Ferrari Unveils F430 Scuderia

Porciani told us the "emozioni di guida" or excitement you get from driving the car "is fabulous!" The V-8 engine, mounted behind the cockpit, has increased horsepower (now at 510); the fastest transmission in a street car, it can change gears in 60 milliseconds -- less than a blink of the eye. The car also has a very sophisticated and unique traction control system that combines the electronic rear differential and the traction and stability systems all into one integrated system, according to a Ferrari release.

It allows amateurs to drive like professionals and stay on the track.

Oh, and the top speed is 198 miles an hour.

Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher tested the car and consulted on the design for Ferrari. He insisted on adding a "soft suspension" option you can activate on rough roads. A very special feature.

As we watch, terms and figures spinning in our heads, the black car, driven by Luca Badoer -- Ferrari's top Formula One test driver - quietly slips out of the garage onto the track. Yes, quietly. So where's the noise?

We watch on the screens as the car hugs the curves, low and tight, until it hits the straightaway, comes into view right in front of us, and that's when it hits you -- the speed and the NOISE.

I always figured the noise of a cool car was important, but I did not realize how much actual study and technology goes into the perfect vroom. As the Scud flew by, charts flashed up on the screens comparing its sound to its predecessor's. It's a big deal.

The Low, Rumbling Thunder Was Impressive

"The sound has to be loud, but not annoying," Porciani told me later, "and it has to come within legal levels on the road." So they modulate the high and low decibels for the perfect pitch. And of course there is an optional exhaust bypass that frees the noise when you are on the track, away from the police. Where is the quality of the sound more important I ask, inside or outside the car? Porciani just smiled.

Soon enough, it was time to saddle up, to borrow Formula One jargon. A total of three F430 Scuds -- black, silver and red -- were brought out for the occasion.

Dario Benuzzi, the elegant boss of test drivers, invites me into … Yes! The red car! He's going to drive first.

The pared-down interior of the Scuderia has little of the famed luxury you'd expect -- it's the racing version. Normal seat belts, deep low seats, bare aluminum floors. No armrests to speak of, nowhere to hold on to.

That's OK. Until we went past the first curve and Dario let loose. He flicked through the gears using the clutchless paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. (First developed for Formula One cars, you shift up with your right hand and down with your left). As the car careened around the curves and barreled down the straights I could feel the noise vibrating through my body. It's cool. I'm sold.

Then it was my turn. Taking in the suspiciously complacent smiles of male colleagues and the worried look of Benuzzi (you never relax it seems, next to rookie drivers, no matter how experienced they are, when they are about to drive off with one of your $250,000 cars), I lowered myself into the seat, looked for a nonexistent clutch, figured I must do without it and studied the gear paddles. Benuzzi explained, I nodded with confidence and off we went.

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