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Though a couple of rivals offer equal go for less dough, the 2008 Ferrari F430 represents all that is desirable about Ferrari.
Highly communicative steering, addictive V8 yowl, sublime responsiveness, a choice of coupe or roadster body styles, telling everyone you know that you own a Ferrari.
Overpriced options, switchgear not becoming for a $200,000 car, convertible Spider has a plastic rear window.
Available F430 Coupe Models
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Available F430 Convertible Models
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The Ferrari F430 gets standard carbon-ceramic brakes for 2009.
A Ferrari is a Ferrari forever. They breed envy and respect from passersby, pointing and jubilation from little boys and phone numbers from potential hot dates. A Ferrari will always be cool -- but of course, the newer, the cooler. Although neither the flashiest nor the most expensive, the 2008 Ferrari F430 carries the torch for all the lithe V8-engined Ferraris that came before it.
The F430 takes that torch and runs with it, although "flies with it" is probably more apt. With a screaming V8 placed just behind the driver's shoulder, the F430 produces 483 horsepower capable of sending it to 60 mph in a blistering 4 seconds. Its top speed hovers around 200 mph. Like any Ferrari, though, the F430 is more than just a bullet poised to be fired down an empty stretch of arrow-straight pavement. A finely balanced chassis and ultra-communicative steering make it a finely sharpened tool for carving a serpentine road. To allow the driver to maximize the car's potential in any situation, the "manettino" steering wheel knob moves among five driving modes that adjust suspension settings, stability and traction control thresholds, F1 gearbox shift changes and the electronic rear differential that maximizes grip out of a turn. With all this performance capability, if you confine your F430 to cruising the Sunset club scene or lazy drives to the country-club scene, you're treating the car incorrectly.
With a price tag in the territory of $200,000, the 2008 Ferrari F430 is obviously in a rarefied class inhabited by a select few, where rational comparisons mean very little. If that unending Ferrari appeal draws you to it like a prancing horse to the Triple Crown, then no other supercar will suffice -- except for maybe a 599 GTB. Of course, there are rivals that strike different chords for different supercar shoppers, such as the Aston Martin DB9, Lamborghini Gallardo, Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 GT2 and GT3. It all depends on what you're looking for. But if what you're looking for is something that will forever be cool, a Ferrari F430 is a pretty good bet.
The 2008 Ferrari F430 is available as a two-seat coupe or a convertible (known as the Spider). Standard features include 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires (wider in rear), carbon-ceramic brakes, bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic climate control, power seats, leather upholstery and a stereo with a CD player.
There is a long list of options available for the F430, the priciest of which include carbon-fiber exterior and mechanical components. More run-of-the-mill options include run-flat tires, front and rear parking sensors, a fire extinguisher, Bluetooth, a navigation system (no screen, just voice prompts) and an upgraded sound system. There is also a long list of exterior and interior personalization options that include trim prices and special paint and leather colors.
For those who plan on occasional track days, or who just want to one-up their friends, there is the race-oriented F430 Challenge coupe. Although most mechanical specs are no different from the standard F430 F1, the Challenge is 500 pounds lighter. This Jenny Craig trick was accomplished with liberal amounts of carbon fiber, a Lexan windshield and windows and a lighter center-mounted exhaust. Other features include transmission gear ratios, a removable racing steering wheel, a lowered and firmer suspension, center-locking ("knock-off") wheels, white exterior graphics and a unique rear grille treatment. All this capability and exclusivity doesn't come cheap, as the Challenge lists for $50,000 more than a standard F430 F1.
The 2008 Ferrari F430 features a 4.3-liter V8 placed behind the cabin amidships. This naturally aspirated engine produces a thoroughly impressive 483 hp at 8,500 rpm and 343 pound-feet of torque at 5,250, sent to the rear wheels via a traditional six-speed manual transmission (with an old-school gated shifter). Optional is an automated-clutch manual known as the F1, controlled by paddle shifters mounted to the steering column. The F430 also has an electronically controlled rear differential -- named "E-diff" -- that helps to improve acceleration and vehicle balance. When the whip is cracked, this thoroughbred will gallop to 60 mph in around 4 seconds and top out just shy of 200 mph. If you're concerned about fuel economy, don't buy this car.
The F430 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control and stability control. There are no side airbags. The sensitivity of the traction and stability control systems is adjustable via the "manettino" control mounted on the steering wheel.
If you're looking for posh interior appointments and high-tech toys, a Ferrari is probably not the best choice, but it still has its fair share of soft leather and customization opportunities. Aggressively bolstered seats hold pilot and passenger in place during spirited driving, and weekend racers can go one better by selecting the optional carbon-fiber racing seats. In addition to a choice between aluminum and carbon-fiber interior accents, buyers may also opt for "Daytona" seats, so called because their perforated upholstery design mimics that used in the classic 365 Daytona of the early 1970s. Although the Spider's fully automatic top lowers in just 20 seconds, its rear window is plastic, an unforgivable sin in a drop top that's priced at around 200 grand.
The 2008 Ferrari F430 is a true exotic. When one blasts up to 60 mph, it's almost as heart-stopping and attention-grabbing as a shuttle launch. The V8's 483 hp creates a shrieking exhaust wail that could be considered highly offensive if it weren't so impressively addicting. Zipping by slower traffic is second nature, thanks to the ultra-responsive F1 transmission. Through the steering and suspension, the F430 superbly connects the driver to the road, and handling is balanced and rewarding for the advanced driver. For maximum driving thrills, it doesn't get much better than this.
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