Ferrari F430

Charlie Magee

After the Acura NSX arrived in 1990 and kicked some serious Italian butt, Ferrari realized that it could not survive forever solely on its mystique: its cars actually had to be, well, you know, good, not simply red and designed by Pininfarina. The 1995 F355 led to the 360 Modena that debuted in 1999-just when, not coincidentally, the Italian carmaker was getting its groove back in Formula 1-and Ferrari once again truly made the finest mid-engined supercar in the world. As the follow-up to the 360, the F430 takes the 360's racing-inspired, aluminum-intensive technology to new heights. The dry-sump, DOHC V-8-a redheaded marvel under glass-sounds, feels, and responds exactly as an Italian exotic-car engine ought to as it sends 483 hp through a brilliantly responsive, six-speed F1 paddle-shift transmission. The roster of electronic chassis controls is worthy of Michael Schumacher's ride and makes you feel like a hero, especially when you set the manettino switch on the steering wheel to race mode. The F430 provides substance to go along with the fantasy. It proves that the Ferrari mystique still lies with the cars, not just the brand.

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