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.