- Stunning design
- A performance superstar
- Razor-sharp handling
- It's thirsty, of course
- Shift interface takes some getting used to
The 2015 Ferrari 458 lineup, in all of its supercar splendor and race-derived mechanical majesty, is the modern iteration of those classic Ferrari models—plus a lot more.
Is the 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia the best-driving supercar ever? While that may be a subject of debate within the legions of Ferrari fans and driving enthusiasts, it's definitely one of the most accessible yet capable high-performance cars to ever be produced by the Italian sports-car maker.
For sure, it's one of the sexiest, wrapping the best of Ferrari's mid-engine, poster-car heritage with just the right gloss and gleam to flaunt all the modern, F1-derived wizardry within.
There's a replacement in the works for next year, by the way—called the 488 GTB. Yet the 458 is going to be a tough act to follow.
In the meantime, with the 458 Spider (convertible), and the 458 Speciale also still relatively new to the lineup, there's lots of appeal in this master work.
And then there's the 2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale Spider—officially called the Speciale A (for Aperta, roughly meaning 'open'). As the eagerly anticipated variant that combines the Speciale's higher-output V-8 (597 hp), with the Spider's surprisingly well executed retractable hardtop, it looks like one that will appeal even to those with multiple prancing horses in the garage. The Speciale A has a limited production run of just 499 units.
The 458 Speciale emphasizes the importance of performance by trimming weight and tweaking the exterior for greater aerodynamic efficiency, while tuning up the suspension, control electronics, and tire grip for even more impressive track-day ability.
Both coupe and convertible models of the 458 share a low, aggressive front end with futuristic-looking headlights, a tall, flared rear end that gives the car a muscular stance, and clean, mid-engined proportions that distill the essence of a modern Ferrari performance car. The 458 Italia's interior is modern and luxurious in its look, but not avant garde or striking.
Sitting just behind occupants' heads, the 458's 4.5-liter V-8 engine is rated at 562 horsepower in standard form, and it'll rev all the way up to a 9,000-rpm redline. It makes 80 percent of its peak 400 lb-ft of torque from 3,250 rpm. But the numbers don't tell the full story of the Italia's V-8. It emits a soundtrack that will delight even those who typically shake their head at noisy sports cars.
In sight and sound, and in poise—as well as performance numbers—the 458 Spider is unparalleled among top-down cars. It’s sexy beyond all the usual cliches, yet it’ll be happy to oblige all of them; it looks technical and racing-influenced in all the right ways; with the F1-derived gearbox snapping off clap-shifts when pressed to duty. It's activated by steering-wheel paddle-shifters, and can get a little tricky when parking on inclines—but we think most owners are willing to live with that compromise. What Ferrari 458 Spider owner is parallel-parking themselves, anyway?
The layout is adventurous, cockpit-like, and highly functional and driver-focused, of course. You sit very low; firm bolsters jut forward beside your rib cage (those with stockier builds will find the seats tight). The ‘frunk’ in the 458 Spider is huge—larger than what you’ll find in some Porsche models, and shaped in a way that could allow two carry-on-size suitcases, or several weekend bags.
Only a thin divider separates the engine from the passenger compartment, and that means there's a symphony of mechanical excellence each and every time you fire it up and plant your foot. The presence of the engine transforms the car from a fairly mellow cruiser to a race-bred thrill machine with just a quick stab of the gas.
It's not all about the auditory experience, however. The 458 Italia and 458 Spider also deliver impressive speed and remarkable driver feedback. The coupe hits 60 mph from a stop in just 3.4 seconds (cut down to around 3.0 seconds in the Speciale), and carries on to a top speed of 202 mph. The Spider's slightly less-slick aerodynamics cap it at 198 mph. Both cars use the same Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and both get gas mileage around the 12-mpg mark in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.
The handling, however, is where the Ferrari 458 truly shines. Balance and grip are both evident in large quantities, imbuing a stability not often found in high-horsepower, mid-engine cars. The steering feel is among the very best we've ever experienced, with perfect weight and exquisitely detailed feedback about the road surface and the tires' comfort zones. We found the 458 Spider to be communicative in a way that many modern cars aren’t; you can feel the weight transfer in corners, as you’re easing into the throttle, far more than most other high-power supercars—and long before the tires get to their maximum grip or the electronic systems need to pull their weight.
In all, it's a case of the sum being even greater than its individually excellent parts—and we're anticipating the same for the 2015 458 Spider Speciale.
The 458 family is built with modern engineering and materials to make a rigid, secure chassis. As with most other exotic or low-volume super-performance cars, the 458 Italia hasn't undergone testing by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
A new, higher-power turbocharged engine for this model has also been reported, along with a potential name change.
For more about what this modern supercar is like to drive, see our video review and quick drive of the Ferrari 458 Spider, over at our luxury and performance site, Motor Authority.