Fast Forward

The 458 Italia is much quicker than its predecessor, and not just in the way you’d expect.

November 30, 2010
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A quick warning to F430 owners: Do not drive a 458 Italia. Seriously—don’t do it. You own one of the greatest sports cars of the last few decades, but if you get behind the wheel of a 458, you’re going to find out just how far Ferrari has moved the game forward with its newest mid-engine V8 model. And then, unfortunately, your car will never feel the same again.

It’s no surprise that the Italia accelerates quicker and corners harder than its predecessor, but it’s almost shocking just how far the 458 pushes the performance envelope. Consider its 4.5-liter engine. With 570 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, this V8 pumps out a whopping 75 hp and 55 lb-ft more than the 4.3-liter mill found in the F430. That’s a game changer in anyone’s book.

But power is not the whole story. In some ways, it’s not much of the story. To my surprise, this stellar engine is not the star of the 458 Italia show—and I never thought I’d say that about a Ferrari.

THE ITALIA EXPERIENCE STARTS when you first walk up to it. The 360 Modena shook up the supercar design world in its day, and the F430 was an excellent update on that theme, but the 458 takes things a step further than either of these cars by making the mid-engine V8 Ferrari look truly fast.

Pictures don’t do the real-life Italia justice, both in how low and how much like a jet fighter it looks. The car’s vestigial rear deck, combined with the sculpted bodywork that swoops and dives around it, gives the rear end a much meaner look than the F430’s. The single, partially exposed taillight on each side adds to this aggressive sense of purpose, as do the multi-step diffuser, mesh air outlets and striking triple-exhaust layout.

Up front, the 458 looks lower-slung than the F430, as well as nicely angular and aerodynamic. It also looks a bit like an angry insect, thanks in part to the oversized running-light/turn-signal clusters that march almost to the top of the front fenders.

The Italia’s sides reveal more aerodynamic trickery at work. The smooth aluminum flows and flexes in every direction, while a sharp blade extends the flat underbody out from beneath the doors. The fascinating play of light across these surfaces makes its easy to completely miss the air intakes tucked up into the corner of the greenhouse.

The lightweight doors swing open easily, revealing the 458’s new-think cockpit. Almost everything has changed, from the seats to the door panels to the air vents which look like they belong on top of a building, yet it still feels very much Ferrari. Contrasting yellow stitching helps keep this car’s all-black interior from being too dark, while the Alcantara “carpet” adds an even more sophisticated feel to the already high-tech surroundings.

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