So, you get to drive Ferraris? That’s what most people ask when they find out that we work for MotorWeek. The answer of course is yes, but there are a lot more Minivans and SUV’s going down our test track than supercars. Still, every once in a while the stars align and a car like this Ferrari 458 Italia appears on our horizon. And what are we supposed to do, say No?
The Ferrari 458 Italia is the latest in a long line of breathtaking beauties to emerge out of Maranello, and it carries a style all its own. The Dino and Enzo-esque lines of the Italia are hard to ignore. With its short, sloping hood and narrow headlights somehow looking both modern and nostalgic at the same time; and it just gets more interesting from there. A slim waist and narrow greenhouse lead to a compact tail with center mounted triple exhaust outlets above a rear diffuser and big round LED tail lights mounted high in the corners. A quartet of low-profile 20-inch Michelins ride on 5-spoke wheels, and reveal a huge set of Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes.
This beauty is more than skin deep, as the true heart of any Ferrari is in its engine. Here it’s an all-new 4.5-liter V8 that relies heavily on the brands extensive racing knowledge to put out 562-horsepower and 398 lb-ft. of torque. That’s a naturally aspirated engine record 125-horsepower per liter for those of you keeping score. It’s a dry sump design with variable timing for both intake and exhaust. Oh yeah, it sounds awesome and it revs to 9-grand. And on a sweltering 95 degree day, we used all of those revs to race to 60 in 3.9 seconds.
It’s not just that the 458 is fast; it’s the whole experience, of sound, smell, and feel that makes driving a Ferrari a truly amazing experience. We enjoyed it all the way to the end of the quarter mile in 11.9 seconds at 128 miles-per-hour. The 7-speed F1 dual-clutch gearbox works seamlessly and shifts are instantaneous, with no loss of torque delivered to the wheels during gear changes. This latest version now features an attached electronic differential that works with traction software for maximum grip in both straight line acceleration and handling. Stopping from 60 happens in a neck-straining 100 feet. These world-class clamps showed no signs of weakness even after many hard runs.
The best word to describe the 458’s handling abilities is precise. Turn the wheel, and it just goes. Sounds simple, but that’s not how most cars work. The mid-engine design helps, as does a new-design double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear. The magneto rheological electronic Suspension Control Shock Absorber system, first seen on the Ferrari 599 GTB, provides both more grip and a smoother ride, and its controlled by the steering wheel’s complex Manettino switch panel. Now, we weren’t able to truly test the 458’s limits with just a slalom course, but we’ve never been through here faster or with less effort. It takes lots of effort however, to restrain yourself, when driving the 458 on the street where how you use the throttle can quickly turn it from prancing horse to beast.
Ferrari interiors have been a hit-or-miss thing over the years, as sometimes hand-crafted actually meant not put together that well, but the 458’s interior is beautiful, well designed, and pieced together nicely. A civilized Enzo is the best way to describe it as you feel like you’re in a race car, but a very comfortable and luxurious one with lots of Italian leather and carbon fiber to go around. As to the very different steering wheel mounted turn signals buttons, some found them odd, while others thought them brilliant. And, as for long distance practicality, there is room for a meager 8.1 cubic-feet of luggage. So, pack very light.
While the experience of driving a Ferrari 458 may seem priceless, it turns out you can actually put a number on it. And that is $230,325, which includes gas guzzler tax. Now, the list of available options is a long one, so better bring a thick checkbook.
While it’s true that we spend a lot more time in pickups and people movers than we do supercars, that just makes our time in them that much more special. The 2011 458 Italia is, well… the Ferrari of performance cars. Which means it’s the standard by which all others will be measured. So, you’re darned right we drive Ferrari’s and we love every minute of it!
Engine: 4.5-liter V8
Torque: 398 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 11.9 seconds @ 128 mph