Shark attack! BY AARON ROBINSON January 2005 Scuderia Ferrari will have sealed its fifth consecutive Formula 1 drivers' championship and sixth consecutive constructors' championship well before your eyes glide across these words. Maybe it's time to turn down the voltage, coast for a while before even F1's impresario, Bernie Ecclestone, falls asleep. Coasting isn't what management consultants would label a "core competency" at Ferrari. The black mare has been prancing at redline ever since current president and CEO Luca Cordero di Montezemolo kicked the door down in 1991. What had been a sleepy compound of squat red-brick workshops has become an Architectural Digest centerfold, the latest addition being Ferrari's Centro Sviluppo Prodotto, or Product Development Center. To his portfolio of wobbling spheres, coiled cobras, and fractured daggers, Italian architect Massimiliano #$%#as has added a sculpture of levitating smoked-glass cubes crowned by rooftop reflecting ponds. The water bugs zipping by as you navigate the narrow steel walkways between the buildings' wings now represent the bulk of Ferrari's nonunion workforce. New Ferrari people, such as Mini Cooper chief designer Frank Stephenson, the director of Ferrari-Maserati Group design since August 2002, are busy fashioning the next generation of hero cars. Ferrari's latest entry-level model, the F430, is the first example to be publicly pinned on Stephenson (who shares the credit with design studio Pininfarina, which gets the body badge). Carrying over much of its extruded aluminum space frame, suspension, interior layout, and longitudinal V-8 configuration, the F430 isn't considered a replacement for the 360 Modena so much as an evolution of it. Inside Ferrari, the 360 was called the F131, and the company ladled out about 10,000 servings. Although 70 percent of the parts are new and the price increase should be about $9500, to $167,000 with gas-guzzler tax, the F430 is called the F131 Evoluzione or, more simply, "the Evo" by Ferrari's engineers. The 360 had looked fast, a crackling bonfire of Italian lust. But Stephenson believes it "was always a little flabby. It needed to go to the gym." The F430 went to the Enzo supercar for a few items, such as those blistered taillights and rear grille mesh. It worked out in the wind tunnel and received a new underbody winglet in the nose, air baffles on the otherwise smooth belly pan, a finned rear undertray, and a little whip of a tail spoiler. It all helps press the body down harder at speed. At 124 mph, the F430's axles carry about 100 more pounds than the 360's. What purpose do the cartoon nostrils serve? Back in 1961, Phil Hill won the F1 world championship in a Ferrari 156 that featured similar "shark nose" vents, Stephenson explains. So it's retro? "I hate that word retro," snaps the father of the new Mini. "We're carrying over our DNA, much like you have your grandmother's eyes or nose." Family genetics also spawned an industry called rhinoplasty, but that's neither here nor there. As if a Ferrari needed visual gewgaws when there are 4.3 liters of aluminum virtuosity to gape at under the back glass. Lift the rear deck and behold what looks like a fine pair of thighs in scarlet spandex. The F430's 483-hp V-8Â722cc and 88 horses angrier than the 360'sÂis part of a new family of V-8 screamers in the Maserati CoupÃ© and Quattroporte. The commonality lies mainly in the block casting, says powertrain director Jean-Jacques His, where the engines share their 90-degree vee and five-main-bearing architecture. Variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing, plus the bore spacing of 104 millimeters, is also found in the Ferrari Enzo's V-12, which descends from the same family. A detuned version of that V-12 will eventually go into the 612 Scaglietti and replacement for the 575M Maranello. As in the 360 Modena, this new F430 is the only Ferrari or Maserati to use a flat-plane crankshaft. That means half of its connecting-rod journals line up directly opposite the other half, making the crank look as flat as a dash mark when viewed head-on. Most V-8s, including Maserati's own version of the motor, have a two-plane crank that looks like an X and spaces the rod journals at 90-degree intervals for smoothness. Ferrari says the flat way, which mimics two inline fours joined at the hip, increases vibration but pays benefits in breathing and power production. It also grinds a particular edge into the Ferrari's bark at high revs. Ah, that Ferrari voice, once the accidental byproduct of Weber carburetors and tangled steel tubes and now a serious challenge for engineers dealing with sealed induction manifolds and catalytic converters. This, the first Ferrari engine designed with sound quality in mind from day one, breathes differently from a typical boom-boom Detroit V-8 with its single intake and twin exhausts. The F430's twin air intakes (the 360 Modena had one) feed from the enlarged shoulder scoops with carefully tuned resonators for better airflow and enhanced stereophonic playback. The exhaust manifolds mix the hot stuff in one large chamber, producing a rapidly cadenced mechanical snarl. Under hard acceleration, the decibels rocket shriekward when bypass valves open a straighter path to the atmosphere. The F430's V-8 isn't just a spinner; its new dual-displacement intake plenum and variable valve timing put the pants press to the torque curve. American-delivered F430s with the optional F1 paddle-shift automated manual transmission go without the launch control that lets the driver commit hairy high-rpm clutch drops, but never mind; Ferrari's test drivers instructed us to just drop it in low and flatten the aluminum stick of a gas pedalÂlightly at first to keep the 285/35 hams in back adhering to the pavement. While the engine went Bwwaaaaaa! and those crackle-red mounds twitched in the rearview mirror, the computer counted to 60 inÂwait, does that say 3.5 seconds? Look, the quarter-mile is 11.7 seconds at 123 mph. Can't be. Fearing a test-box meltdown, we consulted with a rival magazine that was radar-gunning another F430 driven by a factory pilot. Results: practically identical. The archive states that the old 360 Modena was more than a second slower to 60. The mighty million-buck F40: 0.7 second behind. The rare-as-hen's-molars F50: 0.3 in arrears. Even with some help from Ferrari's Fiorano test track (the straightaway turns slightly downhill halfway through, and tests were allowed only in one directionÂnorth), Ferrari's cheapest model appears to be its second-quickest production car ever, behindÂbut not by muchÂthe Enzo. A V-10 Lamborghini Gallardo gets a snoot full of bull dust. How's that for progress? Our time at Fiorano was unusually generous, thanks to the absence of an F1 testing crew. This late in yet another smack-down season, perhaps the Ferrari team doesn't even wash the cars between races. However, Ferrari's Gestione Sportiva, the racing department, rides along in every F430, most obviously on the steering wheel. Schumacher's own wheel has rotary knobs adjusting everything from the car's throttle sensitivity to the viscosity of his lip balm. In the F430, a single manettino, or selector, condenses the traction control, the stability control, and the firmness of the Skyhook electronic shock-damping regulator into one five-position dial. Simply pick the setup that suits your adrenaline level. The "ice" and "low grip" settings relax the shocks, slow the shifts, and perk up the traction and stability controls. In "sport" and "race," shift times range from 0.20 second to 0.15 second; also, the shocks go progressively rigid, and the anti-crash nannies become more tolerant of sideways play. The last setting, "CST," shuts off all the electronic insurance except ABS and the E-Diff differential, another Grand Prix peace dividend. In the E-Diff, hydraulic pressure supplied by the self-shifting F1 transmission's pump (opt for an old-time stick, and you still get the pump and the E-Diff) compresses a stack of friction plates in the differential that transfers torque from side to side. The computer watches your movements and supplies the torque split needed in back to maintain traction and help rotate the car through corners. We can sum up the E-Diff in two words: It works. See the corner, turn sharp, pick your moment, and go. The F430 tangos to command, slightly loose or totally sideways as you choose, your right foot feeding the power, your hands twitching the corrections through a responsive and friction-free rack soaked in Ferrari's magic steering lubricant. It's summertime and the drifting is easy! Across the Apennine ridgelines above Modena, the F430 twisted faces into permanent smirks. A center of gravity at kneecap heightÂthe F430's crankshaft spins on an axis just 10 inches above the pavementÂnails the car down flat and stable through corners. Nothing upsets the body or flusters the grip, not even a road surface pitching like the North Sea. Fiorano's lack of a suitable skidpad kept us from measuring lateral forces in our usual way, but we did see more than 1.05 g through some of the circuit's corners. Put in motion by a firm brake pedal, the carbon-ceramic discsÂan option expected to cost the same as a Scion xB, or $14,000Âperformed four successive stops from 70 mph in fewer than 150 feet. Ferrari claims they're good for 350 laps at Fiorano without fade. They didn't mention the moaning that the huge carbon-impregnated silicon discs make when they're cold, or the wind whistle one of our sample F430s made at speeds above 60 mph, probably from an ill-fitting windshield gasket. Now that the beginner's Ferrari has reached supercar levels of performance, maybe it's time to pump some excitement into the F1 program, too. They could blow a few engines, maybe crash once or twice. Then again, should Ferrari ever become just a couple of offices in the marketing department of General Motors, we may all forget what perfection looked and sounded like. FERRARI F430 Vehicle type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe Estimated price as tested: $190,500 (estimated base price: $167,000) Options on test car: carbon-ceramic brakes, F1 transmission Major standard accessories: power windows and locks, remote locking, A/C, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, rear defroster Sound system: Ferrari AM-FM radio/CD player, 4 speakers ENGINE Type: V-8, aluminum block and heads Bore x stroke: 3.62 x 3.19 in, 92.0 x 81.0mm Displacement: 263 cu in, 4308cc Compression ratio: 11.3:1 Fuel-delivery system: port injection Valve gear: chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing Power (SAE net): 483 bhp @ 8500 rpm Torque (SAE net): 343 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm Redline: 8500 rpm DRIVETRAIN Transmission: 6-speed manual with automated shifting and clutch Final-drive ratio: 4.30:1, limited slip Gear, Ratio, Mph/1000 rpm, Max test speed I, 3.29, 5.5, 46 mph (8500 rpm) II, 2.16, 8.3, 71 mph (8500 rpm) III, 1.61, 11.2, 95 mph (8500 rpm) IV, 1.27, 14.2, 120 mph (8500 rpm) V, 1.03, 17.5, 148 mph (8500 rpm) VI, 0.82, 21.9, 186 mph (8500 rpm) DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 102.4 in Track, front/rear: 65.7/63.6 in Length/width/height: 177.6/75.7/47.8 in Ground clearance: 4.9 in Drag area, Cd (0.34) x frontal area (21.5 sq ft): 7.3 sq ft Curb weight (mfr's claim): 3200 lb Weight distribution, F/R (mfr's claim): 44/56% Curb weight per horsepower (est): 6.6 lb Fuel capacity: 25.1 gal CHASSIS/BODY Type: aluminum space frame C/D TEST RESULTS ACCELERATION: Seconds Zero to 30 mph: 1.3 40 mph: 1.8 50 mph: 2.8 60 mph: 3.5 70 mph: 4.2 80 mph: 5.4 90 mph: 6.5 100 mph: 7.9 110 mph: 9.3 120 mph: 11.0 130 mph: 13.0 Street start, 5-60 mph: 4.0 Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph*: 3.6 50-70 mph: 5.6 Standing 1/4-mile: 11.7 sec @ 123 mph Top speed (redline limited): 186 mph BRAKING 70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 147 ft PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST) EPA city driving: 11 mpg EPA highway driving: 16 mpg INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL Idle: 52 dBA Full-throttle acceleration: 94 dBA 70-mph cruising: 74 dBA *In 4th gear. The F1 gearbox won't accept 6th at 30 mph.