Like the 360, the F430 has all-around aluminum-control-arm suspension, with adaptive dampers that have a stiffer setting in Sport and Race modes. The standard cast-iron Brembo disc brakes incorporate molybdenum for better energy and heat dissipation and are acted on by four-piston calipers all around. The optional (for about $14,000!) ceramic-composite brakes are 1.2 inches bigger up front and 0.8 inch bigger at the back, with six-pot front calipers.
All of this makes the F430 an awesome track car. Ferrari says it is three seconds faster than the 360 around Fiorano and only two seconds slower than the Enzo. The F430 isn't as edgy as the outgoing Challenge Stradale, but it requires skill to get the most out of it, especially with stability control turned off. With the electronics engaged in Race mode, there's a bit of oversteer, but when you turn them off, you can hang the tail out to dry-although it will snap away from you at big drift angles. The chassis is minutely adjustable on the throttle, which makes it very entertaining.
The car is so chuckable and nimble that you can fool yourself into trying to drive it as if it were a formula car, at which point it will start plowing. No, it's better to set the car up well in advance and drive through the corners under power, steering it on the throttle. The brakes are fantastic on track, as is the paddle shifter. It is certainly fast: you see 8000 rpm in fifth on Fiorano's longish main straight, which equates to 141 mph, some 15 mph more than we achieved in a Modena. You know you're traveling quickly when you hit the brakes prior to the first, tight right-hander and the inside tire squeals as the ABS kicks in. A lap of Fiorano is addictive and brilliant fun, but your exuberance is tempered by the knowledge that this car can bite.
The F430 is sensational. It isn't as fast in a straight line as some of its competitors (such as the Ford GT), but the blend of drivability, excitement, immediacy, and purity is unmatched.
It sings to you and embodies everything we love about Italian cars. When it goes on sale in March, it will cost about six percent more than the current 360 Modena, so you're looking at $170,000 for the manual-transmission car-hardly a bargain. Still, Porsche has got to do something really special with the next Turbo to match this car, and it is doubtful that it will be nearly as soulful.