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    UK SundayTimes Ferrari 430 Scuderia & Porsche GT2

    Two fabled manufacturers have just launched their fastest ever production models, but which best fulfils the supercar dream?

    There are various ways to measure how fast a car is. You can quote its top speed, but that's near enough meaningless as few cars get anywhere near maximum potential on a road. You can quote acceleration times, but these are a poor guide, too: four-wheel-drive cars have a traction advantage over two-wheel-drive cars, so their figures are usually flattering, and the same can be said for those cars with engines behind, rather than in front of, the driver. And it gives no credit to a car's ability to stop or get around a corner, both vital measures of the total performance package.

    This is why the most sensible guide to true performance is a lap time, where acceleration, braking and cornering all contribute. And by this measure, what you're looking at are the fastest production cars that Ferrari and Porsche, the two most fabled supercar manufacturers, have made.

    Around Ferrari's Fiorano test track, the Pounds172,500 430 Scuderia is faster even than the ultra-exotic, limited numbers Enzo of 2004. Over in Germany, if you flogged the Pounds131,070 Porsche 911 GT2 around the old Nürburgring racetrack, your lap time would be faster than that of what was previously Porsche's fastest production car, the Carrera GT.

    But what is perhaps most extraordinary about these two, and explains their joint appearance on this page, is that their makers decided to introduce them to the press at opposite ends of the same week.

    Ferrari went first and lost no time explaining why the 430 Scuderia, while looking little different from the F430 on which it is based, is worth about Pounds40,000 more. Use of hugely expensive lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and titanium has dropped its weight by 220lb while the output of its 4.3 litre V8 motor has risen 20bhp to 510bhp. A paddle-shift gearbox is standard rather than optional (as are carbon ceramic brakes). Were it not for the air-conditioning, airbags and electric windows, you'd think you were looking at a racing car.

    And that's how it drives. Even at idle the V8 sounds brutal, intimidating and utterly thrilling. Drive it quickly and you have to recalibrate your mind before you will come to terms with its capabilities: not only will it hit 62mph in 3.6sec, it will also pull more than 1.5G in braking and through a corner, when most well-sorted road cars do well to hit 1G.

    The traction control system uses the same logic as Ferrari's F1 car, which means instead of lifting the throttle when it detects an impending loss of grip, it keeps the tyres on the edge of adhesion through the curve. You can stamp on the accelerator halfway through a second-gear corner and instead of either cutting the power dead or throwing you into the trees, it will make your passenger think you're Michael Schumacher.

    It's so awesomely effective on the racetrack, I half expected it to be undriveable on the road, but this is not how it transpires. At the advice of Schumacher, who drove the car during development, Ferrari provides a button that allows you to soften the shock absorbers, so instead of ricocheting off every bump the car simply soaks them up. It is devastatingly effective.

    When I spoke to Amedeo Felisa, the boss of Ferrari, he said: "We wanted a car without compromise. If it doesn't add to the driving experience, it doesn't go on the car."

    And that is what has been created. Even in the rarefied world of Ferrari, it will always be a niche player because it's so loud nobody is going to want to do a long distance, but as a track-day weapon it takes some beating.

    On paper at least the specifications of the Scuderia and Porsche's 911 GT2 appear so similar as to have been arranged with prior knowledge. The Porsche has a little more power (530bhp) but that advantage is slightly cancelled out by a fraction more weight, which is why it is a scant 0.1sec slower to 62mph. On the other hand, it will do 204mph, while those poor lambs in their Scuderias will have to settle for a mere 198mph. Both have two seats, both are high performance versions of preexisting models and both can land you in more trouble with the law than you could conceive in less time than you can imagine.

    So when I arrived at its launch in Bremen and saw wet roads, I became anxious. One of the ways Porsche has lightened this car over the standard 911 Turbo is to remove its four-wheel-drive hardware, and I didn't relish the thought of trying to harness something even more powerful than the Scuderia on sopping wet roads.

    I need not have worried: despite being the most powerful 911 made, it's easy to drive. Indeed, if you were blindfolded until you were at the wheel, you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for any other Porsche. Unlike the Scuderia, the GT2 is quiet and more than comfortable enough to drive all day. You can see out of it in all important directions (which is more than I can say for the Ferrari) and when you squeeze the throttle, instead of barking at you like the Scuderia, there's a gentle whistle as its turbos spool up to speed, followed by a purposeful shove in the back.

    It's only when you mash the pedal to the floor that the car reveals itself to be like no other Porsche built. It is so fast that I was grateful for the deserted and mercifully dry autobahn I was on, since it's hard to believe the numbers that appear on the dial. Because it has more low-down torque than the Ferrari, its acceleration is even harder to comprehend, a state of befuddlement only augmented by the lack of drama that accompanies it.

    Like the Ferrari it has carbon ceramic brakes of pulverising strength, so it would be interesting to find out which was quicker on a track: my guess is that it would be too close to call.

    Which to choose? If you had only one car, it's the Porsche by a mile. You could drive it like a Ford Fiesta through the traffic and forget the potential it packs - it is a practical everyday car. Used in this role, the deliciously deafening Scuderia would drive you to your wits' end.

    But people who can afford cars like this never have just one car. In which case the Ferrari is worth every pound that separates the two: it's not so much what it does and the way it does it that makes this the most exciting modern supercar I've driven - and yes, that includes the Bugatti Veyron.

    The Bug may trounce the Scuderia's performance, but for those whose interests extend beyond the pursuit of power to a realm where the feel of the steering, the sound of the engine and the sheer relentless enthusiasm of the car beneath you are what counts, the Scuderia is preferable by far to the Bugatti, let alone the GT2.

    Yes, it's purely for recreation whereas the Porsche is a useful tool - but it's also a Ferrari and the most exciting it has produced in the past 20 years at that. In my book, recommendations don't come much higher than that.

    Vital statistics

    Model Ferrari 430 Scuderia

    Engine type 4308cc, eight cylinders

    Power/Torque 510bhp @ 8500rpm / 346 lb ft @ 5250rpm

    Transmission Six-speed manual, paddle shift

    Fuel/CO2 18mpg (combined) / 360g/km

    Performance 0-62mph: 3.6sec / Top speed: 198mph

    Price Pounds172,500

    Verdict The most exciting supercar on sale


    Date of release Spring 2008

    Vital statistics

    Model Porsche 911 GT2

    Engine type 3600cc, six cylinders

    Power/Torque 530bhp @ 6500cc / 510 lb ft @ 2200rpm

    Transmission Six-speed manual

    Fuel/CO2 22.6mpg (combined) / 298g/km

    Performance 0-62mph: 3.7sec / Top speed: 204mph

    Price Pounds131,070

    Verdict Close but no cigar

    Re: UK SundayTimes Ferrari 430 Scuderia & Porsche GT2

    Thanks for the post,
    Very interesting read.
    The Ferrari must be a great car to say that it is their most exciting car in 20 years.
    They must be refering to the great f40 as Ferrari's most exciting.



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