Whether it’s Formula One or on the streets, Ferrari is synonymous with fast. And clearly this new F430 holds true to that rule. With nearly 90 horsepower more than the 360 Modena, the F430 screams ultra high performance even at a standstill. From its clear engine cover proudly displaying a powerful V8, to its racy coupe or open top spider body style, it’s no wonder that the F430 ended up on our Drivers’ Choice Dream Car winner’s list. But driving it is the real dream.
If there ever was a sports car intended to star in a driving enthusiast’s exotic dreams, it would be the 2006 Ferrari F430. An almost all-new evolution of the 360 Modena, the mid-engine F430 is built on a stiffer aluminum space frame chassis with a tight 102.4-inch wheelbase and wrapped in a muscular body shaped by the aerodynamic experiences of Formula One.
From the aggressive shark-nose front, complete with enlarged air intakes and center spoiler, to the high-set rear fender scoops and massive rear diffuser, this is clearly a car designed to work with the air rather than against it.
And its sole motivation is a beautiful 4.3-liter dual-overhead-cam all-aluminum dry-sump V8 engine. With variable intake and cam timing, it delivers 483 seamless horsepower, 22% more prancing horses than the 360, and 343 pound-feet of torque.
A new twin-plate clutch bridges to either a 6-speed manual, or as in our car, the latest version of Ferrari’s 6-speed sequential shift gearbox with its F1-style paddle shifters.
New software has cut shift times, and almost totally eliminated the harshness that Ferrari fans have long excused as “character.”
Also new is a steering wheel mounted switch that selects five preset maps, including Snow and Race, that control everything from shock settings, engine response, traction and stability control, to the electronic limited-slip differential.
From its first lap at Georgia’s Roebling Road Raceway, the F430 drivetrain amazed us with its stunning combination of brute force and flexibility. Punch the gas pedal, and the 430 rockets to 60 in only 3.5 seconds, and through the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 120 miles per hour. Power hits hard from less than 3,000 rpm, and pulls like a space shuttle booster all the way to the 8,500 rpm redline. Full throttle shifts are sharp and firm, while downshifts are silky smooth with a perfect blip of the throttle.
But that’s only part of the F430 experience. The prancing horse has always excelled in the corners, and the F430 is well equipped with its computer augmented A-arm suspension. Turn into any corner, and the variable-rate power rack-and-pinion steering responds with go-kart quickness.
The front end feels a bit nervous until the tires warm up, but then the combination of hot rubber and aerodynamic down-force glues it to the track. Chassis balance is near perfect, with just a touch of understeer at mid-corner. Sharp throttle inputs will cause the back end to break loose, but recovery is only a gentle flick of the wheel away.
Like all Ferraris, the 430 is a car that demands finesse and total concentration, but rewards the effort with stunning corner speeds, and when it has to shed that speed clamps down on the optional carbon-ceramic brakes, which scrub off velocity with impressive power and feel.
But if your driving environment is more street than track, you will still be impressed with the F430’s performance. The ride is very firm, but without the sharp edge of many previous Ferrari efforts. In this way it is also much like the Enzo. And the transmission’s fully automatic mode is without the jerks and stumbles that once made slow traffic an embarrassment.
And after all that, there’s still the joy of just looking at the F430! Its voluptuous curves have that organic and emotional styling unique to Italian car builders.
The F430’s interior reflects that same high-style Euro feel; fine leather and carbon fiber in a perfect blend of modern and traditional. And while the F430 may be only a hair under 49 inches tall, the 2-seat cabin is surprisingly roomy.
seats are also quite comfortable, though owners headed for the track will want the increased side support of the optional sport seats.
Now, the price of such beauty and performance is $171,000. And that’s before you add in options like the $14,300 ceramic brakes or the almost 5-grand of gas guzzler tax.
Yes, the 2006 Ferrari F430 is extravagant and expensive to be sure. But it’s also one of the most incredible driving experiences available for any price. A car that involves head, heart and soul, it is an automotive dream come true.
Engine: 4.3-Liter Dual-overhead-cam All-aluminum Dry-sump V8
Torque: 343 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 3.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 11.7 Seconds @ 120 MPH