At a glance
- New price: £178,581 - £208,130
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- Ride quality
- Sparse cabin (Speciale)
- Standard kit can appear meagre
Ferrari may have been founded on a series of V12-powered cars, but some of its most successful models were those fitted with a mid-rear-mounted V8. And so it is with the Ferrari 458 Italia – the name meaning 4.5-litres and eight cylinders, with Italia thrown it at the end in homage to its home country.
This two-seater coupe faces the might of the Porsche 911 turbo, McLaren 650S and Audi R8 in its standard form while the 458 Speciale needs to better the recently introduced McLaren 675LT for the honours.
There are two choices of 458 Berlinetta available – the standard 458 Italia and the lightweight, more powerful and more focused 458 Speciale.
Both use broadly similar 4.5-litre V8 engines, and the Italia squeezes out 562bhp and 540Nm of torque, the former figure arriving at a screaming 9,000rpm. That’s enough for the 458 Italia to sprint from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, and onto 124mph just seven seconds later.
The Speciale uses new materials and techniques for the engine internals, and holds the plaudits for most powerful naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine ever developed by the firm. Torque remains the same 540Nm, still delivered at 6,000rpm, but power jumps to 597bhp.
Alongside a weight loss of 90kg, and a faster-reacting F1 Dual Clutch automatic gearbox, the 458 Speciale slingshots from 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds. The 0-124mph time is just 9.1 seconds, and top speed remains the 202mph as with the 458 Italia.
Regardless which model you opt for, both sound fantastic, with a deep-chested bellow at low-revs that transforms into the screaming crescendo so typical of the firm’s V8 engines. On the Speciale the exhausts use specialist technology and the dual pipes (instead of the triple set up on the Italia) have been relocated to emphasise the sound from the engine.
Ride and Handling
When launched, the Ferrari 458 used a new modular chassis, which meant it was a much firmer and stiffer platform than the Ferrari F430 it replaced. Double wishbone suspension up front mates with adaptive dampers and specially designed tyres. It now rolls far less than its predecessor and boasts a 30 percent faster steering set up, which for the uninitiated is finger-light in its weighting and initially seems at odds with the rather brutal performance of the car.
But for all that pinsharp response, dart-like turn-in and staggering level of grip, the 458 Italia doesn’t ride like a race car on the road. Those adaptive dampers ensure that it smothers surface imperfections with ease, though you will likely find yourself running in ‘bumpy road’ mode most of the time should you regularly traverse typical British blacktop.
Even the hardcore Ferrari 458 Speciale manages to impress, and surprise, with its ride quality; the dampers are said to react to inputs from road or steering in just 0.060 seconds.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 458 Italia’s cabin isn’t the wildly shaped and sculpted layers that form the main dashboard, but that the steering wheel has no stalks. Not for wipers, indicators or headlights – and that’s because they’re all on the steering wheel. Festooned with these buttons, plus the Manettino switch, it looks more like a race car’s helm than a road car. You’ll quickly appreciate the extra ease with which the F1 gearbox’s manual paddles are within reach at all times because of this.
But, so long as you haven’t forked out for the stripped-out Speciale model, you’ll be able to revel in how user friendly and well-trimmed the cabin of the 458 is. There’s only two seats, but storage space is ample and, as long as you tick a few of the option boxes, it’s comprehensively equipped too.
Faster and more focused, the lightweight Ferrari 458 Speciale is the most extreme 458 model available, with a more powerful engine, more extreme aerodynamics and the introduction of Side Slip Angle Control (SSC). This uses a set of sophisticated sensors to monitor the car’s behaviour and driver input, allowing for keen owners to exploit the cars talents on the limit fully and only stepping-in to save the day if ultimately required.
The braking system has been developed from the components used on the 950bhp LaFerrari, with new calipers, ceramic discs and special pad material while the forged wheels wear specially optimised Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres.
Weight loss was paramount to the car’s development; the glass is thinner, the tailgate panel now plastic and the composite bumpers have been redesigned. Inside makes use of carbon fibre and Alcantara, with much of the standard 458 Italia’s equipment stripped out for a race-car like feel – including Sabelt race seats and the option to add four-point racing harnesses, roll bar, on-board telemetry and built-in track cameras.
Read the rest of the comprehensive Parkers Ferrari 458 Italia review to find out just why we rate this as one of the very best sportscars ever made.