The F430 is just about perfect on a road like this. The village recedes in the rearview mirror, you select Race mode, flick the left-hand paddle down twice, and lay rubber. The car is soulful and pure and direct, something you wear as an extension of your body and mind and eyes. It isn't that small, yet it shrinks around you and seems the right size for these narrow passes, whereas something like a Ford GT or a Lamborghini Murcilago-let alone a Ferrari Enzo or a Mercedes SLR McLaren-would feel big and clumsy. There is no lack of pace, however; Ferrari claims the F430 will sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 4.0 seconds and go on to a top speed "in excess of 196 mph," which is more than most of us will ever need.
After two hours of maximum attack on these hill roads, you select a friendlier pace for the journey back to Maranello and Ferrari's Fiorano test track, where you get the chance to wring the F430 out without worrying about cars coming the other way or the proximity of the scenery. As the pace drops, you notice that there's plenty of head, leg, and elbow room and decide that the carbon-fiber trim on the center console looks pretty good, even if the optional alloy accents you saw earlier look classier. The instrument binnacle, with a tach in either yellow or red, and the dashboard are new, although you spot carryover stalks and power window lifts.
The steering wheel is not only gorgeous to the touch, but it also looks fabulous. There's a start button on its lower left quadrant and a five-position, anodized-metal switch (the manettino) on the lower right to select the gearshift regime and traction control. Very F1. Ferrari got rid of the lift-up toggle for reverse and replaced it with a simple button, which lives on a slimmer center tunnel. The cabin ambience is businesslike, simple, plain, spare-what you need in a driver's car, without the plethora of buttons that companies such as Porsche have been introducing lately.
At Fiorano, you park in the small paddock, step out, and admire the bright yellow Ferrari on its optional Challenge Stradale wheels. Yes, admire rather than ogle: like the Modena, the F430 is striking yet hardly beautiful. Think Cate Blanchett rather than Charlize Theron.
Although more than 70 percent of the car's components are new, it doesn't look that different from the 360. Ferrari cites the Sharknose 156 F1 car from 1961 as inspiration for the huge nostrils at the front and the 250LM and 196/246SP sports cars from the early 1960s for the intakes over the rear fenders, but the styling is truly dictated by aerodynamic function rather than form. The combination of a new nose, revised engine intakes, a larger rear venturi, and a more pronounced tail spoiler has increased downforce compared with the 360. There is a total of 617 pounds at 186 mph, an improvement of 187 pounds over the 360; at 124 mph, the change is 99 pounds. The drag coefficient of 0.33 is the same.
The basics of the car are unchanged, too. The F430 uses an aluminum spaceframe chassis that is 10 percent heavier than the 360's, but it also has 20 percent better torsional stiffness and is 8 percent better in bending. Ferrari says that improved crash performance is the reason for the extra weight. Overall, the car is 132 pounds heavier than the 360, but the power-to-weight ratio has improved from 7.1 pounds per horsepower to 6.2, thanks to the new, larger engine. Some castings on this 4.3-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V-8 are shared with the Maserati Coupe's, such as the block, but most of it is bespoke, including a single-plane crank. The engine has all the goodies you'd expect, including variable valve timing on intake and exhaust, a dry-sump oil system to lower the crank center line, and a variable intake manifold. (See Techtonics sidebar.) The twin-plate clutch is smaller to minimize inertia (for faster shifting) and to help reduce powertrain height. The F1-style transmission is expected to account for more than 80 percent of sales, but traditionalists can opt for a six-speed manual.