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Friday, October 31, 2008

Twin Charged 708hp Novitec F430 Scuderia

It takes cojones to tuck into a new Ferrari in hopes of ending up with an improved street machine. Pininfarina showcars don't really count, since that's like cheating. And race-prepared GT2-class racing cars don't count either, since we don't see any Le Mans racers parked in front of sushi bars or Circle K.

But the 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia by Novitec Rosso is another thing entirely. While a Ferrari 430 Scuderia impresses, this twin-supercharged Novitec Rosso enters the territory of shock and awe.

Novitec's Wolfgang Hagedorn does business in the German town of Stetten (an undeniably manure-perfumed burg in the German province of Swabia, not far from Stuttgart). He's a hell of a businessman, but he's still what many non-risk-takers would call a nut case. After years of up-rating Fiats and Alfa Romeos (not hard to do in the 1990s), Hagedorn sucked it up in 2001 and bought three Ferrari 360 Modenas for tinkering purposes. At the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show he revealed his supercharged Ferrari 360 Modena by Novitec Rosso and orders quickly appeared.

Since then, Hagedorn has really made his Ferraris true specialty models, much more than simple tuner cars. And so here is the newest Novitec Rosso, Hagedorn's improved Ferrari 430 Scuderia, the V8-powered berlinetta that beats the lap time set at Ferrari's Fiorano test track by the overly worshiped Ferrari Enzo .

How can the 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia by Novitec Rosso possibly improve on a car already so impossibly super?

Heavy Breathing
A look through the polycarbonate rear glass (so like a sneeze guard at the buffet table) in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia's rear deck reveals all. Here are two compact, belt-driven Rotrex superchargers fed by two immense carbon-fiber air boxes. Two front-mounted water-cooled intercoolers (with double the efficiency of the units that Novitec formerly specified in this sort of application) help keep the intake air at the right temperature. This engine conversion is referred to as the Novitec Race Bi-Compressor Engine kit, and the full deal runs $89,999 through Novitec's full-service importer CEC.

Getting more out of the 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia evidently doesn't take much, as each Rotrex screwgie hits its max boost at 7.0 psi. It's all available in the twitch of an ankle from low revs all the way to 8,350 rpm, where the horsepower count surges from 503 hp to 708 hp. Meanwhile, the torque has been wrenched from a measly 347 pound-feet up to 533 lb-ft at 6,250 rpm. Novitec has managed to keep all the heat-inducing friction and combustion in control by applying competition-level cooling upgrades.

The Ferrari-engineered 136E V8 engine (which also sits in the Alfa Romeo 8C and assorted Maseratis) is otherwise stock. So is the Scuderia's six-speed automated manual F1-Superfast2 gearbox; and its shift times remain wildly quick going up or down (70 milliseconds in the Race, CT-Off and CST-Off settings of the manettino mounted on the steering wheel).

Naturally, the ECU has been fiddled with by a local German fiddler to boost the engine's self-confidence, while the port fuel injectors are now higher-flow units, a fact that further ruins the Scuderia's already sufficiently ruinous mpg rating. But if you whine about this mpg thing at a barbecue for Novitec Rosso owners, you're probably a waiter from the catering company.

Nimble Jack
While the technicians at Novitec's facility in Stetten have fiddled not one bit with the wheel alignment, new stiffer springs all around slightly alter the over-the-road feel of the five suspension settings afforded by the manettino, and the overall ride height is 1.2 inches lower than that specified by Maranello. The Ferrari MagneRide dampers are too complicated to modify, so the settings are the same as before.

Aside from hunkering lower to the asphalt, the Novitec Rosso version of the 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia also features a wider track front and rear thanks to a combination of spacers and the very sharp, yellow-accented, 20-inch Novitec NF3 three-piece aluminum wheels. The wheels themselves measure 20 by 8.5 inches in front and 20 by 12.5 in back. On dry roads, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup Plus tires are terrific, 235/30ZR20s in front and 325/25ZR20s in the rear. But it also rained at times during our thrill ride and these wide, semi-slick Michelins become bobsleds under such conditions.

Overall, the Novitec's crisper dynamics can be clearly felt, especially when the supercharged throttle delivers such enlightenment that we repeatedly lunge past the braking point before corners. In such circumstances, the Ferrari 430 Scuderia's standard carbon-ceramic brake discs are much appreciated.

Even without any bodywork modifications, the 430 Scuderia's lower ride height adds approximately 80 pounds of downforce at both front and rear during high-speed dashes, while the stiffer springs and stickier tires improve stability at ultrahigh speed. Once Novitec's taller final-drive gear is installed, the top speed climbs to 216 mph from 199 mph.

Leave Great Enough Alone
As Hagedorn reminds us, "There's no need to improve much at all on the interior or exterior packaging of an already special-trim Ferrari." While we fundamentally agree, we can't help but wonder whether this isn't Maranello holding Stetten under its thumb. Is this another keep-our-look-and-you-can-keep-the-cavallinos sort of deal for which Ferrari is so famous when dealing with those who dare to modify the factory's products?

Within this car's cabin, you'll find all the familiar Ferrari touches, particularly the perfect Scuderia seats. Additions by Novitec include a flat-bottom, suede-upholstered carbon-fiber steering wheel, and it features the significantly larger carbon-fiber shift paddles, plus there's a set of anodized aluminum pedals. The larger shift paddles on the steering column make a drastic improvement for flicking shifts at any point of the steering action, especially through and exiting hairpins.

One final Novitec modification can be found when the manettino switch is clicked into the slippery-road setting farthest to the left. Finding ourselves in a dense but silent neighborhood at night, we set it here and the transmission automatically stays in 2nd for creeping speeds while the bypass valves close to lower exhaust noise considerably. Besides this Novitec software change (useful for avoiding the attention of the constables), this car also has the ability to hydraulically lift the nose 1.6 inches to avoid a scarred chin in parking garages and driveways. Up to now the only Ferrari from the factory with this feature has been the Enzo.

Stunning Made Stunning-er
As Ferrari expands its brand name into any number of marketing agreements and even theme parks, it's easy to wonder about the soul of the company from Maranello. We were thinking this recently while contemplating the forthcoming Ferrari California, the company's new hardtop convertible, which looks as if it has been created to serve the agendas of far too many cooks.

So it was nice, then, to drive the all-conquering 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia by Novitec Ferrari, an authentic Ferrari lust machine. Letting Novitec Rosso have at the Ferrari 430 Scuderia has ended in an even harder-core Scud. It's a car never meant for every day, and this genuine Ferrari-style concept thoroughly validates the leaner and even meaner German approach.


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