PUBLISHED: 12:26 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013
Tim Thurston knows what he wants for Christmas. The only snag is that £140k price tag
I now know what I want for Christmas - a nice little Italian, and I don't mind if it's not red!
Lewis Hamilton is world F1 champion of course, winning in the most exciting of circumstances. But it was Ferrari who won the constructor's championship. So what better time to test the Ferrari F430 coupe?
When the nice little Italian (Beatrice was her name) gave me the keys, explained the basics and told me about the GPS vehicle tracking device that I needed to remove when I wasn't driving the car so if it moved it would either presumably explode or at least email Maranello in Italy, I knew this super car was something special. Costing more than 140k it needed to be.
My first thoughts were 'well it's a Ferrari so it's going to be good' but that quickly progressed to 'Wow!' The famous prancing horse - is there a more iconic motoring emblem? - the beautifully sleek body lines forming the stunning aerodynamic shape that all Ferraris seem to have; the build, all of aluminium on an aluminium chassis to give strength but at light weight. It looked beautiful.
From the back with its twin exhausts, awesome low profile tyres, circular lights that looked like flame throwers, grills and that famous emblem it looked a beast. Then there was the windowed hatch that exposed the immense 4.3 litre, 490 bhp engine, with two gigantic inlet manifolds that would impress the most non-mechanical driver.
Immediately it brought back childhood memories of those Matchbox cars that also have visible engines, but they cost 49p and this one was real. I felt like a child in a toyshop with Christmas money in my pocket. I could see it, touch it and was now about to drive it.
And that's what motoring should be about. Of course we need to get from A to B and cars need to be practical and environmentally friendly, but are in most cases they're boring. Cars should be fun. I was so excited my initial disappointment that the car was black not red, had completely dissolved.
Just getting into the car is an experience. Straight left leg, slide onto your bottom and swivel. The firm red leather seats are contoured and after pushing a couple of buttons I fitted into it snugly. Another push and I glided forward into the perfect driving position.
The F1 version of the 430 contrasts the renowned basic F1 functionality with top of the range sports car luxury. Brushed aluminium and beautifully large stitched Italian leather. Plain 'engine start' button and metal manual gear switch paddles. The driver ergonomics are superb. Of course it also has all the in-car accessories imaginable, but that's not what this car is about. I put my foot on the brake, closed my eyes and pushed 'engine start'. That's what it's about. More of a lovely whiney roar that the meatier one of several sports cars. It sounded wonderful.
On the steering wheel is the manettino. Adopted directly from F1, this allows the driver to choose a setting that suits their driving, changing suspension, stability and traction control and through the E-Diff, technology developed in F1, the power that is transmitted from the gearbox to the rear wheels. So starting with automatic (I'd try the manual override later), I fired this marvellous motor car into traffic.
As expected it hates traffic and speed limits and loves corners, accelerating and the open road. Nought to 60 is four seconds, although I swear it was quicker. A top speed of over 196mph, which sadly I can't verify. Fuel consumption just isn't an issue, although around 19 mpg isn't that bad.
Handling was superb, with the manettino improving safety, comfort and excitement, depending on the selection. Cornering, it felt as though it was on rails, and only with excessive throttle was there any wobble.
I could drive for miles, and did, yearning for the next corner, excited at the prospect of accelerating out of a roundabout, cursing traffic, relishing open roads and, of course, sticking to speed limits. Although dropping an attractive lady off at a party and watching heads turn was also great fun.
The F430 is graceful, if it was a football team it would be Arsenal, stylish and slick. It is breathtaking, has awesome power with wonderful handling and superb braking. The engineering is a sight to behold, a true Ferrari thoroughbred. Just the thought of slipping into the contoured seats makes me tingle with excitement. And that's what motoring should be about.
I know what I want for Christmas and at the top of the list is a Ferrari F430 coupe.