By attaching our Best of the Best tag to the Ferrari F430 coupe ($170,000), we are in accord with a discerning roster of earlier judges—auto writers of many languages other than Italian, a vicarious public, the car’s first customers, even designers and engineers from competing enterprises—who believe this to be the finest Ferrari ever built, maybe even the world’s best sports car ever. Rarely has praise been piled so high.
The F430, which replaces the F360, certainly earned our apotheosis. This car is not simply an improvement on its predecessor; it is the product of Ferrari tearing apart the F360 and rebuilding it into a completely new vehicle that, with its 4.3-liter V-8 developing 490 hp, is 23 percent more powerful. Thanks to a heavy infusion of track technology from Ferrari’s racing team that has won more world titles than the New York Yankees, the F430 is ideally suited for daily drivers who seek some thrills on weekends. The car offers no electronic froufrou, only useful systems that you can use to monitor and reduce your danger zones. Among these driving aids is an underbody pan with F/1 industrial-strength diffusers that slaps the car with 200 pounds of downforce at full bellow. Just as handy is a steering wheel switch that adjusts shift points and power applications to respond to the surface being addressed, from an icy back road to a sweeping right-hander on a dry track.
The styling is soft and sloping and made mildly retrospective by air intakes peculiar to the Ferrari 156 Grand Prix cars of the 1960s. Performance is that of a velvet brute. Handling is superflat, hugely secure, and almost sensory. The most impressive figures for the F430 are its top speed of 196 mph and its zero-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds. The latter bests that of the Porsche 997, but then, the Porsche is not our Best of the Best winner.