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Ferrari F430 Spider 2006 Review

It's funny how you always find women's magazines in doctors' waiting rooms, because I think they actually cause a mild form of illness themselves.

People who ingest too much Who, NW, OK! etc are likely to start dribbling excrement. They might, for example, tell you they feel sorry for Angelina Jolie, presumably because her husband's too attractive.

Personally, I never felt sorry for the mushroom-lipped millionaire, until I drove the Ferrari F430 Spider.

After having spent time in something that is, basically, sex on wheels, I now have some understanding of what looking like sex on legs must feel like.

Jolie has requested that she only be served by female waiting staff, because guys over-ogle her, but the Ferrari is aggressively eyeballed by both sexes.

People lost their minds and found their camera phones, traffic was disrupted and small discussion groups formed every time the car was left parked somewhere for more than 15 seconds.

A lot of folks yelled things - some of them even nice - while shrieking in fright was also common, thanks to the fact that the F430 sounds like a small thermonuclear device exploding inside a steel garbage tin.

This Ferrari is so loud that if you drive it past a leather-vest-loving Harley rider he will tsk to himself and say: “Now, seriously, how can that be street legal?''

At idle, or on a trailing throttle, the sinuous Spider emits only a cautionary metallic growl, but every time you poke the throttle it barks, snaps and booms.

Drive it through a tunnel and tiles fall off the roof, just as fillings fall out of your teeth, but you just keep smiling.

The speedo is a small, almost inconsequential dial on the right of the dash - with markings right up to 360km/h - but it's the yellow-faced tachometer you find yourself staring at, challenging yourself to hit the strident upper reaches of its 10,000rpm band.

Fantastically, the noise on the overrun is almost as good as under hard acceleration - think Rice Bubbles made out of giant ball bearings.

The bewitching looks and the searing sound are what stick with you, but that doesn't mean the drive experience itself is found wanting.

This Ferrari is, in fact, every bit as good as it looks. Kick the 4.3-litre V8 in the guts and it feels like it wants to crawl out of its cool, clear-glass casing into the cabin and rip your lungs out.

From a standing start this 360kW, 465Nm animal accelerates like a feral motorcycle, with the front wheels seemingly rearing in the air as you are smacked back into your seat by an errant, invisible swinging arm.

The F430 is fast - catch your breath, jumpstart your heart, go directly to jail fast - with a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.1 seconds.

It also handles quite wonderfully, with a ride that perfectly balances kidney-pounding hard and tickle-me-with-a-feather soft.

And the way it corners makes you laugh out loud with joy.

Pushing it as hard as I dared, I still felt like I was so far from the edge of the envelope that I hadn't even gotten around to stealing it from the stationery cupboard yet.

The traction-control system is so generous it will even let you get the Ferrari so sideways your financial life flashes before your eyes, before gently shoving you back onto a sensible line.

Then there's the bravura brakes, which pull you up as if you've just been doing 10km/h instead of, well, speeds our legal team don't want us to mention.

And this car even had a fair-dinkum, gated six-speed manual.

Forget everything you've read about needing Thorpey thighs to operate a super-car clutch, too, because the F430 is surprisingly easy to drive. Banging the lever through the gate even becomes second nature quite quickly.

But there are problems, foremost among them being ground clearance. The F430 likes smooth roads, without undulations or undue dips. It does not like speed humps, raised kerbs of any kind or bumps hit at speed.

Encounter any of these and you'll be greeted by yet another spine-tingling sound, but not a pleasant one. The sound of parts of this beautiful Ferrari being ground off by the ground is truly horrible - like a valuable vase hitting a tiled floor.

Then there are the quirky, Italian touches, like the fact that the supposedly automatic folding roof needs a helping hand to close - not the kind of quality you expect from a $425,000 car.

Sorry, I'll pause while you take in that price...

This foible sticks out all the more because the engineering generally is quite astounding. The Spider is, after all, a convertible without flex or scuttle shake, which just shouldn't be possible.

Then there are the buttons for the horn, which are moulded into the wheel, just above your thumbs. Clearly the designers thought you'd be needing to use it regularly, to get ordinary cars the hell out of your way.

Generally, the cabin is a pretty wondrous place, with leather-jacket quality lining and a super-sporty feel.

The only problem with being in the driver's seat is that you can't see how hot the car is from there.

Of course, if you can afford such a machine you could just pay someone to drive along beside you in a car made out of mirrors.

It would want to be one quick mirrored car, though.

Stephen Corby is a senior roadtester for the CARSguide team whose work also appears in the Sunday Telegraph. A version of this review plus more news and analysis can be read in the Sunday Telegraph.

More Corby rantings on non-car stuff can be found on his Daily Telegraph blog.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Spider 4.3L, PULP, 6 SP $94,600 – 108,680 2006 Ferrari F430 2006 Spider Pricing and Specs
(base) 4.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $90,310 – 103,840 2006 Ferrari F430 2006 (base) Pricing and Specs
Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist