Currently reading: Ferrari's fightback
6 mins read
27 August 2004

A new Ferrari, a new number. The 360 Modena will next year make way for the F430 which, shown today for the first time, is charged with no mean task; to put Ferrari back on the top of the junior supercar pile.

Never before has the company faced such strong competition, not only from established rivals such as Porsche and Lamborghini, but from a revitalised Aston Martin and even from Mercedes with its ever-more powerful AMG models. In time there will be competition from McLaren, with its P8 supercar, and Audi, too. But the most relevant challenger has been the Lamborghini Gallardo, whose 492bhp upstages the 360’s 400bhp. Ferrari has fought back with the desirable 360 Challenge Stradale, but the comprehensive rework that turns the five-year-old 360 into the 430 is the real answer.

Design & engineering

These official pictures – published first in Autocar – confirm that Pininfarina hasn’t lost its ability to build attractive Ferraris, a skill called into question after the 612 Scaglietti was unveiled last year. The F430 is a gentle evolution of the 360, the differences lying mainly in the detail shape of its air intakes, the length of its rear deck and the sculpting of its diffuser. Two giant oval inlets dominate the nose, a pair of back-swept headlights replacing the previous horizontally arranged units, while the side profile is punctuated by two pairs of reshaped scoops feeding air to the engine and rear brakes. At the back the F430 features the classic circular rear lamps that grace so many Ferraris, while the V8 lies beneath a longer glass engine cover that is part of a lengthier tail section.

Aerodynamic requirements have driven much of this redesign, the longer tail lowering drag and lift, while the resculpted vents should cool the engine and brakes more effectively. The flat underbody of the 360 remains, but the rear diffuser has been revised to improve high-speed stability.

The longer tail adds 35mm to the car’s length, but width grows by just a millimetre, and its height is unchanged. The 430 weighs more, though, gaining 60kg to a total of 1450kg.

Engine & transmission

The biggest news under the skin is the arrival of an all-new engine, derived from the same 90deg V8 that powers the Maserati Coupé and Spyder. The Ferrari’s V8 has a slightly larger capacity of 4308cc, achieved through a longer stroke of 81mm, but they share a 92mm bore. Both are built at the recently upgraded engine plant in Maranello.

However, don’t assume that the two engines are identical – the technical data Ferrari has released so far indicates very different characteristics, the result of significant mechanical changes. The 430 unit employs a flat-plane crankshaft conducive to higher revs, as demonstrated by maximum power of 483bhp that arrives at a heady 8500rpm; a configuration that also contributes to the Ferrari’s distinctive high-rev shriek. The 430 provides 83bhp more than the outgoing 360 Modena, and nearly 100bhp more than the Maserati engine. Maximum torque is 343lb ft at 5250rpm, while specific output is an impressive 112bhp per litre.

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But the best performance indicator is its power-to-weight ratio which, at 333bhp per tonne, certainly eclipses the 246bhp of Porsche’s new 911 Turbo – as well as the Gallardo’s 324bhp per tonne.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the F430, while an automated F1 paddle-shift transmission is optional. Ferrari has improved the shift quality on this latest generation with an upgraded clutch and more sophisticated software, and gearchanges now take just 150 milliseconds. Although the manual will remain a favourite among some enthusiasts, the F1 option is chosen by three-quarters of 360 Modena buyers.

Chassis & brakes

A major chassis development is the introduction of an active limited slip differential – called E-Diff – for the first time in a Ferrari. Its electronics monitor driver inputs, wheel slip, yaw and more to determine how much power to apportion to each rear wheel, with the aim of making the 430 an extremely forgiving car on the limit of adhesion. Similar technology is used by Mitsubishi in the Evo VIII, and it is likely to make the 430’s handling entertaining and relatively foolproof.

As with the 360, the F430 body structure consists of a very stiff aluminium chassis clothed in lightweight alloy body panels. Full suspension details have yet to be released, but the fundamental hardware is the same – double wishbones and coil springs – with the addition of electronically variable Skyhook dampers. Steering is still rack and pinion, but geometry and assistance have been retuned.

The 430 has conventional ventilated discs, but carbon ceramic items are options, capitalising on experience gained from the Enzo, 360 Challenge Stradale and 575 GTC. Performance

The F430 is blisteringly fast. Despite being the entry point to the Ferrari range, it will run close to 200mph and accelerates more quickly than anything else in the current production line-up bar the Enzo.

Official headline figures are a maximum speed ‘in excess of’ 196mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.0sec – which means less to 60mph. That kind of performance shades rivals from both Sant’Agata and Stuttgart.

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But such ability presents a new problem for Ferrari: if its junior supercar can out-sprint its flagship 575M (0-62mph in 4.2sec), then how can the range-topper justify its £156,700 price?

This is a new conundrum for Ferrari’s product planners – not to mention those from other supercar makers – who are faced with managing the convergence of supercar performance figures across their model ranges. A sub 4.0sec 0-60mph time and a top speed of around 200mph are becoming the norm. As a result, the extra horsepower, cooling, braking, downforce and weight required to substantially improve on this are considerable, as demonstrated by the forthcoming Bugatti Veyron.

Interior & equipment

The F430’s cabin mixes traditional Ferrari design with Formula One technology, as pioneered by the Enzo, but there is a greater emphasis on quality and detailing than before. This is the initiative of Ferrari design chief Frank Stephenson, who aims ‘to take our cars to a new, higher level of design quality, to give them the fit and finish and the materials quality that people appreciate in German cars’. Most striking is the steering wheel, which carries not only the starter but also a knob that controls five dynamic settings. Drivers can choose from sports, winter and race settings to tune the car’s traction control, gearshifts and throttle response. It’s known as the ‘manettino’, and 430 owners will doubtless savour the fact that Michael Schumacher uses a similar switch in his F1 car. The sporting tone is reinforced by alloy pedals and an instrument pack dominated by a large rev counter, its flanking speedo running to 360km/h, or 224mph. Interior accommodation is essentially as for the outgoing 360’s, which means ample space for two occupants and reasonable luggage space in the nose and behind the seats. Marketing & production

The F430 will appear for the first time at the Paris Motor Show in September, but sales aren’t due to start until next spring. Ferrari has already flown small numbers of buyers to Maranello to see the car, although UK right-hand-drive production won’t start until the first half of 2005.

The Berlinetta coupé pictured here is the only F430 to have been shown so far, but a Spider convertible will follow, probably later in 2005. Today’s £114,650 360 Spider will be sold alongside the coupé until then, as will the £135,475 Challenge Stradale.

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At this stage Ferrari officials won’t talk about prices, but Autocar has learned that new Ferrari boss Jean Todt is considering sweeping rises across the range. Two separate sources say that Ferrari has looked at long waiting lists around the world and is looking at price increases to balance supply with demand, and reinforce the exclusivity of Ferrari in the face of growing activity in the supercar field.

So, expect the F430 Berlinetta to cost at least £110k – about £5000 more than the 360. But that higher price is unlikely to dull the allure of this potent new Ferrari.

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