So perhaps it’s just pure logic that the all-new baby Ferrari is, in fact, a monster; a road-rocket of a supercar if ever there was one. Just how fast is it? How does three seconds quicker than a 360 Modena around Ferrari’s own short track at Fiorano grab you? Or three seconds faster from 0-125mph-0. Or, if you want the figures in their purest form: 0-60mph in 3.9sec, 0-100mph in under nine seconds, zero to one kilometre in 21.6sec and at least 196mph flat out.
Not that any such numbers can prepare you for what the F430 feels like when you let rip in it for the very first time. This is a car that will leave you breathless and giddy should you find the right piece of road on which to open the throttle wide and hold it there for more than 10 seconds; a car that’s so vivid in character you can’t help but be knocked sideways by it to begin with. Yet it’s also a car that is way, way better than its predecessor in every conceivable dynamic dimension. Given how highly the 360 Modena was regarded both by its owners and its critics, this is no small achievement.
According to its creators the F430 is at least 70 per cent new compared with the 360. It has a new engine, a new F1 gearbox, a new diff and a brand-new chassis. And although the styling is obviously reminiscent of the 360M’s, in reality it’s pretty much a ground-up design. Only the bonnet, doors and roof are carried over; the rest, even the door mirrors, is all new and largely the work of Pininfarina, overseen by Ferrari’s eminently likable design chief Frank Stephenson.
‘It’s scary to see the evolution of almost everything on earth today,’ says Jean Todt over lunch when talking about the first all-new Ferrari road car to have been launched under his leadership at Maranello. Grand prix team chief Todt took over the day-to-day running of all things Ferrari (including the road cars) when Luca di Montezemolo went to assume greater things within Italian industry earlier this year; and he was answering the inevitable ‘where will it all end’ question which cropped up a few times that day.
‘Look, in 1996 in F1 we had 600bhp from an engine that weighed 140kg,’ says Todt. ‘Now we have almost 900bhp from an engine that weighs about 90kg. Our road cars have developed at a similar level in the same period. Yet with modern driver aids this is okay because now everyone can use the performance.’ (So long as they have a spare 120 big ones with which to buy a supercar, Jean.)
However, if they have, then the F430 really is quite some place in which to put that kind of money. We’ll come to the more intimate aspects of the way it drives in a while, but first let’s savour some of the car’s technical details.
Like its brand-new V8 engine. The F430 is a distant descendent of the 308 GT4 of the ’70s, but it would not be until the 1989 348tb that the engine was arranged in a north-south configuration, with the gearbox mounted end-on towards the centre of the car. This time there’s a new block of 4308cc (hence the name F430) and, as intimated, more power and torque than a 308 owner could ever have imagined possible.
Quite clearly Ferrari does not like the fact that its age-old rival up the road in Sant’Agata has produced a car with more muscle than the 360 Modena yet at a similar size and price. The result is that Ferrari decided the old block had had its day because it could not produce enough power reliably. In its place is a thunderous new 483bhp flat-crank version of the V8 that appears in the Maserati Coupé.
The relationship between the Maserati and Ferrari engines is distant to say the least and Ferrari now claims that the two units are, in fact, not related at all. Yet when Maserati introduced its new V8 some years ago we were told quite clearly that it would form the basis of the next Ferrari V8, so you can’t have it both ways folks. Fact is, they are produced on the same line and use the same basic cylinder block and share what Ferrari describes only as ‘industrial commonality’.