Barring some unexpected external force, evolution normally proceeds in small steps. Thus, it was no surprise that the Ferrari F430 was based on the 360 Modena. But while all of the major concepts were carried over—all-aluminum construction, wind tunnel-driven design, mid-mounted high-revving V8 engine, all-around usability, optional paddleshifters and carbon-ceramic brakes—the new car blew its predecessor into the proverbial weeds.
The biggest changes appeared in the engine bay, where the F430 sported an all-new, 4.3-liter V8 that pumped out 490 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque—90 hp and 68 lb-ft more than the regular 360, and 65 hp over the Challenge Stradale. This engine, which produced nearly 114 hp/liter of displacement, helped launch the F430 from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds and on to a top speed of 196 mph.
Also boosting the F430’s performance was a new, Formula 1-derived electronic differential and the now-ubiquitous steering wheel-mounted manettino. This rotary switch allowed the driver to select various dynamic modes, such as Wet, Sport and Race, which deliver specific combinations of shock-absorber stiffness, traction-control intervention, gearshift speeds (on F1 transmission-equipped cars) and so on. Further bolstering the car’s sporting credentials were a stiffer chassis, a faster-shifting F1 gearbox, more downforce without additional drag, and bigger wheels and tires.
Ferrari produced four versions of the F430. The first, the Berlinetta, was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show in 2004. The following year, a convertible version debuted. The only differences between Berlinetta and Spider were the latter’s power rag top, exposed roll-over bars and rear deck, which featured a glass window through which the engine was visible.
In 2007, Ferrari released a more sporting variant of the Berlinetta called the 430 Scuderia. This model mimicked the earlier Challenge Stradale, with a stripped interior, a stronger engine, stiffer suspension and stickier tires, larger carbon-ceramic brakes, more aggressive bodywork that created more downforce, and less weight. The Scuderia sprinted to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds and lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test track two seconds quicker than the F430. Finally, in 2008, came the Scuderia Spider 16M, a limited-edition, topless take on the 430 Scuderia.
While significantly more expensive than the 360, the F430 offers significantly better performance. If you have a six-figure budget for a used Ferrari, test-driving an F430 is a must.