Used Audi R8 vs. Ferrari F430

2015 Drive-My

Audi R8 vs Ferrari F430. Prices could be bottoming out for these phenomenal pedigree supercars. New Power generation, James Page is blown away by the Audi R8 and Ferrari F430: supercar performance for Austin-Healey money. Photography Tony Baker.

Ferrari found itself under pressure in the first few years of the 21st century. Not on the racetrack, admittedly. Anybody who followed Formula One through that period will automatically associate the German national anthem with that of Italy, thanks to countless Sunday afternoons watching podium ceremonies for Michael Schumacher and Maranello. No, it was on the road that it was coming under attack. Traditional foes such as Lamborghini, Porsche and Aston Martin were still trying to knock Ferrari off its perch, but there were new threats, too, in the shape of the Ford GT, plus the combined might of McLaren and Mercedes with their SLR.

Used Audi R8 vs. Ferrari F430- driven

Clockwise, from main: all-rounder vs street racer, but both offer epic performance for the money; R8’s lever works through attractive open gate; quattro system inspires confidence.

The 360 had been the marque’s most successful model, with more than 17,000 being built by the time its successor was introduced at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. It was also part of a bloodline that stretched back to the 1970s through the F355 to the 328 and 308. “It’s like replacing the Punto for Fiat,” remarked Ferrari’s general manager at the time, Amedeo Felisa.

The F430 therefore needed to be good. Very good. Pininfarina was given the task of freshening up the shape, and while Frank Stephenson’s design may look like a natural derivation of the 360, a lot had changed – only the doors, bonnet and roof were shared with the old model, in fact. The aluminium tub was 20% stiffer, and the V8 engine was all new. The powerplant was described by Ferrari as having only ‘industrial commonality’ with the contemporary Maserati unit. What that translated to was that the engines shared a basic block and a production line, but were otherwise very different. The F430 unit was designed to rev hard, so it came with a flat-plane crankshaft, and there were four valves per cylinder plus variable timing.

Audi R8 used road test - Drive-My

From right: side ‘blade’ gives profile a slightly awkward air; nicely designed cabin with plenty of equipment; drilled discs visible through alloys; 4.2-litre V8 needs to be revved.

This being the digital age, there was also a new box of tricks called the E-diff. This was designed to deliver torque to the rear wheel that had the most grip at any given moment, and worked with the electronic Skyhook dampers, traction control, ESP and gearshift. The idea was to replicate the traction of a four-wheeldrive system without the inherent weight penalty or understeer.

All very impressive, and the F430 was rapturously received by the motoring press. Maranello’s new baby was a timely arrival, because the supercar market was becoming ever more competitive – especially when Audi decided to join the party. This wasn’t quite as big a leap for Ingolstadt as you might imagine. The marque had long been trading blows with Mercedes and BMW in the world of supersaloons, and had recently acquired the happy knack of winning the Le Mans 24 Hours every year. Its new model would share a name with the all-conquering sports-prototype: R8.

Ferrari F430 used road test - Drive-MY

Since 1998, Audi had been in charge of Lamborghini, and the R8’s mid-engined platform was derived from that of the Gallardo – both use extruded and pressed aluminium panels. In total, however, only 15% of components were shared between the two cars: the Audi is just 31mm longer and 4mm wider, but its wheelbase is stretched by 100mm and it’s 87mm taller, too.

Not only that, it ended up being 130kg heavier. The R8 made its debut at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, and at first was available with a 4.2-litre V8. The powerplant was a dry-sumped variant of that used in the RS4, and drove through a quattro system that split delivery 70:30 in favour of the rear wheels. Although the gearbox casing was shared with the Gallardo, the Audi had different ratios, and an R-tronic version of the Lamborghini’s E-gear semi-automatic ’box was available as an optional extra.

Almost a decade since it first appeared, it remains an incredibly good-looking car. The R8 was based on the Le Mans concept, which was overseen by Frank Lamberty and built by a small team in only 11 months ahead of the 2003 Geneva and Frankfurt shows. It is superbly proportioned, with a small rear overhang and a protruding snout, and looks particularly effective from the front or rear three-quarter. The stance is purposeful and muscular.

The Ferrari took styling inspiration from past greats such as the 1961 ‘sharknose’ 156 Grand Prix car and the 250LM, blending them into a modern design that includes, for example, quad tail-lights from the Enzo hypercar plus a rear diffuser. The front end is simpler than that of the Audi, but both are wide, imposing and slightly bigger than you would imagine. Each offers a view of its mid-mounted engine, too – the Ferrari’s standing out courtesy of its crackle-finish red cam covers – with more mechanical components visible than is usually the case in moderns, which tend to hide everything beneath plastic covers. Inside, the F430 is simple and black. The only colour comes from the huge yellow rev counter positioned directly in front; the speedo and other gauges are arranged around it. A central panel contains vents, stereo and heater controls but doesn’t extend as far as the transmission tunnel, leaving a gap before you get to the buttons for launch control, automatic mode for the gearbox, and reverse. It’s all very minimalist.


The subtlety stops when you prod the starter button, which is mounted on the bottom-left of the steering wheel. The electronics orchestrate a wholly unnecessary burst of revs that must be quite entertaining when you’re at a track, but it’s a novelty that your neighbours would no doubt tire of every morning.

Any cynicism will be swept away the first time that you fully open the Ferrari’s throttle. With more torque than in the 360, the response is absolutely instant. There is no sense of inertia, no gathering of speed – it just takes off. Maximum power is delivered at 8500rpm, by which time the engine is howling and you are covering ground at a frankly absurd rate of knots. You might also be saying out loud some very rude words at the sheer brutality of it.

Ferrari F430 used road test

From top: E-diff helps to keep everything in check while cornering; few spots of colour in focused interior; steel discs – ceramic was a £10,000 option; note 8500rpm redline; manettino control. Clockwise, from main: F430 provides incredible straight-line performance; bright-red wheel-mounted start button isn’t subtle; mid-mounted 4.3-litre V8 powerplant was a completely new design.

There is no doubt that you need to be ready when you decide to unleash the F430, and you need to have chosen your stretch of road wisely. Keep the throttle open for only a few seconds, select another gear via the ultra-quick paddleshift, and you will be going very, very fast indeed. It is thoroughly addictive.

It is with eyes on stalks that I step out of the Ferrari and head for the Audi. The lavish cockpit couldn’t be further removed from that of the F430. You feel much more cocooned in the R8, surrounded by beautifully crafted kit. In the centre console lies a sat-nav; select reverse and it changes to a screen showing you what’s behind. There are far more elements to it – more buttons, more recesses and more dials. It’s busier than its rival’s cabin, but stylish nonetheless – an interior for the smartphone generation.

The engine fires without the Ferrari’s ostentatious blip, and settles to a familiar, deep V8 burble. It would have been a surprise if the Audi’s acceleration had been a match for the F430’s, and it is isn’t – quite. Once the big engine is towards the top of its rev range, it pulls very strongly indeed, but there isn’t that instant catapult effect the moment you plant the throttle. Instead, the momentum builds insistently but more gradually. This is a fast car, yet it’s giving away about 80bhp and 110kg to the Ferrari – and it does show. The introduction of the 5.2-litre V10-engined R8 in 2008 went some way towards redressing the balance.

Where it does score – at least in my hands on a cold and slippery track – is that it feels far more planted than the F430. Road-testers who seem to score cars simply on whether or not they oversteer delighted in the fact that here was a four-wheel-drive Audi in which you provoke the tail out of line, and no doubt it can be done. Personally, I prefer the fact that, in normal driving, it feels as if it is always on your side. The F430 was certainly better than its oftenfeisty predecessors in that respect, but – perhaps unnecessarily – I am a bit more wary of its throttle when cornering. You can alter its characteristics via a switch on the steering wheel, a somewhat contrived F1-esque affectation that Ferrari named the manettino. There are positions for snow, ‘slippery’, sport, race and – if you’re truly bored of life – ‘off’. In reality, the E-diff and its associated trickery would probably look after you in the same way that the Audi does.

That complexity brings with it a reputation for ruinous running costs. Aldous Voice bought the featured F430 in 2013, having previously owned 360s. “I got my first one in 2009,” he says, “and it sold me on Ferraris. The problem was, the first service on the 360 cost £3500 – and that was with an independent specialist!

“I then started to look at what I could do myself and which parts were interchangeable. The electrics, for example, are all Bosch so they can be sourced direct. Various companies are remanufacturing affordable parts, too. You can see how costs could mount up, though. An F430 has got 10 litres of oil in it for a start…”

“I do all the servicing myself, and my hope is that I can turn it into a business at some point – I’ve already got the diagnostics kit. If you’ve got any sort of mechanical or engineering background, they’re easy to work on. They’re pretty much hand-made, so most jobs are surprisingly straightforward. There are no cambelts to worry about, either, because the F430 uses chains.” The Ferrari has major mileage checkpoints that need to be considered as well as its basic annual servicing. The paperwork should reflect a combination of both types. It is worth considering that the clutch on a car with the semiautomatic gearbox can wear out in less than 10,000 miles if it’s abused.

All of this is alien to an R8 owner. “I did testdrive an F430,” says Dan Gray, “but when I spoke to the salesman I soon realised that the running costs would be ridiculous.” The Audi, on the other hand, has two-year/20,000-mile intervals, and Gray reports that it costs £600 to have the car sorted by a main dealer.

“This is my ninth Audi,” he says. “I’ve had RS4s and RS6s in the past – among others. I always wanted an R8, though, and looked at about 17 before buying this one! It was perfect – it was the right colour and it came at the right price.” Gray reckons that values have bottomed out, which is bad news for anyone hoping to pick up even more of a supercar bargain.


And that’s what the Audi is at the moment. At the time of writing, a quick search of the classifieds turns up plenty between £40,000 and £50,000. A well-specced 2007 4.2 with 42,000 miles on the clock and a full service history was on offer for £43,333. Just over £50k gets you one with all the toys and 25,000 miles.

For the Ferrari, you have to think in terms of adding at least £20,000 to the price of an R8. The cheapest that we could find was a red 2005 left-hooker for £62,990. A 2006, 13,000-mile example in Tour de France Blue – surely a much better choice than ‘look at me’ red – and with the manual gearbox that proved popular in the UK but nowhere else was on sale for £69,995. When you consider what else is fetching £50-£70,000 these days, both start to look sensible. Each one confounded my expectations to some extent. I had considered the Ferrari to be a bit ‘Premiership footballer’, and the Audi to be efficient but lacking charisma.

That prejudice was unfair: the Audi is a fabulous- looking car with genuine presence, and fun to drive. The Ferrari is a more focused machine, and while it does have its little pretensions – the burst of revs on start-up; the wheel-mounted start button and E-diff switch – it is simply electrifying, even if it does make you wonder how much performance you really need on normal roads. Opportunities to properly stretch its legs would be few and far between, and for the most part you’d be able to cover ground just as fast at the wheel of the Audi. So, is the Ferrari worth the extra money? No. And yes.

Thanks to Drive-MY clubs.

Car Audi R8 4.2 Ferrari F430


Number built


c21,000 (all first-generation models)



Construction aluminium monocoque with aluminium body panels aluminium spaceframe chassis, aluminium body panels 

all-aluminium, dohc, 32-valve, 4163cc V8, direct petrol injection

all-alloy, dohc-per-bank, 32-valve, 4308cc V8, Bosch Motronic ME7.3 injection

Max power 414bhp @ 7800rpm 483bhp @ 8500rpm
Max torque 317lb ft @ 4500rpm 343lb ft @ 5250rpm
Transmission six-speed manual six-speed semi-automatic
Drive driving all four wheels

driving rear wheels


independent all round, by double wishbones and coil springs; anti-roll bar f/r

independent all round, by wishbones and coil springs; anti-roll bar f/r
Steering power-assisted rack and pinion power-assisted rack and pinion
Brakes ventilated discs drilled and ventilated discs, optional carbon-ceramic
Length 14ft 6 ½ in (4431mm) 14ft 9in (4512mm)
Width 6ft 3in (1904mm) 6ft 3 ½ in (1923mm)
Height 4ft 1in (1252mm) 4ft (1214mm)
Weight 3439lb (1560kg) 3196lb (1450kg)
0-62mph 4.6 secs 3.9 secs
Top speed 187mph 196mph
Mpg 19 15
Price new £76,725 £117,500
Value now

from £42,500


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