The latest of Ferrari's mid-engine super sports cars, the 458 Italia is already nearing three years of age: It made its debut at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, and has been on sale since. Only minimal updates have been made to the car during this time frame, primarily for safety and reliability issues.
First and foremost, the 458 Italia is about stunning looks to match its supercar performance. Here, the 458 Italia succeeds almost effortlessly. A low stance; clean, graceful curves; and undeniably Ferrari mid-engine proportions combine to give the 458 Italia a modern interpretation of Ferrari's sporting essence.
In 2011, Ferrari added the Spider to the range. With its folding hardtop roof, the Spider mimics the Coupe's lines with the top up, and wears the car's high haunches and flowing curves with equal grace with the top down.
Inside, the 458 Italia duo is luxurious and modern, though not particularly striking in terms of design, though the race-style seats will turn some heads. Ferrari forged no fundamentally new territory here, instead choosing to execute a handsome, simple, familiar interior.
It's just behind that interior that the heart of the 458 lives, in the form of the 4.5-liter V-8 engine. Rated at a stout 562 horsepower at the 9,000 rpm redline, and 400 pound-feet of torque, 80 percent of which is available from 3,250 rpm, the 458 Italia's V-8 is, in a word, magnificent. It's not the most powerful in the supercar world, but it's one of the most sonorous, and located right behind the passengers with only a thin divider between, it transforms from mellow and quiet to raucous and race-inspired with just a short sweep of the throttle pedal.
As the sound awakens, so does the speed, vaulting the 458 Italia forth in frenetic style, hitting 60 mph in under 3.4 seconds and carrying on to a top speed of 202 mph (or 198 mph for the Spider). Both the Spider and the standard 458 Italia use the same Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, inspired by Ferrari's F1 race cars. Gas mileage barely tips the 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway mark.
Handling is, as you'd expect of a mid-engine Ferrari, remarkable. Balance, grip, and stability are all at such a high level that they can only be partially accessed on the street. Steering feel is almost otherworldly, communicating through the driver's hands with exquisite detail the surface of the road and the behavior of the tires, while requiring relatively light inputs. The synergy of the engine, gearbox, suspension, chassis, and the overall setup of the 458 Italia makes it one of the most engaging, rewarding, and simply fun-to-drive cars on the planet.
Safety is generally expected to be good, but Ferraris aren't often crash tested by the major rating bodies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). One concern for early Ferrari 458 Italia owners was the risk of fire due to an adhesive used near the engine bay. After a number of customer cars caught fire, the company remedied the problem with an alternate fastener. Another recall for mechanical reliability in the engine has also resulted in a limited recall and modification to affected cars.
Despite these issues, the 458 Italia and 458 Spider remain among the elite of the world's modern supercars, and they remain among our editors' favorite cars on the market.
For more, read our first drive of the Ferrari 458 Italia on our luxury and performance site, MotorAuthority.