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Road Tests

Ferrari F430: First Look

By Feann Torr: F430 Spider Road Test (4 out of 5)

Ferrari F430
Ferrari F430

Ferrari F430
Aggressively styled rear end adds visual impact
(Click images for larger/high resolution versions)

Before Lamborghini's Gallardo arrived, Ferrari had plans to refresh its popular 360 Modena, perhaps adding a few extra ponies under the bonnet and a mild change to the front and rear ends.

But how things change when a little competition - and lost market share - spoils an otherwise blissful party that Ferrari had been enjoying in the wonderful world of automotive exotica.

As we reported a few months back, the F430, which we then referred to as the 430 Modena, was being tested in disguised fashion, and now Ferrari has come clean with the 360 Modena's successor.

Gone is the Modena namesake, replaced by the more technical name of F430.

The F430 is the 360 Modena's replacement, but on a combative level it's designed to take on the universally acclaimed Lamborghini Gallardo, grind it into the ground and then turn up its nose as it races off into the distance in a puff of tyre smoke.

It is a low-to-the-ground, two-seater rear wheel drive sportscar built for high 'G' cornering, has a mid-mounted V8 engine, is constructed from high-grade aluminium, has the latest generation 6-speed F1-derived gearbox and of course Ferrari's trademark exotic styling that makes grown men swoon.

The F430s exterior design is close to what spy shots hinted at previously, as the front end has Enzo-inspired headlight clusters, albeit with slightly more rounded edges.

Twin oval air dams in the front fascia give it a more organic look than the 360 Modena, while vertical cutouts in front of the front wheels draws the eye to the front end and the smoothly sculpted bonnet.

From the rear, the look is even more reminiscent of the V12-powered flagship Ferrari, with almost-identical circular brake lights and what appears to be a speed-sensitive pop-up rear wing.

The multifaceted rear diffuser located between quad chromium exhaust pipes injects a good dose of street cred.

Furthermore, there are two enlarged mesh-covered air intakes adorning the top of the rear quarter panels and another two sitting lower, just in front of the rear wheels. (NB: click images for high res versions.)

While the sculpted air intakes look great and embolden the F430s look considerably, they serve the purpose of feeding air into the engine bay, which is located behind the driver and slightly forward of the rear axle (mid-mount positioning).

Their extra size accommodates the larger 4.3-litre V8 engine (up from 3.6-litres), and the rear windscreen also has air vents to keep the engine bay well ventilated, and overall the new look is very easy on the eyes, and propels Ferrari's volume-selling model stylishly into the 21st century.

Ferrari will be showing the new F430 for the first time publicly at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, and on paper Lamborghini's 5.0-litre V10 beats out the new Ferrari V8's peak power output by just 10 horsepower, and it's also marginally lighter too, with the Lambo weighing 1430kg, while the new Ferrari tips the scales @ 1450kg.

Does this mean that Stampeding Bull will kick the Prancing Horse in the teeth? Not necessarily, but before we go any further, let's get some statistics out of the way:

Ferrari F430

Lamborghini Gallardo

Engine: 4.3-litre 90° V8 (4308cc)
Power: 360kW @ 8500rpm
Torque: 465Nm @ 5200rpm

Engine: 5.0-litre 90° V10 (4961cc)
Power: 367kW @ 7800rpm
Torque: 510Nm @ 4500rpm

Length: 4512mm
Width: 1923mm
Height: 1214mm
Wheelbase: 2600mm

Length: 4300mm
Width: 1900mm
Height: 1165mm
Wheelbase: 2560mm

Top speed: 315km/h (196mph)
0-100 km/h: 4.0 seconds

Top speed: 309km/h (192mph)
0-100 km/h: 4.2 seconds

As you can tell from the statistics, the Lamborghini looks to win out in almost every respect. It's shorter, meaning improved flickability or turn-in, it's thinner, lower and has more power and torque. But at the same token, it also has a heavier, larger capacity engine, and one that's not as rev-happy as the Ferrari's.

But really, these cars are close enough in overall specification that those in the market for an expensive new toy will be rewarded with either choice -- ultimately, the deciding factor will come down to looks, interior space and brand loyalty. Are you a Lambo-phile or a Ferrari fan?

Ferrari F430
New 4.3-litre V8 generates 360kW of power

Ferrari F430
Mid-mounted engine improves centre of gravity

Ferrari F430
No more beige leather - Ferrari means business

Ferrari F430
The Modena name is laid to rest - all hail F430

Even with the minor weight deficit and 45 Newton metres less torque, the Ferrari is a newer design and thanks to its high-revving V8 and sweet-as-you-like aerodynamics, it has better (claimed) performance.

The Gallardo will hit 100km/h from rest in just 4.2 seconds, enough to give anyone riding shotgun a good taste of their breakfast, but the Ferrari claims to reach the same speed from standstill in 4.0 seconds flat, giving it lounge room bragging rights, something Lamborghini won't be too pleased about.

And it has to be said that Ferrari's new engine is quite a revelation. While it eclipses its predecessor by a whopping 66kW - 360kW up from the Modena's 294kW - it is almost identical in peak power output to the Lambo.

It is a smaller engine than its arch rival's, which has two extra cylinders and some 653cc more capacity (4.3-litre V8 vs 5.0-litre V10), which says a lot about Ferrari's engine making prowess to deliver such power from a naturally aspirated engine.

The more efficient Ferrari V8 has a sky-high 11.3:1 compression ratio, compared to the Gallardo's 11.0:1, and the other main statistics include a specific output of 114hp/litre, also providing the new Ferrari berlinetta with a weight-to-power ratio of 2.8kg/hp (dry weight), which is incredibly impressive, and hence the rapid acceleration.

Taking up where the 360 Modena left off in terms of aluminium technology, the F430 is expected to offer improved torsional rigidity for better power down and more responsive handling, and also offers a series of "extremely significant innovations directly derived from the Ferrari Formula 1 single-seaters" according to Ferrari press materials.

These include the optional braking system, comprising carbon-ceramic discs which promise to provide solid bite and minimal fade under even the most extreme use, such as on the track.

There is also a Formula 1-derived gearbox that makes the grade, which Ferrari reckons cuts gear shifting times down 150 milliseconds compared to the 360 Modena, which is pretty nifty.

A technical aerodynamic design incorporates a flat underbody for reduced under-car turbulence at higher speeds, contributing to overall downforce, plus a large and very detailed rear diffuser helps increase downforce over the driving wheels too.

Ferrari also claims two world firsts for a production car: the electronic differential (E-Diff) and the steering wheel-mounted switches - better known to the Formula 1 Scuderia's drivers as "manettino" - which manages the integrated systems governing vehicle dynamics. We'll have more information on these items during the Paris Motor Show, where the F430 is to make its debut.

For fans of these exotic and expensive machines, the way they handle, they way they corner will be of utmost importance and, as such, this may also be the biggest difference between the two. While the Lamborghini Gallardo diverts engine power to all four wheels, the Ferrari transfers its 360kW (490hp) to the rear hoops only, giving the purists and burnout lovers a valid option when compared to Lamborghini's 'WRX'-ed AWD Gallardo.

All told, Ferrari's new F430 will give the Lambo Gallardo one hell of a fight, and on paper at least, it promises to be an incredibly close fight at that. And there are plenty of intriguing new features that Ferrari has yet to let out of the bag, such as the car's steering wheel-mounted switches.

These may end up being similar to that of the Enzo's, offering indicators and other ancillary controls close to hand, but it is more likely that they will allow for chassis adjustments to be made on the run, performing functions such as increasing damper rates, chaning the ride height and altering wing angles.

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