FIRST DRIVE: Ferrari 16M Scuderia Spider

While Ferrari struggles in Formula 1 this year, don't forget it was just a few months ago that Felipe Massa was fighting for the driver's title and the Scuderia was winning its 16th World Constructor's Title.

The latter is reason for the 16M in the name of its latest iteration of the F430. Called the Scuderia Spider, it basically applies the same treatment to the soft-drop-top F430 given the coupe to create the first Scuderia.

You can see the separation from the normal Spider by the edgier look of the Scuderia, but what matters most is the extensive use of carbon fiber. By removing 80 kg from the F430 Spider for the Scuderia, Ferrari has sliced the kerb weight down to 1440 kg. The 4.3-liter V-8 makes 375 kW at 8500 rpm and 470 Nm of torque at 5250 rpm. Combine that with a 6-speed F1-Superfast2 gearbox that snaps out shifts in just 60 milliseconds and 100 km/h comes up in (Ferrari's claim) 3.7 seconds. Top speed is 315 km/h, and wouldn't that be a rush with the top down?

As expected, the chassis gets the attention needed for the conversion to Scuderia, from the F1-TRAC(tion control) to the E-DIFF(erential), including that welcomed ability to soften the settings a bit on rough surfaces.

Ferrari claims the 16M is the fastest production spider it has produced. Like the hard top Scuderia, the soft top version is capable of being a street racer or cruiser, equally adept at both without being too hard edged. And it lets you know when you are on the power by abruptly going from being legally quiet to unnervingly noisy.

Oh, and for cruising you can get an optional removable 16GB iPod that docks in the dash. Something of a contrast in an interior devoid of carpeting or much sound deadening...deleted to save weight.

Price of the 16M is $600,000 plus, but you'll have one of only 499 built.

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