Driving Impressions: Ferrari F-430

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S2ki member i_heart_my_DB8 recently posted this write-up of his drive in a new Ferrari F-430 in the Car Talk section of S2ki. So many people commented how much they enjoyed the review that we thought it should be featured here on our front page. We know the F-430 isn’t quite a Honda, but we’ll still give it an “E” for effort. Take it away Nate…


I had the distinct privilege of taking an F430 F1 out for a spin today. Just thought I’d share some general impressions with y’all. At the moment, this post will be Part I, because I didn’t really get a chance to open her up very much. Hopefully in the future there will be a Part II, where I can give more in depth driving impressions.

*****Cliff’s Notes*****

+ Fantastic performance
+ Stunning interior details and quality
+ Its so money, and it knows it

– Not quite the experience I hoped for
– It’s not mine?

Conclusion: If I had the money, I would buy one, and I will consider illegal means to attain the money to buy one… with a 6MT


On with the show.

There’s something quite magical about a Ferrari to me, and always has been. Growing up, I wouldn’t be able to sleep on family road trips because I’d never forgive myself if I missed the opportunity to see a Testarossa or a 308 go by. When I found out that my boss was expecting the arrival of a Giallo (Yellow) F430 to replace his 360 Modena, I was looking forward to crawling through it like a 10 year old kid.

From a form standpoint, the Modena was much more of a pure design than the 430 is. It’s clear even in photos that while the 430 maintains the classically timeless mid-engine Ferrari proportions, the detailing is much more haphazard and dare I say: Juvenile. The beautiful flowing shapes and curves that engrained the Modena in my head as one of the sexiest cars ever have now been replaced with angular cuts and creases handed down from the Enzo. The result is a visually aggressive car that looks more contemporary, but in my opinion will not be as timeless as its predecessor. However, it’s not better or worse, just different. If the 360 is a church girl in a linen sundress, the 430 is her younger, pierced and tatted sister. It’s a preference thing, but I’ve always loved girls clean and smooth and unfettered, so stylistically, I’ll take the 360.

Opening up the door feels like you’re discovering the inside of the largest bag Coach has to offer: The entire interior of this car was bathed in black leather, with yellow accent stitching, and everything has a fresh new scent to it: The car smells expensive. The craftsmanship was exemplary, with everything from the door sills (!) to the glove box and headliner being awash in leather that probably costs more than my car. Turn the carbon fiber knob on the side of the sport seats, and the seatback slowly leans forward to reveal an uncovered dry carbon shell on the backside. Very nice. Also very nice was the amount of support and bolstering that these seats offered once properly seated. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, the padding was just right- Enough to keep the tailbone happy, but thin enough to hold you securely. A drilled aluminum foot rest shines beneath the dashboard to greet the passenger, as if to say “Hey buddy, you’re going to need me when your boss goes nuts driving down Sunset boulevard…” It matches the beautiful drilled pedals on the lucky side of the car. Carbon fiber falls over the air vents and control panel in the center, playing to the same theme as the seats. I like it.

The engine barks to life when fired, and the exhaust tone is something to behold. While the starting sequence is the same as our beloved Hondas (a red button), the sound is more 600RR than AP1. The car idles at a high RPM, with a hint of Italian metallic rasp. Revving the engine brings out the lungs of the beast, as it lets out a wallop of a roar, before the engine quickly settles back down to idle. Not quite as dramatic sounding as the $400k Carrera GT, but close. Whaddayaknow, the F430 sounds expensive too.

My boss takes us out of the driveway at an angle, and the car unexpectedly creaks entering onto the street. Cowl shake on a coupe? Well maybe it’s the expensive leather squeaking. From inside the car, the exhaust note is inescapable. With every prod at the pedal, the engine tone changes, and everyone within 50 yards (and especially in the cabin) will know it. You will argue that this is a great thing. Your significant other will most likely disagree. I settle in for the ride: bracing myself up against the aforementioned foot plate, and grabbing onto the door handle with my right arm. My left arm is left unsupported, and unbraced, which means that in high-G maneuvers, it is flopping about like the dog in this video. And there were high-G maneuvers. Thankfully, Sunset Boulevard has many ON camber turns, and they were handled with the greatest of ease, with nary a spot of drama. Well, no drama for the car at least. My body is only accustomed to taking turns that fast in a vehicle that you “Must be This tall to ride.” So I thought I’d save face and keep the girlish screams and frightened whimpers to myself. This is probably a good thing for our boss-worker relationship.

The fact that it is a workday means we must cut the drive a little short, so we never made it out to PCH before he pulls over and we switch places. First impressions from sitting in the best seat in the house: The steering wheel is large… too large. It felt larger than the wheel in the S2000, which was quite surprising. The bright yellow tach dominates the instrument cluster, which is also larger than I’m accustomed to. In fact, coming from the S2000 into this car makes it feel quite spacious. Try as I might, I could not find a driving position that made my body happy, although I’m sure that with more fiddling I could get closer. The sport seats lack a height adjustment which my 5’8″ frame could have used. Oh well. Phone book anyone?

Foot on the brake, select first gear by pulling the paddle on the right, and off we go. Driving away with no clutch pedal, I immediately feel like I’m in my mom’s Volvo. And while I’m sure the Ferrari elite will have my head for saying such a thing, thankfully the lack of a clutch pedal is about the only thing the two cars have in common. With the manettino in Sport mode, the suspension thumps about over every pothole and expansion joint with a definite shock to the chassis, but that was more expected than it was jarring.

As much as I would have wished, common sense combined with about 9 gajillion other Southern Californian motorists kept me from the opportunity to really open the car up. However, I could tell you the car is fast. Like none other I’ve ever driven. Like sub-12 seconds in the 1/4 mile. Like that scene in Spaceballs where they go too far and get to plaid. Like a roller coaster without waiting through the annoying clicking part. Like you’re holding onto the steering wheel for dear life as your arms stretch. But you knew that already. And I could tell you that carbon ceramic brakes do a good job of stopping you. Like bungee jumping with a chain. Like a carrier landing. Like your eyeballs fighting a losing battle with physics to remain attached to your head. But you knew that already too.

So, I’ll have to wait for Part II (hopefully sometime…) to give a more detailed driving impression, as my test drive never got above 60 MPH, and out of 3rd gear. So far however, I’m *gasp* disappointed a little bit. Not at all in the performance (are you nuts?), but more so in the experience of it all. The steering felt too light for a sports car- the amount of effort to turn felt more appropriate for a luxury vehicle, not a mid-engined exotic. However, my boss assures me that as speeds rise, the steering firms up accordingly, and I am looking forward to erasing this impression from my memory. Regarding the F1 transmission, a pull at the right paddle brings up an upshift, but when you’re not hard on the throttle, it executes a slightly lazier shift regardless of manettino position. Each downshift is accompanied with a beautiful blip of the throttle, but missing in all the pops and snarls is the sense of self-satisfaction, since you didn’t do it yourself (But the UCLA students at the bus stop needn’t know that.)

While my Part I driving experience was short and docile, I still was able to come away with an overall impression so far. The light steering with the paddle shifters really took away from the experience to me. At times I felt disconnected from the car- Each input was given with the slight anxiety that it might not do exactly what I told it to. It was like trying to draw on the computer with your mouse. It just doesn’t work quite as naturally as you would hope. I’ve had the opportunity to drive the traditional 6MT gated shifter, and I would gladly sacrifice a smidge of performance for the experience. Paddles are for boats, I’ll take my sporting cars with involvement for ALL my appendages please, not just 75%. So until I get to try the car out for Part II, I stand a tiny bit disappointed at the moment. My disclaimer to those who will no doubt cry “HERESY!” is this: Keep in mind that ALL the driving I did was NOT the car’s strong suit. Basing my final opinion on this car on the drive I took would be like saying you don’t like Monet because his paintings weigh too much. So I’m looking forward to a chance for the car to change my impression.

Waiting patiently for Part II. Thanks for reading.


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