With the F430 widely considered one of the world’s best sports cars, most enthusiasts figured its replacement, the 458 Italia, would offer only marginal improvements. But when the automotive press got its hands on the new model, it was clear Ferrari had taken a major step forward—in terms of power, handling, refinement, ride quality, and just about everything in-between.
Before the 458 debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in late 2009, its specs were already arousing interest. The Italia’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 over its predecessor. Torque climbed 55 lb-ft while the 0-60 mph time fell from 4.0 to 3.4 seconds. Top speed was about 6 mph higher, at 202 mph.
While the 458’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 soon became standard across the lineup, paired with a higher-tech electronic differential. Also new to the mid-engine cars were magnetorheological shock absorbers and multi-link rear suspension; carbon-ceramic brakes were standard.
Like its predecessor, the 458 featured all-aluminum construction, and 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 power and aerodynamic advances with lightning-fast steering, near-instant shifting, and astonishingly plush ride quality despite its low-profile rubber. Equally at home tearing down a winding road—where its cutting-edge electronics made average drivers feel like Kimi Raikkonen—or creeping through rush-hour traffic, the 458 offered near-supercar performance with 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 drop-top Speciale A for 2015.
We dubbed the 458 “the best Ferrari ever,” and the arrival of the even faster and more powerful turbocharged 488 (and later F8) hasn’t dented our respect for the original. For today’s buyer, the Italia, Spider, and Speciales offer an astonishing combination of performance, comfort, and reliability, along with a soundtrack more recent V8s can only dream of. This is one modern Ferrari we’d buy without a second thought, and one we’d recommend every enthusiast investigate.
When the 458 Italia debuted in late 2009, many of the first examples to arrive in the U.S. sold at well over sticker price, and that sticker was already higher than any previous V8 model’s. The Italia’s base price started around $230,000, but Ferrari’s two-page options 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 were built in, most owners piled on the options. Always popular 20-inch wheels cost $5,000-7,000, while fancy carbon-fiber dash inserts or instrument-panel housing added $7,000—each. A back-up camera ran $3,600, the front-suspension lifter cost $4,600, AFS headlights commanded $2,000, Scuderia fender shields (which are so common most people think they’re standard) added another $1,600, and colored brake calipers listed at $1,400. The list went on and 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. These prices certainly didn’t deter buyers; obsessive-compulsive historians and serial-number anoraks such as Matthias Urban at f-register.com believe Ferrari built a total of 21,247 (!) 458s, a tally that includes 9,944 Italias and 7,200 Spiders.
Today, thanks to the miracle of depreciation and a generous supply of available cars, early Italias can be found for under $200,000. Some Spiders are also available for less than their original base price. An excellent Speciale will cost more than $500,000, while a Speciale A can command $750,000. Given its low production numbers, the Aperta is the only 458 that may some day be considered “collectible.”
Although the 458’s designers were beholden to the demands of the wind tunnel, these handsome cars still offer massive “eye-candy” appeal. They also provide far more performance than most owners can exploit, as well as comfort, versatility, and impressive reliability.
On that last point, today’s buyer can still purchase a limited warranty from an official dealer. The Ferrari Power 15 Approved Warranty, which requires an inspection and covers all major mechanical components, is good for one year at a time and can be renewed up to 15 years from the car’s original delivery date. If one buys a 458 from an official dealer, the Power 15 coverage can be extended for two years at roughly the same price (around $5,000, plus $1,500 for the inspection) as a one-year warranty.
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 21,000 examples built, there’s no lack of 458s to choose from. —Michael Sheehan
|458 Speciale Aperta
These prices are for cars in good to great condition as of June 2023.
As part of my day job dealing with service managers at both Ferrari dealers and independent shops, I’ve heard many times that the 458, like all modern Ferraris, has proven to be practically bulletproof by supercar standards. Mechanical problems are few and far between, reliability is excellent, and service costs are low. Thanks to the elimination of Ferrari’s dreaded cam belts, an annual service costs around $2,500—a true bargain in the exotic-car world.
As is often the case with modern exotics, electronics are the fly in the ointment. One such fly is the 458’s electronic instrument-panel display, which can have problems with its power supplies and motherboard. Ferrari’s fix is to install a brand-new instrument panel, which costs $12,000. I’d recommend turning to F.A.I., in Costa Mesa, California, which is the go-to shop to rebuild the original panel or supply a re-made board for around $2,000.
The Getrag dual-clutch gearboxes found in very early 458’s suffered from ring and pinion wear issues. Almost every car will have been fixed to resolve those problems through two factory updates, which means most transmission issues today are caused by electronics. The most common problems are a faulty pressure sensor or a faulty speedometer sensor. Unfortunately, the transaxle has to be removed from the car and cracked open to replace those sensors, leading to a roughly $5,000 repair.
Some 458s have suffered clutch issues, almost all of which relate to—you guessed it—various electronics. The most common fixes involve resetting the clutch-positioning sensors and updating the TCU software. These repairs have proven pretty inexpensive, generally falling in the $1,000 range.
Like all supercars, the 458 has a healthy appetite for tires. Expect to replace them every 10,000 miles or so, with the rear rubber wearing faster than the front. The low-profile tires do little to protect the aluminum front wheels from potholes, so it’s not uncommon to dent or bend them.
Replacing carbon-ceramic brake discs is painfully expensive, at around $25,000 for all four (including new pads). Happily, all of the shops I’ve dealt with say the carbon discs have proven to have a very long life in street use, and none of them has yet needed to replace one. That said, your mileage will almost certainly vary if you regularly drive a 458 on the racetrack; in that case, switching to aftermarket steel brake discs is considered a much more affordable way to go.
Someday, presumably, Ferrari will resolve the long-running sticky switches problem, but that day isn’t here yet. If the coating on some interior plastic pieces becomes gooey and starts to rub off on hands, clothing, etc., companies such as Sticky No More will be happy to refinish those pieces with a more durable coating.
The leather that covers the dashboard will eventually shrink if a 458 is regularly left in the sun, exposing the underlying foam and metal. It costs around $5,000-6,000 to remove the dash, recover it with new leather, and reinstall.
Some of the very earliest 458s made headlines when a faulty adhesive in the wheel arches overheated and caught fire. Only one car in the U.S. suffered such a fate, and all potentially afflicted cars should have had their wheel-arch liners repaired long ago under warranty.
Returning to electronics one last time, the 458 (and all other modern Ferraris) features dozens of computers talking to one another. Whenever those communications get interrupted or confused, warning codes arise, and tracking down these issues requires a dealer or shop with the latest $25,000 Leonardo computer. I don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen when those computers are no longer available from Ferrari (or some as-yet-unknown rebuilder), but until that day, the 458 remains a fantastic exotic to own and drive. —Michael Sheehan
On The Road
Forget being a jack, the 458 is a master of all trades. Here’s some of what we’ve said about the fast, fun, and versatile model since its introduction.
“Kindred Spirits,” FORZA #197
Despite my taking the first few corners easy, the 458 Speciale turns in sharply. Each downshift, even if it comes at only 4,000 or 5,000 rpm, is accompanied by an immediate bark from the exhausts as the engine automatically blips to match revs. And when I start pushing a little harder, the Ferrari blooms.
The engine’s minimal inertia allows the revs to climb very quickly toward the 9,000-rpm redline, all complemented by the seven-speed dual-clutch Getrag gearbox’s enthusiastic, blisteringly fast shifts. It’s a nearly magical combination.
As with many mid-engine machines, I’m connected to it in a way that most front-engine cars cannot replicate. The Speciale feels light and nimble at all times, and it doesn’t take long to understand and begin to fully enjoy its performance.
The 488 Pista blew me away with its incredible torque and outright speed, talents I’m still thinking about and which will stick with me for years. I almost cannot fault it. However, all things considered equal, I feel the 458 Speciale is marginally more speciale than its younger sibling.
“To Live and Drive in LA,” FORZA #128
Okay, onto 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.
“Fast Forward,” FORZA #107
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 earlier.
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.