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Ferrari 458 (2010 - 2018)

MARANELLO MAGIC (some text hidden) --NONE--

By Jonathan Crouch

Introductionword count: 97

When it comes to supercars in the early part of the 21st century, this one is everybody's benchmark, Ferrari's 458. From its launch in 2010, it occupied a different league of excitement, occasion and desirability from most of its competitors, whether in coupe or Spider convertible form. And of course, it's from a brand with a heritage second to none. That said, for a company with such a rich tradition, Ferrari isn't big on nostalgia for the sake of it. Blending effectiveness with emotion is what this car is all about. Quite frankly, nobody does it better.

Modelsword count: 14

(2dr Italia coupe / Spider - 4.5 litre petrol V8 [standard / Speciale coupe])

Historyword count: 347

Think of a Ferrari engine and you tend to think of a screaming V12. Forgetting perhaps that most of Maranello's output over the years has been V8-powered. In racing as well as in production terms. It was, after all, a V8 that took John Surtees to the 1964 F1 World Championship. And it was also V8 power that fired the growth of Enzo's business in the early Seventies, with cars like the Dino GT4 and, perhaps most notably, the 308GTB of 1975. This design sired a fine tradition of mid-engined V8 sportscars that continued in 2010 with this one, the 458 Italia. If you know the brand, then you'll know many of the V8 models that brought us to this point - the evolutionary 328 of the Eighties, the rather unloved 348 of the Nineties and its replacement that arrived just before the Millennium, the utterly delightful F355. Modern times brought us the sleek F360 Modena, made until 2005 when it was replaced by the less pretty but undoubtedly more purposeful F430. All desirable, but still seen by many as stepping stones to more serious V12 Ferraris further up the range - the Berlinetta Boxer of the Seventies, the Testarossa of the Eighties or the 599 GTB of more modern times. All that changed with the launch of this 458 in 2010. It was as quick as any of the exalted V12 models - and as pricey once most owners had specced theirs up, especially in the open-topped Spider bodystyle that arrived in mid-2011. It represented the heart of the Ferrari range, not just the most popular model, but arguably the definitive expression of Maranello magic. Just the thing for the Italian brand to use against the usual upstarts down the road at Lamborghini. And a vital weapon in a more important battle against the clinical excellence of McLaren. Arguably, in its time, this was the greatest, the most complete, maybe even the most desirable Ferrari ever made. It sold until 2018, by which time it had long been replaced by the 488 GTB. launched in 2016.

What You Getword count: 1048

We know styling is a largely subjective business but if you think a 458 is anything but stunning, it might be time to get yourself to the opticians. Look closely and nods to the past (tail lights from the Enzo and air intakes like those on a 308) mix with a fashionably low waistline and the kind of deep windscreen you'd get on a modern endurance racer. Where Ferrari was extremely clever in designing this car was in mixing sharp angles such as the chamfered front wings with their sleek compound curves, while at the same time building solid aerodynamics into the exterior design. At launch, this was actually the sleekest Ferrari ever, thanks to lovely details like the 'aerolastic winglets' in the nose that bend at speed to direct air under the car. Or the engine bay vents that use high pressure air in the wheel arches to increase cooling and further aid downforce levels that at top speed equate to nearly a third of the weight of the car. The science of managing airflow around the aluminium-crafted bodywork has clearly been taken very seriously at Maranello. The rear haunches are a lot cleaner than those of the old F430 as there are no bulging inlets. Instead, the 458 has a neat inlet at the back of the glasshouse that sucks air in to feed the engine. You'll also get two underbody ducts to cool the engine, while at the back you see vents that cool the clutch and the gearbox. Let's have a look at a few more details. The carbon ceramic brakes measure a huge 398 mm at the front and 360m at the back, with six piston calipers at the front and four-pot items at the back. You'll get through rear pads pretty quickly if you take your 458 on track and leave the car in 'Race' mode, as the stability control system will do a lot of work at the rear end. You'll need to either factor in the cost of replacement items of switch the control systems off, which might prove even more costly. Your call. The long headlights are a real 458 signature design feature and contain a main lens that's a rotating bi-xenon light with low and full beam functions, which follow the car's movements in line with the curves on the road. Above it is a vertical stack of 20 high-intensity LEDs for the daylight running lights which increase or decrease their brightness with the intensity of ambient light. And the cabin? Well, it offers decent headroom whether you choose the 458 Italia coupe or the 458 Spider open-topped version. Most of the controls are angled towards the driver with the main focus being a central rev counter bordered by two configurable TFT colour screens. The one on the left can help you monitor various temperatures and pressures and show you the exact level of electronic assistance the various driver aids, the diff or the gearbox are providing, plus you can see whether the brakes, tyres and engine are up to temperature or overheating. This screen also helpfully shows a small digital speed read-out at the bottom, which is fortunate, for very often, you'll have to do without the large speedo read-out, which is one of the functions of the screen on the right. That's because you'll more regularly want to use this screen to show radio or sat nav info. At first it all seems a bit much to take in, especially as the designers have also taken the unusual decision to do away with traditional column stalks and mount virtually all the main controls on the steering wheel - yes, just like an F1 car. But F1 drivers don't have to bother about things like lights and wipers. It's a fiddly way to operate them and you often end up switching on the wipers when you're trying to flash the headlamps. It's even worse when you're trying to use the indicator buttons at the same time as wheel-twirling, say when you're coming through a roundabout. And the rim-mounted horn is just as awkward. Still, after a while you begin to figure out how things work. Frank Stephenson was the guy in charge of the Ferrari 458 design and he signed off the car's F1-style steering wheel. He was then poached by McLaren in order to try to whip the MP4-12C into shape and that emerged with a wheel which has precisely no extraneous controls on it. Figure that one out. What we can't fault are the controls you'll find behind the steering wheel - the lovely, tactile gearshift paddles. We admit that we miss the look of the lovely old chromed open gate manual gear change that older manual Ferraris used to have but that was a dog to use and the 458's paddles give a very clean look to the cabin. Rather unsurprisingly, there's not a great deal of stowage space, though the 230-litres on offer is a lot more than is available from any of this car's rivals from this era (a Mclaren MP4-12C has just 144-litres, a Lamborghini Gallardo just 110-litres and even a Mercedes SLS only 173-litres). It's possible to get a laptop case behind the seats and many original owners took up the option Ferrari offered of buying a couple of very expensive tailored luggage sets that fit both the rear bench and the front boot. Go for a car whose owner did without these and you'll be down to trying to cram in a pair of squashy bags into the space provided: there's little room for much else, so it'll help if you pack light for a weekend away. Should you choose the 458 Spider, you'll have to do without the glazed-in engine cover, but recompense comes in the shape of a folding aluminium hard top that's aesthetically cohesive and which can do its thing in just 14 seconds, with just two moving parts that slot neatly into a gap between the engine and the seats. Did chopping the roof off affect the handling? Not really; Ferrari strengthened the chassis to compensate, which added 50kilos, but torsional stiffness is the same as the coupe. Lopping a car's roof off is usually a first class way to ruin it. Not this time.

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Category: Sporting Cars

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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