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Motorsport maestro Dallara launches its first road car, eight decades in the making

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Rarely do we welcome a true debutant to the road-test pages of Autocar, and rarely do we test cars with genuine motorsport pedigree, but some days are simply better than others.

This car represents the first time Italian chassis manufacturer Dallara has fixed its name to a road-legal machine. As a project, it has been a long time coming, and as a prospect, it is nothing short of mouth-watering. At least it is for those aware of what the company has achieved since a young, ex-Lamborghini engineer set up shop in the Emilia-Romagnese town of Varano de’ Melegari in 1973.

Staggered wheel and tyre package aids chassis balance. Test car used optional 18in front and 19in rear forged alloys from OZ Racing. They’re an inch larger than standard, shod in £1710 of Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R track-day tyres.

Gian Paolo Dallara studied aeronautical engineering at Milan Polytechnic and in 1959 was hired by Ferrari to work for the Scuderia. A sojourn at Maserati preceded a move to Sant’Agata Bolognese, where the then-27-year-old Dallara led the team behind the Lamborghini Miura.

In the decades since, Dallara Automobili da Competizione has established itself as one of the world’s leading motorsport chassis constructors, even though many don’t recognise the name. But if you have watched IndyCar or the Formula 3 racing that has propelled so many hotshots to the highest single-seater heights, you’ve seen Dallara’s work in action, because its chassis dominate each of those grids.

Equally, if you’ve ever lusted after the Maserati MC12, the Alfa Romeo 8C or 4C, KTM’s radical KTM X-Bow, the Bugatti Veyron or its Bugatti Chiron successor, then you’ve lusted after Dallara know-how, because the company’s expertise in carbonfibre and aerodynamics has benefited them all, along with too many other notable road cars to list here.

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Dallara has earned the right to build the Stradale, saying it’s nothing less than a sincere expression of motorsport engineering for use on road and track. But is the driving experience divine or inaccessible? Can it reward the casual driver like little else or, as with so much of Dallara’s back catalogue, need only racing drivers apply? Let’s find out.

Price £143,500 Power 395bhp Torque 369lb ft 0-60mph 3.7sec 30-70mph in fourth 4.3sec Fuel economy 25.5mpg CO2 emissions 216g/km 70-0mph 39.4m

What Car? New car buyer marketplace


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - hero side

Strip away the Stradale’s carbonfibre body and you’ll find aluminium subframes mounted to a lightweight central carbonfibre monocoque. Suspension is by double wishbones controlled via coilover struts, with the dampers adjustable for compression at both low and high speeds as well as for rebound. In terms of architecture, the overall approach is not dissimilar to that of those mainstream supercars whose makers are experienced in motorsport. McLaren springs to mind.

The Stradale, however, is much lighter on its tyres than even the trimmest Woking missile. At 855kg without fluids, it weighs less than the Lotus 3-Eleven, which is pertinent because a young Gian Paolo Dallara idolised Colin Chapman chiefly on the basis of the Brit’s ‘simplify, then add lightness’ mantra. With so little mass there’s no need for power-assisted steering, and the Brembo brakes use cast-iron rather than carbon-ceramic discs.

Optional fixed wing sits tall with an aggressive angle of attack that contributes to the car’s huge downforce potential. It’s why the ride height is generous at standstill: to accommodate huge aero compression at speed.

Neither did Dallara need to shoehorn a big brute of an engine into the small chassis to achieve the desired power-to-weight ratio. The car’s mid-mounted four-cylinder is the relatively compact 2.3-litre ‘Cleveland’ motor built by Ford and recently used in the Focus RS.

Fettled by Bosch Engineering, it’s now switchable between outputs of 295bhp and 395bhp and drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential. A robotised version of the transmission with paddle-operated shifts is also available, albeit for a 40kg penalty. But all these physical elements merely prepare the ground for the Stradale’s central tenet, which is vast downforce. The floor of the car, again made entirely of carbonfibre, is perfectly flat and ends with deep venturi tunnels. In the Stradale’s basic form, Dallara will stall the front diffuser for good aero balance.

With the optional rear wing fitted, the top speed drops from 174mph to 165mph but the wind-tunnel-honed body is able to generate some 820kg of vertical load. The compelling upshot is a car with downforce potential comparable to a McLaren Senna and the power-to-weight ratio of a Porsche GT2 RS but a footprint resembling that of a typical C-segment hatchback.

Beyond hitting aero targets, what freedom there was to style the car was undertaken by Turinese consultancy Granstudio. A dramatic melange of organic curves and hard edges is set against the backdrop of a surprisingly long wheelbase. This car wants nothing for presence, and from some angles takes on the aura of a historical sports prototype racer.


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - cabin

Nothing the sane side of BAC’s single-seater BAC Mono channels such a heady motorsport ambience as the Stradale.

In the interests of chassis rigidity there are no doors, so you’re expected to vault over the low sills and aim one foot at a landing zone cut into the seat base and marked ‘STEP HERE’. The driving position demands you then thread your legs down deep in the tub, engendering a sense of security that is augmented by four-point harnesses, the high transmission tunnel and a 320mm steering wheel complete with centre marker and a column generously adjustable for reach.

Slightly perched ‘seats’ consist of leather-clad padding fixed directly to the carbonfibre tub, much like LaFerrari’s. Four-point harnesses are the only option.

But before all this, you have a choice, and not simply for the colour of the stitching. The Stradale is offered in three styles. In its purest configuration it functions as a barchetta, with no roof, windows or windscreen. At the other end of the spectrum it can be fully enclosed, with a T-frame roof that attaches to the windscreen and rear bulkhead, plus doors. Our test car offers the midway option, with the windscreen and leather-trimmed dashboard-top but nothing else in the way of protection from the elements.

We’d argue it is this roadster configuration that feels the most evocative: the glass is dramatically domed with a central wiper for full Group C effect. With only the sky above your head, the windscreen’s carbonfibre frame sits generously inboard, its edges resting atop a polished carbonfibre tub that curves back beyond your field of vision.

There are controls for the ESP and ventilation on the transmission tunnel, but that space is otherwise reserved for the Ford-sourced manual handbrake and gearlever. In general there are few distractions, but while the cockpit is spartan, it’s also beautifully finished, with supple leather and pleasing uniformity in the carbonfibre and stitching.

Some testers, however, felt the gearlever was fractionally too close for comfort and the driving position a touch too high. Over-the-shoulder visibility is close to non-existent and, with no adjustability in the angle of the exterior mirrors, parking anywhere other than in the open expanse of a racetrack paddock isn’t for the faint of heart.

The Stradale’s digital array is sparing – certainly more so than you’ll find in the Lotus Exige Sport 410, which uses analogue dials but pairs them with a decently sized, centrally mounted touchscreen display supplied by a third party. Dallara’s approach has much more of a motorsport feel, with a modest, carbonfibre-rimmed digital display mounted behind the steering wheel and, well, nothing else – not even so much as a USB socket.

Buttons on the steering wheel are used to navigate the limited menus, which chiefly relate to switching the powertrain and chassis between their default and Race modes. Then there are readouts for water temperature, turbo and oil pressure, and a broad tachometer joined by vivid upshift lights as the redline approaches. Given the price of the car, we might have expected something with greater flair and better legibility, especially for speed, but you can’t fault this set-up for authenticity.


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - engine

Never mind the mirrors: you should also think carefully before deploying the Stradale’s firepower anywhere other than a racetrack. When fitted with a manual ’box, the light frame and relatively small rear contact patches make it tricky to launch this car off the line, but thereafter little can keep up with the Italian rocket.

Torque peaks early, with 369lb ft delivered from 2500rpm, while power arrives late, with 395bhp appearing at 6200rpm, and if a flat spot exists between those points, our testers failed to notice it. Bosch Engineering has clearly earned its commission, because never before has Ford’s 2.3-litre Ecoboost four-pot operated with so little turbo lag.

Its name tells us the Stradale is built for the road – but to uncork its prodigious reserves of downforce and grip, make sure that road is pointed in the direction of a race track

The Toyota 3.5-litre V6 found in the quickest Lotus models still exists in another realm of responsiveness, but in this guise Ford’s fizzing hardware is clinical enough to avoid undermining the Stradale package.

While this choice of engine may still invite questions of the Stradale’s £143,500 list price, the performance it enables brooks no argument. Carrying two testers and 52 litres of fuel, the car accelerated to 60mph in 3.7sec. This was the slow bit. Between 40mph and 60mph in second, the Dallara’s time matched to the tenth that which we recorded for the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ.

Then, between 40mph and 70mph in fourth, it matched that of the Ferrari 812 Superfast, again to the tenth. In fact, all telemetry for in-gear acceleration at real-world speeds illustrated a car quite comfortably able to hold its own among more powerful alternatives, even if it does want somewhat for aural character.

In terms of through-the-gears acceleration, the Stradale can’t match the pace of top-level turbocharged supercars, and even approaching three-figure speeds the aero hardware starts to hold it back. All of which, allied to the fact that no tester can swap gears with the speed of the a modern dual-clutch transmission, explains why the quarter-mile time was closer to 12 seconds than to 10.

The Stradale proved sensational in one aspect, however: braking. The firm pedal action feels considerably over-servoed and its sensitivity can make it difficult to accurately rev-match on downshifts, but there’s no doubting how assertively the system kills speed. Even after numerous hot laps of MIRA’s Dunlop circuit, stopping from 70mph took just 39.4 metres of road – less even than track day behemoths such as the McLaren 600LT and Porsche 911 GT3 RS.


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - on the road front

Loris Bicocchi’s first major assignment was to help develop the chassis for the Lamborghini Countach, but he went on to tune the dynamics of other great supercars, including the Pagani Zonda, Bugatti Veyron and Koenigsegg CCX. For the Stradale, he co-developed the suspension tune alongside former racing driver Marco Apicella. Apparently Apicella, the younger man, favoured a more uncompromising track set-up, but Bicocchi tempered that approach.

Whatever the truth, the chassis is exceptional in its ability to absorb the road beneath it while communicating its intentions. Our test car’s dampers were in the middle of Dallara’s three presets, and while ride quality could be uncomfortably squared-off at low speeds, once up and running the feeling is always of millimetre-precise wheel control with body movements so beautifully cushioned they make you laugh involuntarily.

So little weight and such communicative steering allow the Stradale to be pushed deep into braking zones with confidence. Some testers felt pedal feel was lacking, but nobody disputed the stopping power.

The suspension clatter often experienced in carbonfibre-tubbed lightweights is also conspicuous by its absence, the Stradale operating with an elegance and flow that entirely justifies its price.

The unassisted steering also deserves special mention. Whether it possesses quite the same extraordinary level of feel you’ll find in a Lotus Exige is debatable, but on public roads it proves all but impervious to deflection and supremely delicate. Add in a fixed-ratio rack that faithfully ingrains the considerable ebb and flow of suspension loadings into your palms and there are few cars so intuitive to thread fast along British roads.

That said, on the road you only get glimpses of the Stradale’s ultimate handling capability. Once there is temperature in our test car’s optional Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres, the grip on offer is nothing short of phenomenal. The weight distribution feels ever so slightly rear-biased, but in the main the Stradale exhibits mid-engined neutrality in the purest sense.

Catch the rubber while it’s cool, however, and you’ll find a car that indulges in the merest slither of understeer before the rear axle gently breaks away with rare poise, right about your hips. The Stradale feels as though it has just graduated from an eye-wateringly expensive finishing school for handling – which, of course, it has.

To get the best from the car on track, drop the chassis to its lowest setting (20mm or so below standard, at the push of a button) and disable the ESP, which is lenient but hinders progress exiting fast bends, when downforce gives all the security needed.

Fitted with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres, the car showed exceptional resistance to understeer given the 205-section front contact patches. Through the quickest corners, the Stradale carried a level of speed comparable to that of some hypercars, and did so with disarming security and stability at both ends.

The torque output does need managing through slower bends, but the neutral handling proved nothing if not predictable, and the steering is well geared for making corrections.

A question mark hangs over the lap time, however. Rarely do we achieve these times with a single set of tyres, but that was the case here. With fresh tyres, the Stradale, we felt, could have shaved off at least another second.


There’s nothing particularly genteel about travelling in the Stradale. Let’s first address ‘isolation’. If you expect to be ‘isolated’ from turbulent air and rainfall, the Stradale is not for you, at least not without the T-frame roof. And yet, as a roadster it compares well to cars of a similar ilk. The windscreen is unusually good at shielding the cabin from the elements, particularly wind buffeting at speed, and if everything does get a bit much, you can always dig your helmet out from one of the conveniently shaped recesses behind the seats. If you can bear it, race gloves will also help you get purchase on the wire-rimmed Alcantara-covered steering wheel.

What the windscreen or gloves won’t spare you is the loud, off-throttle whining of the differential at low speeds, along with explosive outbursts of the sports exhaust and the constant attention of a gawking public. It is possible to drive longer stints in the Stradale without much fuss, although you’ll be ready for an early night afterwards, and in terms of attritional fatigue the lack of a rear-view mirror doesn’t help.

Meanwhile, comfort levels will be determined by your physiology, because with the shape of the seats dictated by the topography of the monocoque, there’s no adjustability.

Most testers found the Stradale offered little in terms of lower-back support, although this only became an issue after more than an hour at the wheel. Ride quality itself was generally deemed excellent, the Stradale feeling impressively supple during motorway driving, aided by calm, light steering.


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - hero front

With the list price of £143,500 rising rapidly to more than £180,000 with the fitment of options such as the rear wing, sports exhaust, windscreen and special paint, by any objective assessment the Dallara Stradale is expensive for a device propelled by nothing more exotic than a four-cylinder turbo engine from Ford.

Except it isn’t that simple. These cars are unlikely to depreciate much and may even rise in value as time goes by. Low volumes will help and, with only 600 examples destined to see the light of day, the Stradale is comparable to the McLaren Senna in terms of exclusivity and rarer than big-ticket specials such as the Porsche 918 Spyder. The significance of the project is also likely to generate interest for years to come. The long-awaited Stradale arrives at a time when Gian Paolo Dallara, one of the finest engineer-entrepreneurs of a particularly fine generation, is in the twilight of his career. The company has also cooled speculation concerning the development of any more road-legal models.

Our test car was fitted with Dallara’s sports exhaust, which barks and booms off-throttle. It stymies engine power a fraction, but we’d still have it.

But while most examples will enter collections – negating the need for owners to be choosy – the Stradale isn’t without stern competition. For use predominantly on track, we would find it difficult to look beyond the BAC Mono, while the Elemental RP1 would cost significantly less but offer a similar thrill. There is then Lotus, whose more hardcore Lotus Exige and Lotus 3-Eleven models also cost less than the Dallara and need no further introduction.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace


Dallara Stradale 2019 road test review - static front

You may wonder how, against the backdrop of a mighty asking price, a car powered by nothing more momentous than the turbocharged four-cylinder engine from a hot hatchback can earn four and a half stars.

The first thing to note is that each Stradale will make Dallara almost no profit. It exists for no other reason than because Gian Paolo Dallara wanted it to, and it costs so much because the materials and construction techniques are direct from the world of motorsport. You’ll find interior elements that seem underdone and brakes that lack finesse, but mostly the Stradale simultaneously feels bona fide racing car and true luxury product. It’s a trick only the McLaren Senna pulls off with this much confidence.

Esoteric appeal but a product of passion and rare dynamism

Then there is the magnificent chassis, which on the road perhaps has no equal in its combination of precision and delicacy, while on track it offers insight into the world inhabited by professional racing drivers. Finally, consider that for some the Stradale’s handling will appeal every bit as much as a Ferrari’s naturally aspirated engine or a Lamborghini’s extraterrestrial styling will for another. That, simply, is its level.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Dallara Stradale First drives