Game Changer

The 458 rewrote the rule book on exotic-car performance, refinement, and versatility.

June 9, 2016
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Some Ferraris are evolutionary, others are revolutionary. The 458 Italia, introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in late 2009, is unquestionably an example of the latter.

Expectations were high for the model that would replace the F430, widely considered one of the world’s great sports cars, and the 458 didn’t disappoint. Quite the opposite: It was an even larger leap forward over its predecessor than the F430 had been over the 360, in terms of power, handling, refinement, ride quality, and, well, everything else.

The 458’s direct-injected normally aspirated 4.5-liter V8 produced an impressive 570 horsepower at an equally impressive 9,000 rpm, an increase of 80 ponies. Torque climbed 55 lb-ft and the 0-60 mph sprint fell from 4.0 to 3.4 seconds. Top speed was about 6 mph higher, at 202 mph.

While the Italia’s engine shared the same basic layout as the F430’s, the new car’s gearbox was completely different. For the first time in a mid-engine model, Ferrari fitted the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s now standard across the lineup, paired with a more-advanced electronic differential. Also new to the mid-engine cars were magnetorheological shock absorbers and multi-link rear suspension; carbon-ceramic discs were standard.

Like its predecessor, the 458 featured all-aluminum construction; engineering advances allowed for increased rigidity with lighter weight. The all-new bodywork was sleeker than the F430’s, and produced more downforce with less drag. The Italia’s interior was likewise all new, and introduced the now-standard steering wheel-mounted controls for headlights, windshield washers, etc.

The new car’s driving experience was as unexpected as its steering wheel. The Italia combined its horsepower and aerodynamic increases with lightning-fast steering, near-instant shifting, and astonishingly plush ride quality (despite seriously low-profile tires). Equally at home tearing down a winding road, where its cutting-edge electronics made even average drivers feel like junior versions of Sebastian Vettel, and creeping through rush-hour traffic, the 458 combined supercar performance, surprising refinement, and daily driver versatility.

And that was just the Italia. In 2010, Maranello released the 458 Spider, which featured a folding metal roof. The hard-core, 430 Scuderia-style Speciale arrived for 2014, followed by the limited-production convertible Speciale A for 2015.

We dubbed the 458 “the best Ferrari ever,” and the arrival of the even faster, even more powerful turbocharged 488 hasn’t dented our enthusiasm for the earlier model. Today’s buyers can enjoy the 458’s game-changing performance, comfort, and reliability
at a serious discount over new. This is the modern Ferrari we’d buy, and one we’d recommend every enthusiast investigate.

 

Marketplace | On the Road | The Garage I Owner’s Take

Also from Issue 151

  • 250 Europa GT
  • 250 LM
  • Collector Ferrari prices are falling
  • F1: Mixed results
  • FCA concours judging on 550 Maranello
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: New vision
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