the highest satisfaction rating of any Ferrari in history.

The F430 goes on sale in North America next March. Prices haven't been set yet, but Bonollo said it will be between five and six per cent more expensive than the current F360, which starts at just over $200,000 CDN.

The F430 isn't quite an all-new car. Patrizio Moruzzi, team leader for the eight-cylinder Ferraris, said 70 per cent of the parts are new or significantly changed, chief among which are all exterior body panels except the hood, a completely new interior, the new V8 engine, the heavily revised transmission and the electronic differential.

Carry-over bits include the windshield and side glass, most of the suspension and steering components, the internal door structures and the aluminium chassis, although it has been reinforced to increase torsional and bending rigidity by 20 and eight per cent respectively, and to improve crash safety.

Pininfarina handled the styling, under the guidance of Ferrari's new (and first) head of design, Frank Stephenson, who previously penned the new Mini.

The F430 starts with the basic outline of the F360 Modena, but adds inspiration from other Ferraris, old and new. The double-nostril front grille recalls the "shark nose" 156-type Ferrari Formula One car which Phil Hill drove to the world championship in 1961 (and, it must be said, it also looks like the most recent Porsche 911 Turbo).

The more pronounced rear haunches with big air intakes are reminiscent of the 250 LM Le Mans racers of the mid->60s, while the rear end, with two pairs of tubular taillights, deck-lid spoiler (only Ferrari appears to call this a "nolder") and huge air diffuser, is an almost-direct lift from the Enzo supercar.

An All-New V8
As in all Ferraris, the engine deserves the most attention. Bore and stroke of 92 x 81 mm yield 4308 cc. Four camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, an 11.3:1 compression ratio, a variable intake manifold, and two separate Bosch engine management systems, one for each bank and each with its own drive-by wire electronic throttle, conspire to produce a stunning 490 horsepower at 8500 rpm - 23 per cent (ninety horsepower) more than the F360 - and 465 Newton-metres of torque, peaking at 5200 rpm.

Don't let the lofty torque peak rpm fool you: 80 per cent of this value is on tap from 3500 rpm onwards.

Dry sump lubrication and four knock sensors help ensure this highly-tuned engine survives; it also emits less pollution than the F360, having been certified to the tighter U.S. LEV II standard, versus LEV I.

Unique to this V8 - in a road-going car anyway - is a flat crankshaft; the "throws" where the connecting roads are, well, connected, are all in the same plane. In effect, this is two inline four-cylinder engines bolted onto a common crankcase. This arrangement improves intake and exhaust flow, thereby creating higher output.

The engine sits longitudinally behind the passenger compartment, is fully visible beneath the rear window, and drives the rear wheels through a six-speed transmission.

New Systems
The "F1" paddle-shifted gearbox, fitted to over 80 per cent of current Ferraris, now has a twin-disc clutch which helps deliver shifts that are at once faster and smoother. The automatic function is particularly improved for those times when you really don't want to play silly-bugger/boy racer. This is part of Ferrari's on-going effort to make their cars everyday transportation, not just toys for Sunday mornings.

And the goofy little tee-handle toggle switch to select reverse has been replaced with a simple push button, in response to customer feedback, not to mention whining by the press.

A conventional open-gated six-speed manual gearbox is still available for the hard-nosed (hard-headed?) traditionalists.

The electronic differential - universally referred to internally as E-Diff - can transmit up to 100 per cent of the torque to either wheel, as driving conditions demand.

A significant component of the new interior is the manettino, a rotary switch located on the steering wheel, made from the same high-quality anodized aluminium as the switches in Michael Schumacher's Formula One race car, by which the driver can select one of five driving programs - Ice, Low Grip, Sport, Race or CST-OFF CST standing here for "Control for Stability and Traction", Ferrari's nomenclature for directional stability control.

These programs progressively raise transmission shift speed, shock damper settings, and the activation threshold for the CST in integrated fashion - one switch does it all.

Of course, the last setting switches off ABS and the CST altogether, for extreme track-day-only use.

Keeping all this potency under control is a revised brake system, with a new cast iron alloy for the rotors and better cooling.

Optional for the first time on the "entry-level" Ferrari are ceramic-carbon brakes, designed to last about 350 laps of Fiorano - i.e., darn-near forever in real-world driving.

A new alloy for the ceramic rotors, developed by Italian race-brake manufacturer Brembo in conjunction with Ferrari, eliminates one of the major drawbacks typically associated with this technology - these brakes don't need to be warmed up before they become effective.

The other drawback? They cost $14,000 US as an option (the Canadian price hasn't been established at time of writing). What the heck; if you can afford the car...

Fabulous Italian Roads
I claimed the first F430 in the line-up outside Mr. Ferrari's former office - a bright yellow one. (Aren't we all a bit tired of red Ferraris? No? OK, maybe not...).

Climbing in requires a bit of agility, especially with the highly-bolstered (optional) sports seats in my tester. It also had the yellow faceplate on the tach (red is the alternative) and carbon fibre trim pieces (the other choice is aluminium).

The seat is remarkable for its comfort given the level of support and relative lack of adjustability. But once settled, you can forget about seeing anything behind you. The huge rear roof buttresses and the distortion from the glass engine cover mean you might as well look straight ahead: Which is sort of the point in a car like this.

The engine start button, also on the steering wheel, prods the V8 into life.

But wait - this can't be a Ferrari. The exhaust note is harsh, flat, blatty. Where's that piercing, keening sound we've come to know and love?

This is the downside of the flat crankshaft mentioned earlier - the sequence of the firing pulses results in this unusual noise. I don't know why this car doesn't sound as sweet as other V8 Ferraris. Maybe the increased displacement has something to do with it. Or maybe our aural memories are those of the V12 Ferraris.

The sound didn't stop me from matting the gas pedal driving through the tunnel underneath the race track, though. It may not sound like a Ferrari, but it sure is loud. We keep hearing about these European drive-by noise standards; if this car meets them, they can't be that tough.

Tootling through the town of Maranello, I left the car in its boring, urban configuration - soft suspension (Low Grip on the manettino and automatic shift program - as if a Ferrari could ever be boring. In this mode the shifting is much smoother than before, although still not as slick as a pure automatic.

The steering felt almost too light, with no feel. Had they dumbed this car down too much?

Just outside Vignola, I made a right-hand turn onto a surprisingly empty (by central Italy standards) narrow blacktop jewel heading towards Castello di Serravalle. I flicked the manettino to Sport, and nailed it. The character of the car, and, I must say, of my driving, changed immediately.

The forward thrust of the engine and the instantaneous upshifts of the gearbox, activated by the slightest touch of the right middle finger, are as close as mere mortals are likely to come to what Schumi does for a living.


And if you don't downshift (left middle finger) when you perhaps should, no big whoop - the fat torque curve bails you out, and hauls the car along, no matter what gear you're in.

They hadn't told me that my car had the ceramic brakes. If they had, I might have been a bit more circumspect about hammering on them for the first sharp right-hander that I was approaching >way too fast.

Too late to warm them up now...

No worries. A few chirps from the Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires (225/3519 front, 285/3519 rear), a quick flick of the steering, which by now had weighted up beautifully, and the corner - rather than the car and me - was toast.

The car responded like this for the rest of the road drive. Whatever I threw at it, it devoured.

As stalwart as the car's dynamic performance was, it might have been the ride quality and solidity that were most impressive, although we'll have to wait to see if it can handle the legendary Canadian potholes the way it handles rural Italian pavement.

And a Legendary Race Track
Back at Fiorano, we were asked to limit our sessions to three laps at a time, so each of the assembled scribes could have a fair shot at the car. So, Schumi's times - said to be three seconds faster in the F430 than a F360 Modena - were in no peril ha ha ha.

We could wring the car out a bit harder here, with less chance of embedding a Fiat Panda in the air intake. I tried Race mode here, and for sure, it does let the car hang its tail out a bit further before the nanny technology metaphorically slaps your wrist.

The objective here is to see if you can drive just under the activation threshold - keep the car nicely sideways, without having the CST come on. I almost got it right a couple of times.

Not wanting to be the guy who stuffed or spun an F430 (one of my American colleagues took that honour) I didn't try the CST-OFF mode - Fiorano is a very technical and unforgiving track, and the surface was getting a bit slippery in spots.

As may be obvious from the foregoing, the Ferrari F430 is simply a sensational car. It takes the outstanding levels of performance of the F360 Modena to a new level, yet does it with more comfort, style and safety than its predecessor.

OK, there's nowhere to put much more than a thin brief case behind the seats. The luggage space up front is also limited. You can't see out the back. And there's that exhaust note.

You'd still be hard-pressed to find a more capable, more desirable, more exciting sports car.

Even if you can't drive it to Castello di Serravalle.
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