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First Drive: 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.

First Drive: 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia
Ferrari replaces its F430 with the 458 Italia. We expected it to be good, but it's so much more than that.

 



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| First Drive | Maranello, Italy | Ferrari 458 Italia |

Fast cars keep getting faster, but after a few hours behind the wheel of Ferrari's F430 replacement we're left wondering how. The 458 Italia isn't just supercar quick, it's in the realm of hyper-cars. Sixty-two miles per hour arrives in less than 3.4 seconds and it'll cruise at over 200mph. To buy a quicker Ferrari you'd need to speak to the people in Formula One.

In the Metal

That's not just ordinary metal, but aluminium. In profile the 458 is clearly from the same bloodline as the 360 and F430, which is the result of the wind tunnel rather than any commonality, as the 458 Italia a completely new car. It's a sensational looker though. The rear is like a junior Enzo, the front a beautiful combination of vents, origami-like folds and those mean-looking headlamps with their piercing LED strips running up the wings. It's all very clever too, the Italia not just looking brilliant, but able to shape the air around it to operate as efficiently as possible, all while providing proper downforce at the silly speeds it so easily achieves.

Inside it's more of the form-follows-function theme. The steering wheel has more buttons on it than a Pearly King's jacket, but they're all there to make it as easy to switch between the numerous driver aids and set the 458 Italia up as you like it. Gathered around the wheel are two groups of controls that perform the secondary features displayed on the screens that sit either side of the massive rev-counter - itself dominating the instrument binnacle. The 458 is also more practical than ever too: the front luggage compartment is huge and there's some space behind the seats, too.

What you get for your Money

Who knows? Ferrari is pretty tight-lipped about exact numbers and specifications, but you'll be looking at 160,000 in its most basic form. Add those wing-mounted shields, things like a painted rev-counter and a few other must-have options and you'll spend about 10 percent more than that. It's worth it. You'd have had to pay Enzo money for this sort of performance a few years ago.

Driving it

That a 562bhp, mid-engined, aluminium-bodied supercar is quick isn't a surprise, what's so unbelievable is just how fast it is. Not merely against the clock either, but on the road. The V8 engine is a high-revving masterpiece, which, although delivering its peak power at its stratospheric 9,000rpm limit, also punches with real intensity from low revs. There are seven gears to choose from in Ferrari's dual-clutch, paddle-shift transmission, but such is the breadth of the engine's ability you could manage with three. Wring it out in the first two gears and you'll be travelling at speeds that'll soon get you the wrong sort of attention from the law. The noise alone would have them coming from miles around, the 458 Italia V8's triple exhausts providing a howling, shrieking soundtrack that's orchestrated by your right foot and the paddle shifters on the steering column.

It's not just fast though, it's exploitable too: the 458's chassis and Ferrari's plentiful electronic systems give it almost supernatural ability in using its ample power. New multi-link rear suspension helps with roll control and traction, another benefit being improved response at the 458's nose. The steering is as sharp as we've experienced on a road car, turn-in being lightning quick and there's some real feel and decent weighting at the wheel's rim. It's so incisive you have to refocus your entry point to a corner, the quickness of the steering allowing you to turn in far later than you would in anything else. With hugely powerful carbon-ceramic brakes enabling you to repeatedly arrive at corners washing off massive speed with confidence, the suspension allowing fine control through the bend and the engine providing explosive exit speeds, the 458 is a ludicrously rapid road car.

The control it exhibits really is the 458's killer blow to its rivals. Turn the wheel-mounted Manettino through its settings and you can have a friendly machine that'll trickle through traffic, drive on slippery roads with ease and glide through its gears automatically. Point the Manettino switch to the upper portion of its turn and the 458 goes a bit more feral, the throttle sharpening up markedly, the F1-derived driver aids like F1-Trac (traction control), the E-Diff (electronically controlled limited slip differential) and stability control all raising their thresholds to allow you to enjoy the Italia's monstrous performance with less safety nets. Doing so reveals such fine balance and poise that you lean on it with ever more confidence. When it does give up its grip it's at the rear, the transition to oversteer incredibly benign given the forces involved.

The ability to decouple the magnetically damped suspension from the Manettino settings inevitably helps, making it friendlier on nastier road surfaces. Even in its stiff setting the 458 rides with surprising compliance, the only issue being that the accelerator is so sharp in Race and above modes that if you've got the suspension set up to match, any slight involuntary movement made through a reaction to a bump in the road is translated directly to the pedal and can upset smoothness. And the 458 rewards smoothness. Get it right and we don't think there's any proper road car out there that's faster. And we mean anything.

Worth Noting

Clever as Ferrari's grouping of all the major controls and information around the steering wheel and rev-counter is we'd like a proper speedometer. There's an option for one on the digital screens, but if you want to use the satnav then you're left looking for your velocity via a tiny digital read out in the corner of the left hand screen. In a car that's so good at gaining speed a means of better monitoring it would be ideal.

Summary

We thought the F430's replacement would be incrementally better, a few percent better in each area. It's not, the Ferrari 458 Italia is a massive leap forward from its predecessor; the poise it offers, the control it delivers and the pace those bring being almost unbelievable. Ferrari has comprehensively drawn a line in the sand and is daring its competitors to challenge it in a market it thinks of as its own. It's a more intense, more hard-wired drive than rivals like Porsche's 911 Turbo and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, yet is able to offer some of their all-round ability too. McLaren's MP4-12C is going to have to be very special indeed to compete with Ferrari's new baby; it's an incredible car.

Kyle Fortune - 18 Nov 2009









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2010 Ferrari 458 Italia specifications:
Price: Estimated at 160,000.
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Top speed: 202mph
Combined economy: 21.2mpg
Emissions: 307g/km
Kerb weight: 1485kg

Full technical specifications

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia. Image by Ferrari.
 






 

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