The last time I drove a Ferrari F430, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't much wrong with it. Little did I know, that seemingly near-perfect car was a tad heavy, a bit underpowered, and--most surprising of all--lacking in electronic driver aids. So while the world at large seemed quite happy with the F430, Ferrari was coldly dismantling the car on a part-by-part basis and examining it, literally down to each lug nut, to figure out how it might get the machine to go just a little bit faster. Ferrari, it seems, has been hard at work addressing all the concerns you didn't know you had.
The result is the 430 Scuderia, a car that looks like an F430 and goes like an Enzo. You may recall that the Enzo was Ferrari's masterwork just a few years back, a V-12-powered showcase of everything Ferrari knew about building road cars. The Enzo would get around the company's Fiorano test track in 1 minute and 25 seconds, currently the record for a street-legal machine. The F430, for all its considerable wiles, does the Fiorano deed in 1 minute and 27 seconds--respectfully behind the big dog. But the 430 Scuderia reclaims those two seconds for the V-8 berlinetta camp, going wheel-to-wheel with Ferrari's all-time hero car. That's insane. That's also why I'm at Fiorano, to find out for myself how Ferrari wrings V-12 supercar performance out of its V-8 coupe.
I know what you're saying: if the differences between the F430 and the 430 Scuderia exist in those margins where professional drivers earn their paychecks, where tenths of a second here and there add up to the difference between an F430 and an Enzo, then how am I, Thumbs McGee, going to exploit that performance? Well, Ferrari has that problem covered, too, because one of the most practical Scuderia improvements is the addition of Ferrari's F1-Trac traction control system, which is integrated with the E-Diff electronically controlled differential.
F1-Trac allows the nonprofessional driver to explore the limits of the 430's performance by automating one of the trickiest aspects of ten-tenths driving in a high-powered car: throttle modulation on corner exit. With F1-Trac engaged, you merely point the nose toward the track-out point, floor the throttle, and let the electronics dole out as much power as conditions allow. "That's how you drive an F1 car," says Ferrari Formula 1 test driver Marc Gen. "If I'm driving at my best, I can lap a half-second quicker with the electronics off, but this system allows a regular driver to get very close to my lap time."
I'm eager to find out if that's the case, but before my turn can come, brooding thunderheads roll in and promptly douse the track. I bide my time hoping for sunshine by milling about the paddock and contemplating the various 430 Scuderias parked hither and thither. Ferrari-spotters will immediately recognize this model by its revised bodywork, but few of the performance changes are visible to the naked eye. If you peer down through the new Lexan engine cover, you'll see that the intake-plenum chambers and air-filter housings are rendered in carbon fiber, part of a diet that cuts 220 pounds from the F430's bulk and drops curb weight to 2975 pounds. (Ferrari lists "dry weight" as 2775 pounds, but quoting a car's weight minus all the essential fluids seems a bit like me saying "I weigh 150 pounds, not including my head.") Other weight-saving measures include titanium springs for the suspension, standard carbon-ceramic brakes, titanium lug nuts, and that time-honored favorite of speed-seekers everywhere, good ol' content deletion. You want a stereo, go to Best Buy, because you're not getting one in the 430 Scuderia. (Unless, of course, you ask. Ferrari so hates to say no to its clienti.)
The weight loss is accompanied by more power, as improved breathing and ignition strategies net 24 additional horsepower, bringing the total to 503 hp. Part of that gain comes from a very high 11.9:1 compression ratio (up from the F430's 11.3), made possible by an ignition system that controls detonation by using a dedicated CPU to monitor each spark event in each cylinder. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration drops from the F430's 4.1 seconds down to what Ferrari claims is "less than 3.6 seconds." I enjoy that vagueness. It's as if Ferrari is saying that the 430 Scuderia is so fast, they can't even get a clock on it.
More power is always nice, but you're not catching an Enzo at Fiorano without paying attention to the corners as well. So the suspension is about half an inch lower, the springs more than 30 percent stiffer, and the brake rotors 0.7 inch bigger up front. The Pirelli PZero Corsa tires are so sticky that they've got a mere 60 tread-wear rating, which is similar to that of hot fudge. Revised aerodynamics generate more downforce with no increase in drag, partly through something called the "base bleed effect," which sounds like a medieval interrogation method but actually involves venting the rear fenderwells out the back bumper. And the F1-Superfast sequential manual gearbox, with its 150-millisecond shift times, is kicked to the curb in favor of the new F1-Superfast2, which rips through the gears with a mere 60 milliseconds between shifts.