The days when Ferrari and Lamborghini were the sole, unquestionable, untouchable owners of the “supercar” moniker are gone. The Carrera GT’s clutch may have permanently besmirched Porsche’s “everyday supercar” rep, but the roadster's at least as dramatic as Maranello’s magic mounts. The SLR may be a dour machine driven by a brain-dead debutante, but the scissor-doored McMerc still has supercar written all over it. And those pesky Americans keep doing things to the Corvette that increase its credibility in the field of extreme machines. So is the “entry level” Ferrari F430 becoming a little, uh, pedestrian?
What are you nuts? One look at Ferrari F430 and it tattoos the word “supercar” on your retinas. While taller and hunkier than previous Dino-descended mid-engined mounts, the F430’s Pininfarina-penned lines possesses the kind of purity of line associated with High Renaissance art. Unlike its in-house stable mates and Bologna-born competition, the F430’s mid-engine proportions and curvilinear contours are quintessentially Italian, quintessentially super.
I didn’t need to tell you that. But the F430’s interior is something of a shock, a radical departure from Enzo’s philosophy of selling his customers an engine and throwing the car in for free. It's a sacred place, blessed with first-class materials arranged with minimalist purity. Credit is due to the optional “carbon fiber driving zone” and its F1-inspired tiller. Though silly at first, the little red hash at the twelve o’ clock position provides entirely useful Pavlovian conditioning (for a mere five grand).
Yes there are elegant details, but the stunning gauges are all, as befits a cockpit that places the pleasure of driving in the premier position. Taken as a whole, the F430’s sumptuous leather-wrapped interior feels like a stripped down racer. The engine-under-glass effect underlines the point. The branded induction system is the automotive equivalent of a brace of elephant guns gleaming in Hemingway’s weapons case: immaculately oiled, ready for action.
Firing-up the F430’s 4.3-liter V8 is like watching the opening scene of a James Bond movie: predictably ridiculous, yet giddy-making in its promise of extreme violence. Engage the F1-style gearbox and you’re away. A. Long. Way. Away. Calling the F430 fast is like calling Miss America determined. Zero to sixty is a sub-four second experience of mammoth, manic intensity; it’s like being shot of a cannon into a black hole. The dual-stage exhaust goes from a martini-soaked Frank Sinatra to a cocaine-crazed Richard Patrick in less time than it takes to crank a stereo knob.
The F360 Modena was a high-revving beast whose blood curdling howls were the mother of adrenal acceleration. The F430 is a different animal entirely, endowed with Corvette-worthy low-end grunt. Those eight little Italian cylinders stump-up 343 ft-lbs of truck-like torque, taking the sauce all the way to 483hp, at a [still] preposterous 8500 rpm. Trundle around town? Si, we do that too. Bend time? That too.
The Ferrari’s F1 transmission is proof that racing improves the breed. The original system was a herky jerky joke. By now, the paddle shift transmission is as good as if not better than VW’s DSG. The F430’s manumatic engages the clutch with balletic grace– or NHL savagery. The F430 gently whisked me from the daily grind and gawking SUV owners. If Jimi Hendrix was reincarnated as a gearbox, I’d be standing next to his Fire.
That’s because the F430 is a Little Wing on four massive 19” wheels. Thanks to an impeccably tuned suspension, meticulously selected ratios and Satan’s own powerband, the pace is fervid, the progress distraction-free. A little seat time quickly confirms Lamborghini’s German intervention was the wrong move. Without question.
The Italian F430 is opera to the Gallardo's heavy metal. The Gallardo is a weapon, but the F430 is the pinnacle of pistonhead performance pleasure. Even with rapid steering inputs, the G-forces build gently, effortlessly pushing you against its retro-Daytona seats. The steering feedback is so honest you’d think Simon Cowell is behind the headlights. This Detroit-fettled enthusiast will never forget that wonderful Saturday afternoon; the F430’s effortless rush makes exiting any bend a wake-up call for geographically biased automotive snobs.
Hell, even the Italian's electronic nannies have a unique, Ferrari themed persona. Never isolating and nebulous, the handling interferenza is as customer savvy as a concierge at the Waldorf-Astoria. That said, the F430's [optional] ceramic brakes' linear stopping and progressive punch leaves little need for computerized intervention.
I have never been so hardwired to a machine before; if Ferrari had an online dating service, Match.com would be screwed (so to speak). Yes, there are faster cars. Certainly, there are more luxurious cars. Reliable? Ha! But provided it’s not in the shop, the Ferrari F430 always delights, with its sublime handling, perfect mid-corner power and a roar that echoes in your mind for the rest of your years.
[Thanks to Dr. Robert Scholl for providing the vehicle reviewed]