First Drive
Ferrari F430 Scuderia
Faster, Lighter, Louder
As fitting a name as Scuderia is, being Italian for stable and the nomenclature for Ferrari's racing division (Scuderia Ferrari), F430 Schumacher could have been equally appropriate, given that the record seven-time F1 champ offered his go-fast mojo throughout the project. The result is the quickest, most technically sophisticated V8-powered berlinetta ever. More than just a leaner version of the F430, the Scuderia showcases the latest performance wizardry and F1 technology Ferrari has to offer. Think of the car more as a V8-powered Enzo than a stripped-down 430. During factory testing at Fiorano, Ferrari's own 1.8-mile test facility, the Scuderia lapped in 1 minute and 25 seconds, two full seconds ahead of the F430 and, impressively, tying with the million-dollar V12 Enzo, which had previously held the track record for a road car.

Squeezing these performance gains from the standard F430 and its already venerable 4.3-liter DOHC powerplant consisted of a complete re-tuning. Thanks to a revised, better-flowing carbon fiber intake, new pistons increasing compression to 11.75:1 (up from 11.3:1) and a new lightweight twin-pipe exhaust, the engine now breathes easier and stronger with 503 hp at 8500 rpm, showing an increase of 20 hp. Torque also goes up with a total output of 347 lb-ft at 5250 rpm. Areas such as ignition spark and engine management were also tweaked for better overall response.

Thanks to the increase in compression and the improved breathing, throttle response is immediate and the power feels healthier. The re-tuned twin pipes emit a charismatic sound, both deep and rich, with less restrictive air flow. Its bark is also somewhat louder.

The upper end is seemingly limitless, even around the lofty 8500 peak, but the torque really kicks in when mashing the pedal between 4000 and 6000 rpm. Ferrari claims the Scuderia will sprint from standstill to 60mph in a mere 3.5 seconds and it's one hell of a rush getting there. Eleven seconds is all that's required to hit 125mph and top speed is just below 200.

Braking performance is about as good as it gets, aided by giant 15.7-inch ceramic-composite front rotors with six-piston calipers. Ample traction to the pavement is provided by Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires, measuring 235/35ZR19 in front and 285/35ZR19 at the rear.

Perhaps the most welcome and marked improvement is with F1 sequential manual SuperFast2 gearbox. Whereas the former SuperFast set-up in the F430 changes gears at 150 milliseconds, the new system swaps away in as little as 60 milliseconds-or up to 2.5 times quicker. Just a wink off a genuine F1unit, which takes only 30 to 40ms.

The shifting experience is mind-boggling, allowing lightning-fast changes when hard in the throttle, or more relaxed swaps when driving conservatively. The manettino(adjustment dial) offers calibration of the drive-by-wire throttle, as well as managing traction and stability controls.

When engaged, the system (integrated with the E-Diff electronically controlled differential) effectively modulates throttle input and maximizes traction, especially notable through the corners. Just point the car, nail the throttle and the system does the rest. In addition to Race and Sport settings, the recalibrated system offers settings for normal driving, as well as a new CT position that turns off traction control completely, but still maintains stability control, while the final CST position removes all electronic aids except for ABS.

As one would expect from a factory lightweight, tons of unnecessary weight was eliminated for improved power-to-weight efficiency. Where creature comforts such as carpeting, sound deadening and the audio system were simply tossed out, Maranello engineers found other weight savings via lightweight titanium suspension springs, slimmer dampers, hollow anti-roll bars, lighter wheels and feather-light titanium lug nuts. Even certain accessory brackets were re-machined for reduced weight. If an ounce or two could be saved, it was done-absolutely nothing was overlooked.

Various carbon fiber components contribute to additional weight saving, including air filter boxes, door panels, seats, mirrors, door panels and the rear wing. The tunnel and bulkhead are also carbon fiber, which further provide increased structural strength. These modifications shaved over 220 pounds from the Scuderia, which has a curb weight of 2975 pounds.

Visually, the twin-striped Scuderia looks remarkably similar to the 430, apart from redesigned front and rear fascias and rocker panels, plus a few smaller details, like the addition of front air intake grilles.

The chance to pedal the Scuderia personally around Fiorano turns bitter sweet as rain clouds move in and cover the track with water. Ferrari test driver, Marc Gene, assures me that the car's F1-Trac traction and stability control will do its job, providing high-speed straight-line stability with confidence-building cornering and braking with more grip and continuous power than one would imagine under the conditions. It's easy to accelerate up to triple-digit speeds in the straights and toss the car in and out of the turns.

Fortunately, the rain clears for my drive on the scenic, winding roads high above Maranello and through the Modena countryside. Weaving my way through the switchbacks and hairpins and hearing the raaappp, praapp, praapp of the engine as I throttle and paddle-shift away, I notice an old man hobbling along with a cane, so I slow to a crawl, only to see him raise a hand to his ear as a sign of approval.

For street use, the Scuderia is surprisingly comfortable given its ultra-rigid chassis, even along uneven and bumpy surfaces. The lightweight carbon fiber seat absorbs just enough of the pavement to allow proper feedback without excessive jarring or jolting.

Using the multi-position switch on the steering wheel, changing driving mode to the normal setting provides a bit more comfort for the longer hauls, while remaining extraordinarily responsive.

Crank the wheel and the car sticks in the corners with guided precision and without the slight understeer of the F430. Though not quite as sharp as the Porsche GT3, steering turn-in and response is excellent, thanks in part to a lighter front end. The Scuderia enjoys a well balanced 47/53 front/rear weight split.

While the Enzo and limited-series FXX remain ultimate expressions of what Ferrari has accomplished from years of F1 domination, the technological performance enhancements and user-friendliness of the F430 Scuderia is refreshing and appealing. At $250,000 a pop, Ferrari plans to deliver a minimum of 250 to American showrooms by spring. Sadly, all have been spoken for.

2008 Ferrari F430 Scuderia

*Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive

*Engine
4.3-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve

*Transmission
Six-speed sequential manual

*Suspension
Control arms, coil springs (f & r)

*Brakes
Vented carbon-ceramic discs, ABS

*Dimensions
Length/Width/Height(in.):177.6/75.7/47.2Curb Weight: 2975 lb

*Performance
503 hp @ 8500 rpm347 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm

*What we like:
Brilliant to drive and a technological marvel

*What we don't:
Waiting for one sucks

The Price Tag:
$250,000(est)

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