Ferrari F430 (2005 - 2009) review

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introduction

Ferrari is a company unaccustomed to second best. Awash with money, it will stop at nothing to achieve superiority. The trouble is, there's a very well bankrolled outfit just down the road called Lamborghini who have proven something of a meddlesome irritant to Ferrari. Their Gallardo comprehensively aced Ferrari's 360 but the senior suits at Maranello put on their best poker faces and observed the omert. When it was finally unveiled, their F430 was quite some riposte. Some vehicles are stress-free buys second time round but Ferraris rarely fall into that category. Is a used F430 a viable proposition or merely a diverting way of setting banknotes aflame?

Models

Models Covered: (2 dr supercar 4.3 litre petrol [Coupe, Spider])

History

Before the F430 arrived in the UK in 2005, the 492bhp Lamborghini Gallardo was making its predecessor, the 360, look rather quaint and even the racy 360 Challenge Stradale version was launched only just in time to be battered into submission by Ford's GT supercar. The problem Ferrari faced was that unlike, say, Porsche they couldn't turn up the wick on a turbocharger to release a mountain of extra horsepower. The 360's 3.6-litre normally aspirated engine was already squeezed until the pips squeaked to produce 400bhp. The company knew that the answer lay in more capacity. The F430 - as the name suggests - features a 4308cc engine derived from that which powers the Maserati Coupe and Spyder models. Like its predecessor, it employs a flat-plane crankshaft which means that the peak power of 483bhp comes at a heady 8,500rpm, in turn guaranteeing one of the greatest automotive soundtracks in the world. Lessons learned in the development of the 360 Challenge Stradale also pared weight from the F430 body with the result being a power to weight ratio of 333bhp per tonne. This put the Gallardo (324bhp per tonne) and the Porsche 911 Turbo (246bhp per tonne) firmly in their places. Unveiled at the 2004 Paris Show, the F430 was initially only available in Coupe guise but a Spider version appeared at the following year's Geneva Auto Salon.

What You Get

The aluminium chassis is draped in lightweight alloy body panels. Carbon ceramic brakes are offered as an option and many 360 details remain, such as the basic suspension layout and that glazed-in engine window at the rear. Electronically variable dampers akin to Maserati's Skyhook system debut and the geometry and assistance of the rack and pinion steering have been sharpened. One area where the 360 Modena disappointed slightly was in the rather uninspring design of its interior. The F430 makes great strides in this regard, Ferrari's American design chief Frank Stephenson concentrating on quality and detailing. In a Formula One design cue, the steering wheel features a knob that controls the dynamic settings. Unlike an F1 car, this includes a 'winter' setting alongside those of 'sport' and 'race'. There's also an 'engine start' button on the wheel which seems a little gratuitous. The fascia is trimmed in leather and the alloy pedals are beautifully finished. The exterior lines are purposeful rather than beautiful. The 360 was no great beauty, many lamenting the F355 and 456 as the last of the truly handsome Ferraris and the F430's silhouette is an evolution of the 360 shape. The shape of the intakes and the headlamps are the key visual cues while the rear end features Enzo-style tail lamps that jut through the line of the rear deck. Much of the serious aerodynamic work occurs beneath the car. A flat undertray and rear diffuser help adhere the car to the tarmac. Look closely and there is some very tasty detailing, including the monogrammed rear view mirrors and the fantastic alloy wheels.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

The chief bugbear with the F430 is the clutch both on manual cars and F1 models but for very different reasons. The manual cars were subject to a recall due to a pedal that didn't operate the clutch through the last few per cent of its travel, causing overheating and failure. Ensure your car has had the corrective work done. The F1 gearbox has a reputation for eating clutches, especially if the previous owner was a city boy schlepping in and out of town through stop and start traffic. One personal experience with a Ferrari F430 ended with a hose letting go in the engine bay causing an oil fire after 24 hours of use so perhaps the claims of improved build quality should be taken with a pinch of salt. Maybe it was a rogue car. There are plenty of F430 owners who seem happy with their choice.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2006 F430 coupe) If you've got the funds to run a new Ferrari F430, chances are you're not going to baulk at paying around £3,500 for a replacement clutch on the manual car or £500 per corner when it comes to tyres.

On the Road

Unlike its key rivals, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Lamborghini Gallardo, the F430 doesn't utilise all-wheel drive to deploy its power, instead relying on the same rear-wheel drive mid-engined layout as one of the company's all-conquering Formula One cars. Ferrari may have eschewed four-wheel drive as a principle but they're not averse to learning a few tricks developed in all-wheel drive cars. An active limited slip differential - E-Diff - monitors driver inputs, wheel slip, yaw and much more to direct power to whichever of the rear wheels is best equipped to deploy it. In many respects, it's not dissimilar to the system Mitsubishi use to great effect in their Evo VIII all-wheel drive rally replica and greatly assists traction without 'dumbing down' the feel in the way that an electronic traction control device is occasionally wont to do. When the 360 Modena was launched, a suspiciously quick set of performance figures was obtained by one of the leading UK magazines, leading to all sorts of speculation as to whether the car was in standard trim. Certainly a sprint to 100mph of 8.8 seconds was savagely quick, eclipsing anything the 911 Turbo and Gallardo were capable of at the time. For the vastly more accelerative F430, Ferrari claim a maximum speed in excess of 196mph and a sprint to 60mph in comfortably less than four seconds which is enough for most. Rather reassuringly, Ferrari haven't pointlessly chased maximum horsepower. Perhaps knowing that some Mercedes coupes generate over 600bhp has focused the F430 on capability rather than ridiculous power. Besides, the upper echelon of performance cars now seem to have reached a plateau in terms of straight line speed. The F430 instead corners as well as it goes - which is what really counts.

Overall

The Ferrari F430 is one of the most charismatic modern sports cars but it's not without its weak points. Buy one if you're prepared to have an eventful time. If you're looking for something a little less Italianate in character, the later Audi-fied Lamborghinis are one option or you could opt for the metronomic reliability of a Porsche 997 Turbo. None have the sense of occasion of the Ferrari. To many, that's the key buying criterion when spending this sort of money.