How do you create something that is better than perfect?
This was the thorny issue Ferrari had to tackle when faced with replacing the F430. This was their last supercar rendition, which first appeared in 2004, and dominated the motoring world for five years. Unanimously acclaimed for its excellence in performance, handling and technical ability. “Epic”, “spectacular”, “sensational” were just some of the accolades given to the F430 by all of the motoring magazines and tv shows. But, by 2009, it was time for a change and on to something new.
What was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, in 2009, was nothing short of breathtaking. Everything had changed and everything had been improved upon. From its looks and styling, bigger and more powerful powertrain with higher performance and more advanced technology. This was the Ferrari 458 Italia. The ‘Maestro’s of Maranello’ had built something that was a quantum leap above its predecessor. This was taking Ferrari on to another level – again.
Two years later, at Frankfurt, the Prancing Horse would unveil the Ferrari 458 Spider. This was the soft top edition of the supercar and even though its heavier weight dropped the top speed, it could still perform at a level near to the coupe.
Its racing pedigree began in the 2011 season, as the Ferrari 458 Challenge entered the race tracks of the world. In the same year the GT2 and GT3 models also joined the fray. All of these cars dominated the racing world for several years running. These were the fastest racing cars that Ferrari had ever built.
Released to a salivating crowd, the road legal version of the Challenge was released in 2013. The Ferrari 458 Speciale was lighter and more responsive with its quicker acceleration. And, of course, a Ferrari 458 convertible had to follow with the release of the Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta, in 2014.
When this was reviewed on ‘Top Gear’, they said this Ferrari 458 was light years ahead of anything else on the road. And all this achieved by a naturally aspirated V8 engine, no turbocharger anywhere in sight. From pedal to engine to wheel, it was a linear path of power. But one that was not to be repeated, as this would be the last naturally aspirated engine to be made at Maranello.
So let us take a look back at this iconic Ferrari and understand why this is, to some, the best Ferrari ever made.
Jump ahead to..
The Ferrari 458 Italia would be powered by the F136 ‘Ferrari / Maserati‘ 4.5 liter V8 engine which was to be the last naturally aspirated engine to be fitted in a Ferrari.
The Ferrari 458 engine would produce 562 bhp at 9,000 rpm and 398 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. Although, even at 3,250 rpm, the engine provided 80% of the available torque.
Stats for the supercar were just as staggering with the Ferrari 458 0 to 60 mph dash completed in 3.4 seconds and giving the Ferrari 458 Italia top speed as 210 mph.
Similar to the Enzo, Challenge Stradale and the 430 Scuderia, the Ferrari 458 would not be offered with a manual transmission. The Maranello supercar only came with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that had been provided by Getrag.
Maybe it is no surprise that Ferrari have such a large advantage over everyone else when they have a comprehensive F1 team from which to take all the latest gadgetry.
The level of technology and advancement that Ferrari had at their disposal would make Knight Rider’s, David Hasselhoff, green with envy when looking at his car, Kit.
The level of computer oversight meant that, at any moment on the road and whatever driving conditions were being faced, the Ferrari 458 Italia had perfect control over the car. It could also try to improve on its own performance under the same conditions. Performing launch control on a private track and it will endeavor to beat its own time.
One of the racing systems they integrated was the F1-Trac traction control which worked alongside the electronic differential. In conjunction with the magnetorheological suspension system and the ABS with carbon ceramic brakes, ensured the Ferrari 458 could perform at breaking point whether you were experienced behind the wheel or not.
Driving modes could be adjusted at a turn of a switch – literally. The Manettino dial had five different settings for various modes (there would be a separate button for bumpy roads as well). By a quick turn the suspension would automatically adjust, throttle would be energized and shift changes quickened even more. To add to the “flavor”, valves would open in the exhaust to boost the V8 roar to new levels.
All reviews were unanimous in their judgement: it was a phenomenal car to drive. Blistering acceleration, vice like grip on the road while attacking corners and brutal stopping power.
Even as the Ferrari 458 stands motionless, in front of you, you can tell immediately that this is a very different kind of Ferrari. Regarded by many, as one of the most beautiful supercars to wear the Prancing Horse insignia. The design is a unique amalgamation of styling and aerodynamics.
Every curve, vent and spoiler has been carefully designed to maximize both aerodynamics and downforce. But this has been achieved under the watchful eye of their constant design house, Pininfarina.
Body shape is unlike anything that had gone before. Where previous Ferrari supercars had a sharp wedge-like shape, the Ferrari 458 was more fluid, sensual and visceral. Body curves and wheel arches are molded around the wheels, while the tapered nose dips low to the front and the windows and roof of the cabin blend into the bodywork. The distinctive rear is elegant in its simplicity with its single light configuration and triple exhaust pipes in the middle.
To allow the prospective owner to create a bespoke edition of the Ferrari 458, the bodywork comes in a variety of different paint colors and the Brembo brake calipers have choices too.
The interior was just as exquisite. A cabin that was built for ergonomic speed as well as delivering a high level of luxury. All surfaces were a blend of the finest leather, alcantara suede and carbon fiber. The seats were equally designed to give good comfort to the driver as well as providing solid support when the Ferrari is driven at speed.
Steered By Schumacher
It is no surprise that the Ferrari 458 dimensions of the interior are very driver focused, as, none other than, Michael Schumacher provided advice on its design. The most obvious influence of the F1 Champion was the redesigned steering wheel.
To make sure the driver’s hands do not leave the wheel, almost all the controls are now installed into it. With no stalks behind the wheel, controls for the indicators, the windshield wipers and high beam are all situated around the central panel of the steering wheel. Conversely, the horn has been moved from the center of the wheel and can be activated along the side of the wheel with either thumb. As always, the start button and the Manettino dial are still located in the same place.
The dash console is dominated by one large analogue dial for the rev counter, it is the biggest thing in the dash and was taken directly from the F1 cockpit. On either side are LCD screens which highlight all the other information the driver needs, including the speedometer and on board radio and cell phone connectivity.
With no central console, there is more space below the dash with only a couple of buttons below for automatic drive mode, reverse gear and launch control (do not get those mixed up!).
The Spider Bites
The Ferrari 458 Spider would be unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Unlike other Ferrari convertibles, this soft top was actually a hard top. It used an aluminum roof that could be retracted in just 14 seconds. Surprisingly, this was 55 lbs. lighter than their traditional soft spider roofs. However, the distinctive glass top of the engine had to go to allow for the space for the roof to be stowed.
To serve as roll bars, there were two buttresses behind each seat and a glass window between them that could be lowered. So, even with the roof in place, the rear window could be wound down to allow the occupants to enjoy the roar of the V8 engine directly behind them.
Due to their loss of their roof, convertibles are always a heavier car. But, despite having a lower top speed of 199 mph (only), the Ferrari 458 Spider was still as responsive as the Italia with the same acceleration from 0-60.
Off to the Races
It was inevitable that this supercar would be let loose into the world of racing. For the 2011 season of the Ferrari Challenge championship, the Ferrari 458 Challenge was introduced.
Using the same engine setup as the Italia, the Ferrari engineers looked to improving the responsiveness of the throttle and transmission. This allowed for the torque to hit at lower revs and letting the throttle be more sensitive. Combined with a lower profile and firmer single-rate dampers and slick racing tires. The interior would be stripped to the bare bone (though leaving the air con) with a full racing setup installed instead.
Lucky reviewers, who had the chance to get behind the wheel of one of these, said the experience was phenomenal. The handling was even better than the Ferrari 458 Italia, as it could attack any corner without fear and explode out of the turn.
This version of the race car would be run for three seasons before being upgraded, in 2014, to the Ferrari 458 Challenge Evo. This edition would continue for another three years as well. The main focus on improvement here was to the aerodynamics and this was most clearly identified by the massive rear wing to enhance downforce.
To give these cars some comparison, their lap times around Fiorano Test Track were impressive. The ‘Standard’ model completed the lap in 1:16.5 which was a full two seconds faster than the F430 Challenge though it was marginally slower than the FXX by 0.2 seconds. The Evo would beat the FXX to a faster lap time.
King of Le Mans
In the same racing season of 2011, Ferrari would bring out two further GTE models. While the Ferrari 458 GT3 would have near enough the same output as the Ferrari Challenge, with 550 bhp at the redline of 9,000 rpm. The more restrictive race setup for GT2 only allowed it to have 460 bhp and a redline at 6,250 rpm. However, this version still managed to create torque as strong as the other editions.
Their dominance in both disciplines of racing were equally impressive. In their six year run, they competed in 617 races, taking 103 poles and winning 104 races.
They would be frequent winners at such famous race tracks as Le Mans, Sebring and Spa-Francorchamps. They would rule the race tracks around Europe, America and Asia.
During this time, only 150 models were produced and, it is thought, that 50 have been destroyed in on track accidents. Any left are definitely collector’s items.
A Very Special Ferrari
Naturally, Ferrari were keen to release a road legal version of the race track monster. In 2013, at the Frankfurt Show once again, they unveiled the Ferrari 458 Speciale. Compared to the Italia, this upgrade was a world apart.
Not only benefiting from the aerodynamic enhancements and technology from the Challenge, the Ferrari 458 specs were also improved on the engine’s output. Though the torque was the same at 398 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm but the Ferrari 458 horsepower had been increased to 597 bhp at 9,000 rpm.
Acceleration was quicker than the Italia as it made the 0-60 mph sprint in a dazzling 3.0 seconds flat. Around Fiorano the Speciale was faster than the Enzo but only 0.5 seconds down from the F12 Berlinetta.
Part of the new tech onboard was the ‘side slip angle’ control which monitored the car’s performance even at the very limit. As it swung through a corner, it could determine what the car was doing at that instant to what the vehicle should be doing and could correct any divergence immediately through all the other driver aids fitted onboard.
The Special is Now Open
One year later, at the Paris Motor Show, the Maranello carmaker unveiled the upgraded Ferrari 458 Aperta. This would be the far more powerful Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta.
Built with the same ferocious engine of its coupe brother, it would generate 597 bhp at 9,000 rpm and 398 lb-ft or torque at 6,000 rpm. Achieving the same 3 second time for the 0-60 mph dash, it could still only make the same top speed as the other Spider (199 mph).
This impressive convertible would be the most powerful street legal Ferrari convertible they had ever produced with a naturally aspirated engine.
While 3,000 models of the Speciale were produced, the Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta was limited to just 499 units.
Proceed to Checkout
As an Italian motoring expert once said, “This is not a car, it is art”. The other adage goes, “if you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it”. Ferrari is a perfect example of these idioms.
The Ferrari 458 MSRP were set at levels not many of us could attain. And anyway, some of the more exclusive editions were only sold to chosen owners. Ferrari would decide who could or could not have one of their cars.
When it first appeared, the Ferrari 458 Italia price was US$230,000 though the Ferrari 458 Spider price was increased to $257,000. The Ferrari 458 price continues to go up as we look at the Speciale which was retailed at $292,000. To round off the price of Ferrari 458 was the $322,000 price tag of the Speciale Aperta.
But if you are a little underwhelmed by these mediocre prices then perhaps some of their special projects and one-offs will be to your liking?
Pininfarina would design some concept cars based on the Ferrari 458 Speciale and a select few would actually go into production. Named after their Chairman, Sergio Pininfarina, the Ferrari Sergio was produced into six models and all were priced at $3 million.
One particular model, referred to as the Ferrari SP12 EC, was specially designed for the musician, Eric Clapton. While most of the Ferrari 458 specs were confidential, it was known that they used the Italia as the base for the car though its bodywork was inspired more by the Ferrari 512 BB. Rumors claimed that the cost for Eric was around $4.5 million.
Currently, used prices for these models have surged to 7 figures as a million dollars is not a surprise for some of these editions. The combination of an excellent design and the last of the naturally aspirated engines made it a collector’s dream.
So, when we look back on how Ferrari could build something beyond perfect, the answer was: very easy.