This autumn Ferrari will unveil the replacement for the 430 series. The new car is radically different too. New engine and transmission, new gearbox, all-new structure, new driver aids.
The basic structure of the current 430 is a modified version of the 360’s aluminium frame. But for the new car – name unknown – the structure and chassis will be completely new. It’s a blank-sheet car, for the stylists, aerodynamicists and engineers. We know this because it’s going to be built on a new production line, the one Ferrari installed for the California.
The new car will go faster than the current 430 while using less fuel. We’re talking about power well north of 500bhp, 0-62 in under 4seconds and breaking the 200mph barrier then. It keeps a V8 engine, but direct injection (as recently fitted to the 911 Carrera) gives it the efficiency. The new fuel system is well able to work even at the 8000rpm-plus of the screaming Ferrari V8.
As to the size of the engine, we frankly don’t know. Our Ferrari engineers are keeping schtum, but we’ve heard two sets of rumours. First, it’ll grow towards 5.0 litres. Second, it’ll shrink, but get turbos.
There’s no F1-style KERS yet. Ferrari says it’ll be about 2012 before we see it in a road car. Look, they can’t even get it working reliably in a racer yet.
But more efficiency gains in the engine can come from careful internal friction improvements. Which might sound dull, but last year they quietly cut the official consumption of the 599 by 15 percent without harming power.
The transmission is new. No more is it the single-clutch F1 type, even though with the 430 Scuderia Ferrari honed that to a pitch of speed and smoothness no other manufacturer has got close to.
No, for the new car it’s a twin-clutch seven-speed. It’s the one from the California, but its shift strategy is faster and more aggressive for the mid-engined car. Ferrari engineers are very proud of this gearbox. It’s as compact and as light as the six-speed F1, whereas Porsche’s PDK is 30kg more than a 911’s manual box.
Ferrari engineers tell us they’ve made major breakthroughs with stability control electronics. They say they can now make the cars as quick around a track with the electronics on as off, even with genius test drivers at the wheel never mind normal human beings. With the E-Diff and F1-Trac, the new base car is likely to get close to a current Scuderia on the track.
And yet the engineers insist it’ll be comfortable. For the California, they had to design new strategies for the adaptive damping to stretch the possible compromise. They made the California as sporty as a Ferrari should be but more smooth-riding. Now they can up the ante on the new mid-engined car, by shifting the compromise the other way: just as comfy as an existing 430, but even sharper to steer.
Though one scooper shot a near-finished car rolling onto a trailer, the test cars driving near Maranello are still heavily disguised. You can tell they have slightly longer wheelbase and marginally wider track compared with the hacked-about 430 bodies that they’re using for disguise. They also have big air scoops above the rear wheels. Aero innovations include ducts to remove air from high-pressure areas such as the wheel-arches and exhaust it without turbulence in spiralling jets at the rear.
We don’t want the car to grow. Its size is already a bit of a nuisance on tight twisty roads. Besides, size means weight. To help fight the pork, some exotic materials will be used in the structure, but it’ll mostly be aluminium.
So what difference does the new assembly line make? Well, the cars are put together in modules, rather than as a series of components bolted to the base shell. This means that they can also be taken to bits in modules when they need servicing. In the first three years, a 599 needs 50 hours’ scheduled maintenance. The comparable figure for the California, manufactured the new way, is just 11 hours.
Because Ferrari has gradually made its cars more and more useable over the past decade, people are driving them more. And that’s why service times matter now.
So it’s going to be a busy year for Ferrari. We don’t even have the California in the UK yet, and the 430 Scuderia Spider 16M isn’t even on the road anywhere. But come autumn, we’ll see official photos of this V8 coupe replacement. Prices? Unknown but high. Desirability? Higher still.