Game Changer

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

Game Changer 1
June 10, 2016

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.

Game Changer 2

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

Excitement was high when the revolutionary 458 Italia debuted in late 2009, and, as is almost always the case when a new Ferrari arrives, sales prices reflected that fact. Early examples commanded $50,000 or more over sticker price, and that sticker was already higher than ever for a V8 model.

The Italia’s base price started around $230,000, but Ferrari’s two-page option list quickly bumped out-the-door prices into the $275,000-350,000 range, or, in some cases, even higher. Although plenty of luxury and performance was built in, most owners piled on the options: 20-inch wheels ($5,000-7,000), carbon-fiber dash inserts and instrument-panel housing ($7,000 each), back-up camera ($3,600), front-suspension lifter ($4,600), AFS headlights ($2,000), Scuderia fender shields ($1,600), colored brake calipers ($1,400), and so on.

Later 458s came with higher price tags. The Spider started at roughly $250,000, while the Speciale had a base price of approximately $300,000 and the Speciale Aperta started at around $325,000. No official production figures are yet available but my research suggests Ferrari built 15,000-20,000 458s, which includes roughly 1,800 Speciales and exactly 499 Speciale A’s.

Today, thanks to the miracle of depreciation, early Italias can be found for under $200,000; some Spiders are also available for less than their original base price. Speciales currently sell for a bit over original sticker, while those rare Speciale A’s have skyrocketed into the $750,000 range. Given its low production numbers, the Aperta is likely the only 458 that may some day be considered “collectible.”

Game Changer 3

All 458s offer massive “eye-candy” appeal and more performance than most owners can exploit, along with comfort, versatility, and impressive reliability. On that last point, there’s doubly good news: Cars that have been in service for three years or less are eligible for a one- or two-year extension of the factory’s bumper-to-bumper warranty, subject to dealer inspection. Given the complexity of modern Ferraris, particularly their electrical systems, this extended warranty should be considered a necessity. And when that warranty expires, the car may be eligible for many additional years of factory powertrain coverage.

As with any Ferrari purchase, do your research, buy the best car you can afford and have it inspected by a shop that knows the model inside and out. With more than 15,000 examples built, there’s no lack of 458s to choose from. —Michael Sheehan

Model Low High
458 Italia $190,000 $250,000
458 Spider $225,000 $275,000
458 Speciale $375,000 $425,000
458 Speciale A $725,000 $775,000

These prices are for fully serviced cars in good-to-great condition.

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.

Game Changer 4

—Aaron Jenkins
“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.

—Matt Stone
“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.

Game Changer 5

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.

—Chris Chilton
“Swan Song,” FORZA #132

The Garage

AFTER SPEAKING with service managers at several authorized Ferrari dealers and independent shops, I can confirm the 458, like all modern Ferraris, is practically bulletproof by supercar standards. Mechanical problems are few and far between, reliability is excellent, even service costs are low. Thanks to the elimination of Ferrari’s dreaded cam belts and the high labor costs to replace them, an annual service only costs around $2,500—a bargain in the exotic-car world.

As is often the case with modern exotics, electronics are the fly in the ointment. The 458 features dozens of computers talking to one another, and whenever those communications get interrupted or confused, warning codes arise. Tracking down electrical and computer issues can be challenging, and can be done right only by a dealer or a qualified shop with the latest $25,000 Leonardo computer (the older SD2 and SD3 are now outdated).

The longterm question, of course, is how problematic will an exotic with interconnected computer systems be when the car is out of warranty and parts are no longer available from Ferrari? Unless someone figures out a way to manufacture or repair all of those computers, it’s unlikely to be good news.

In the meantime, the 458 remains a fantastic exotic to own and drive. Just make sure you keep it in warranty for as long as possible. —Michael Sheehan

Game Changer 6

MAJOR ISSUES

FAILING INSTRUMENT PANELS

The 458’s electronic instrument-panel display has had issues with its power supplies and motherboard. Ferrari’s fix is to install a brand-new instrument panel, which costs $12,000. I did find one shop, F.A.I. in Costa Mesa, California, that will rebuild the original panel or supply a re-made board for $2,000.

TRANSMISSION GLITCHES

The 458’s Getrag dual-clutch gearbox has proven mostly bulletproof; most transmission issues are caused by electronics. The most common problem is a faulty speedometer sensor, a minor part that is not sold separately. If it fails while the car is still under warranty, Ferrari will install an all-new transaxle. For those cars out of warranty, most independent shops have found a source to buy a replacement sensor, turning a $20,000 transmission replacement into a $5,000 repair.

Some 458s have suffered clutch issues, almost all of which relate to various electronics. The most common fixes are resetting the clutch-positioning sensors and updating the TCU software. Happily, these repairs have proven pretty inexpensive, generally falling in the $1,000 range.

MINOR ISSUES

The 458 has a healthy appetite for tires. Expect to replace the rubber every 10,000 miles or so, with the rear rubber wearing faster than the front. Also, these cars’ 20-inch aluminum front wheels are only modestly protected from impacts by their low-profile tires, and thus can be dented or bent by potholes.

Replacing carbon-ceramic brake discs is painfully expensive, at around $25,000 for all four (including new pads). Happily, the discs have proven to have a very long life in street use; none of the roughly 100 cars in my survey had needed replacements.

Time will tell if Ferrari ever resolves the dreaded, long-running sticky switches problem (the coating on some interior plastic pieces becomes gooey and starts to rub off on hands, clothing, etc.), especially on cars that are stored without being used for long periods.

The leather that covers the dashboard can shrink if the car is regularly left in the sun, exposing the underlying foam and metal. It often costs around $5,000-6,000 to remove the dash, recover it with new leather, and reinstall it.

Game Changer 7

The very earliest 458s suffered from a faulty adhesive in the wheel arches that could overheat and catch fire. Only one car in the U.S. was affected, and all 458s should have had their wheel-arch liners repaired under warranty.

Owner’s Take

David Dodge
2011 458 Italia

Purchased in 2013 with 8,000 miles; currently has 26,000 miles.

Why did you want a 458?
A friend of mine was buying a California. That didn’t interest me—the California’s more of a touring car and I already have an [BMW] M6—but the Italia did. Sometimes I just look at the thing and go wow!

What do you use your Ferrari for?
It’s almost a daily driver, about 60 percent of the miles are just driving around town and stuff. I drive it all over: to the movies, to San Francisco, up to Tahoe a lot. I don’t ever look at the car and say, I better not drive it and put too many miles on it. I’m retired and have nothing to do, so I’ll just jump in it, say I’m gonna drive up to Clear Lake for the day, and put 200-250 miles on it just for fun.

When I bought the car, one of the first questions I asked was, If I drive it 8,000 or 9,000 miles year, what do I do to the value? Evan [Shone] and Doug [Dalton] told me to expect around $50,000 in depreciation, and that’s about where it is, in the $160s, $170s, $180s. That’s fine, it’s like leasing a car.

I’ve always had warranties on the Italia. When I bought it, it had maybe three months of original warranty left, so I bought an extended two-year bumper-to-bumper warranty through Ferrari. These cars have lots of electronics, lots of computers, and I just didn’t want to put myself in the position of having to deal with that. When the two-year warranty ran out, I got a lesser six-year warranty that isn’t bumper-to-bumper but covers the big stuff, like the drivetrain.

Game Changer 8

What did you like most about the 458?
It has a classic kind of design, I like the body style. My car’s silver paint shows the dynamics and the curves and the shadows better than red or black would, so the lines really come out. It has great outward visibility and lots of power; it’s easy to drive, like a little go-kart with a big engine. The cockpit is very wide compared to a McLaren or Mercedes-AMG GT, so it doesn’t feel cramped, and there’s ample luggage space for a weekend trip.

Any dislikes?
I wish the mirrors had blind-spot detectors. You have to be really careful changing lanes because people ride up right beside me and try to see the engine through the glass or take videos of the car. You also have to be careful that other cars see you, since the Italia is low, only 46 or 47 inches off the ground. Also, I wish the seats were a little more comfortable. I have a minor back problem, so if I drive for long distances in the car I have to get out and walk around a little. I have the 12-way power seats, which is the best they offered.

How reliable has your 458 been?
I had a couple of problems, but they didn’t cost me anything thanks to the warranty. There was a minor issue where the console light went out. That was going to be a $700 job because it would take a few hours to take everything apart and a few hours to put it all
back together.

The big problem I had was when two fuel injectors went out on the left bank; I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone else. Ferrari went through a long investigation, then came back and said they were going to replace all the injectors and both fuel rails. I guess they figured as long as the engine was apart it was easier to make sure everything was brand-new, rather than replace the two then have to go back in if another failed.

Would you recommend the California to a friend?
Sure, yes. In fact, I recently sat in a 488 GTB and was thinking about trading up, but then I thought, What am I doing? The 488 looks meatier and more robust, but I like the lines of the 458 better, it’s more sculptural. And I’m not a track guy so I don’t need the extra horsepower.

I’d also recommend one to a first-time Ferrari buyer. You can get one at a reasonable price after all the carbon fiber and everything guys put in them has depreciated, make sure you get a warranty, and enjoy the experience.

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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