Looking at the sheer power, performance and complexity of the astonishing new Ferrari F430, you do wonder when, or indeed if, it will ever come to an end, this seemingly insatiable quest for bigger, better and barmier cars that we suffer from nowadays. As from next February the F430 will become Ferrari’s cheapest and least-well-endowed car. Yet at £117,500 and with 483bhp you could hardly call it an entry-level machine. It will, for example, out-accelerate and have more power than the once mighty F40 which, not much more than a decade ago, was famous for being Ferrari’s fastest-ever road car.
But maybe Ferrari needed to up its game, needed to react, if only to avoid being made to look, well, a bit like Eddie Jordan does in F1 nowadays. Think about it: at the moment we live in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world in which our automobiles must become faster and better by the hour if they are to sustain our attention. And nowhere is the rate of progress more ferocious than in the arena of supercars.
Hence we now have a production Ford that will easily top 200mph (the GT), a range of Lamborghinis that has redefined the genre over recent years and countless rivals from Porsche, BMW and Mercedes (not to mention McLaren, Pagani or Bugatti), all of which have seriously ruffled Ferrari lately.
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.)