On the Road
The master-of-all-trades 458 really does it all, from eye-watering racetrack speed to sedate grocery-getting. Here’s some of what we’ve said about the model since its introduction.
THE ITALIA SEIZES every opportunity to go that little bit more quickly—through every bend, over every crest, down every straight—and it’s not long before I realize I’m driving faster on the street than I’ve ever done before. For its part, the 458 feels just as composed, competent and safe as it did some 10, 20 or 30 mph slower.
The suspension keeps everything tidy and composed. The optional sport seats hold me firmly in place. The brakes are fantastic, from their pedal feel to their massive stopping power. The engine roars away happily, delivering its endless wave of torque. The transmission shifts instantly when I tug on the paddles, the exhaust crackling and popping maniacally during downshifts.
Somewhere along this stretch of winding road, I bond with the Italia like I’ve connected with few cars before. This comes as a real surprise, since I’ve always preferred cars that are a bit raw, a bit demanding, and that’s not the case here. Instead, the 458 thrills by being so astonishingly fast yet so easy to drive.
“Fast Forward,” FORZA #107
OKAY, ON TO CITY LIFE. I drove the 458 Spider in traffic, over rutted roads—just about everywhere nasty I could think of—and to say the car behaved admirably would be an understatement. It displayed perfect manners at all times, whether it was being repeatedly restarted and repositioned during our photo shoot or creeping along in heavy traffic on a hot freeway.
Another example: This Ferrari’s ride quality proved sportily superb. Even with the super-low-profile rubber mounted on 20-inch wheels, the Spider effortlessly soaked up bumps; it takes seriously lousy pavement to upset the car’s balance in even the smallest ways. Credit goes to the stiff chassis and magnetorheological shock absorbers.
In terms of cockpit noise, the Spider with its top closed proved to be as well-insulated as a 458 Italia; road noise, including the clatter from idling 18-wheelers, stayed outside. In addition, I heard no squeaks, creaks or rattles from the car itself, even when the top was lowered.
“To Live and Drive in L.A.,” FORZA #128
I venture out into the Emilia-Romagna countryside anyway, because even Ferrari admits that Speciales will likely only accrue 15 percent of their miles on track. It’s immediately obvious that, despite its stiffer springs (up 22 percent in front, 34 percent in back), the Speciale retains much of the Italia’s lauded supple nature.
The Speciale’s engine is incredible. A figure of 135 hp/liter would be impressive in a turbocharged engine, and gives the Speciale the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated street-car engine in the world. The revs climb faster than in the Italia, the throttle response is instantaneous, the noise as the 9,000-rpm redline hoves into view as intense as a Brando stare and, incredibly, given the output, there’s stacks of mid-range torque, more so than in the regular 458. Ferrari somehow even managed to improve on the already excellent seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, shortening upshifts by 10 percent and almost halving downshift times.
“Swan Song,” FORZA #132