Review: Ferrari F430 Spider

Originally written for Supercar Driver ( in December 2016

Ferrari F430 Spider, Red

Ferrari F430 Spider, Red

With a pick of the crop to showcase the Vanrooyen stock for the SCD magazine, whilst scanning the roomful of exotica, my car of choice had to be the Ferrari. It could only be the Ferrari. A red F430 convertible stood out like a beacon in a man cave. Fabulous.

As director Martin edged the car out of the showroom, the gleaming paintwork reflected the lighting, making every other car seem muted by comparison. This car looks good as new. The bright paintwork and cream leather interior belay the 40,000 miles on the odometer.

When the F430 came along back in 2004 it addressed many of the 360’s controversial lines of the time. The 360 was a big design step away, both in size and appearance, from its forebears – namely the pretty 355 and 348. It was visually striking but didn’t hit everyone’s sweet spot. The highly regarded F355 was a tough act to follow and the 360 brought the marque into the modern era, both with interior design, a rounded shape and increased reliability. Perhaps the shape was a little too soft, with designs from other brands beginning to take on a more edgy styling that was proving popular. So, when the F430 was launched, it brought the shape more up to date, with a predominant facelift at the front including revised lights and bumpers, plus angular detail to the rear of the car making the overall appearance more aggressive yet contemporary, whilst also improving aerodynamic efficiency. The F430 also brought with it numerous styling cues as a nod to previous generation models, including the embossed exterior mirrors and those rear light clusters echoing the design of the mighty Enzo.

But as with all Ferraris, the biggest change was in the heart of the machine – power was up almost 100bhp over the outgoing 360, making the revised engine (up from 3.6 to 4.3 litres) a lively beast indeed.

As we began our journey on this cold winters day, the car is set to Race on the Manettino dial and the tail happy F430 immediately gave us a hint of its playfulness as the rear scuttled us onto an empty side road, with the engine song brightening the day. Big grins all round but, as ‘Race’ is not something we intend to do in this climate with no track in sight, I switch the dial down a notch into Sport mode. This provides a more civilised experience, with the car’s computers still allowing maximum enjoyment, whilst keeping the F430’s mischievous side in check. This all helps to inspire confidence when driving this car, even in damp conditions.

The photographer wanted to get some motion shots for this feature and requested that I drive as close to his camera car as possible so that the ‘perfect shot’ could be obtained. Now, “as close as possible” in Raid’s world means mere inches away from his rear bumper. Never before have my buttocks been quite so clenched, nor my reactive instincts so immediately primed to stamp on the brake pedal, as much as when driving someone else’s Ferrari that close to another car. Apparently, I still wasn’t close enough but our photographer was happy none the less.

Photos over with and it was time to enjoy the car on some country lanes. With my winter coat on, the F430 was absolutely fine with the roof down even with the chill in the air. There was little buffeting that I noticed, it didn’t feel cold and conversation was easy. That said, words were always halted when the boot was put down, as the F430 exhaust comes alive at 3,500rpm. The discernible difference in volume will guarantee you a smile every single time with that trademark growl of a modern Ferrari being ever-so present here. Not quite the screamer of the V8s from the past, but a hugely enjoyable sound nonetheless. What surprised me was just how good the stock exhaust was, where traditionally aftermarket versions are needed to fully extract the song of Maranello.

The F430 feels sure footed as you’d expect, with oodles of power available on demand. It can cruise or go bonkers as your mood requires. The steering feel of these cars is not in the same league as say a modern Porsche, where precision is in abundance, but it doesn’t detract from the experience. The F430 feels more like an all singing, all dancing event, packaged up and delivered to you on four wheels, rather than something designed to beat the world at the Nürburgring.

The interior has stood the test of time very well. It is a simple and effective design, a real driver’s machine. This particular car has a nice set of options, not least the Daytona seats and the ‘Carbon Driving Zone’, which gives the interior a race appearance. There is also a sat-nav should you get lost, but having to drive this car more than necessary to get to your destination would hardly be a bad thing. Outside this model features the Challenge grill and the ever-important Scuderia shields on the front wings.

As we arrive back at Vanrooyen HQ, Martin asks “What did you think of it then?”. “I love it!” is my smiley reply. “Like it enough to buy it?” he grins. Oh, I would if I could, Martin. It is the perfect spec Ferrari, Rosso Corsa with Crema leather and, being a modern car, could offer lower overall maintenance costs than previous models (the F430 is chain driven rather than the belts of old to maintain). Nothing stops a crowd quite like a pulsing red Ferrari on full chat. It stirs the soul in a way that other car manufacturers just can’t match.

The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” has perhaps never rang truer than with present day cars, with their lower capacity engines mated to turbos or electric hybrids now ruling the roost. If you want a screaming engine, then previous generation models are where you need to look. And with Ferrari used values on the increase in recent times it could prove to be a relatively low cost ownership proposition too. Every petrolhead needs to experience the thrill of a Ferrari at some point in their lives, to wear a beaming smile on your face, courtesy of that unmistakable prancing horse.