Debuting at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Ferrari 458 Italia replaced the F430 in the legendary exotic-automaker’s lineup for model-year 2010. Available only as a low-slung coupe, the 458 Italia incorporates technologies from the automaker’s long-successful Formula 1 racing program.
Like many ultra-exotic sports cars, the 458 Italia is as much a rolling masterpiece of automotive art as it is a high-performance car. As with so many other Ferraris over the years the car’s seductively futuristic design comes courtesy of Italy’s Pininfarina.
Ferrari says every exterior element has been crafted with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. Its wide and low front grille incorporates small shutters that automatically lower at higher speeds to reduce wind drag (this is also an element being used in garden-variety models like the Chevrolet Cruze to help boost fuel economy on the highway). LED-based headlamps stretch dramatically up and into the muscular front fenders, leading toward a nicely rounded roofline that itself culminates into a long and flared rear-end treatment that nearly seems out of proportion with the rest of the car. It may be clichéd, but the 458 Italia is one car that indeed looks fast while it’s standing still.
Fortunately for affluent driving enthusiasts, the 458 Italia’s allure reaches deep beneath its idiosyncratic outward appearance.
The car’s 4.5-liter V8 is Ferrari’s first mid-rear mounted direct-injected engine, which means it resides just behind the seats and literally gives the car’s occupants a kick in the pants when pushed to its limits. The V8 generates a generous 570 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque and channels its power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission that’s operated via large steering wheel-mounted paddles. The 458 Italia is claimed to reach 60 mph from a standing start in a reality-altering 3.4 seconds with a top speed of 202 mph. Going much faster than that would require rocket power.
You’d expect a costly exotic sports car to deliver racecar-like driving dynamics, and the 458 Italia doesn’t disappoint in that regard. As has become a Ferrari tradition, this comes via a deft combination of innovative design and technical wizardry. For starters the car rides on a lightweight aluminum space frame that delivers optimal structural integrity. There’s a newly designed double-wishbone suspension design up front, with a multilink array at the rear that both improves both the car’s ride quality and reduces body roll through the turns. A more-direct steering ratio contributes to quicker and more responsive steering than in the out-going F430.
Also onboard is the automaker’s proprietary E-Diff system. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential originally developed for racing, E-Diff optimizes traction based on a variety of factors, including the 458 Italia’s steering angle and lateral acceleration. What’s more, the coupe’s various integrated systems – from the intervention of the car’s F1-Trac stability control and E-Diff systems to throttle response and transmission performance – according to four settings. The F1-Trac and E-Diff systems are operated by the same electronic control module, which Ferrari says delivers improved torque distribution coming out of corners and affords improved road-holding abilities with more progressive handling at the limits of the tires’ adhesion.
The 458 Italia also includes the latest generation of the Magnetorheological Suspension Control system that’s otherwise available in the 599 GTB Fiorano to govern wheel and body motion to help maintain the car’s cornering acumen while delivering a reasonably pliant ride. This is equivalent to the Magnetic Selective Ride Control system that’s offered in the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette and other models. Metal-infused fluid in each of the vehicle’s shock absorbers is subjected to varying magnetic current based on a variety of factors including road and driving conditions, which in turn governs the stiffness of the suspension.
A new high-performance antilock braking system with Brembo carbon-ceramic discs is able to bring the 458 Italia to a halt with authority. The system also minimizes braking response times by automatically activating the pistons in each of the calipers to minimize the distance between the brake pad and disc as soon as the driver lifts his or her foot off the accelerator.
As is usually the case with low-to-the-ground two-seat sports cars, the 458 Italia can be a tight fit for occupants of a certain build, with ingress and egress that’s suited more for gymnasts than the car’s typical middle-aged buyers. The Ferrari 458 Italia’s leather-clad interior is far from being splashy, with a driver-centric cockpit, no-nonsense switchgear and large and legible gauges.
wners can, however, dress up the cabin with specific leather and interior trim treatments, and even fit the car with lightweight racing seats in either of three sizes for a custom fit. An optional carbon fiber steering wheel includes a row of LEDs along the top rim that lights up as the engine speed increases.
A Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone interface is standard, with a modicum of convenience features optional, including an iPod adapter, auto-pivoting head- lamps, rear parking sensors, a backup camera and GPS navigation system optional. An available “parking lifter” raises the front suspension by up to 1.58 inches to allow the vehicle to better clear speed bumps and ramps.
Overall, the 458 Italia maintains an ideal balance of performance and style like a fine pair of Ferragamo shoes, and should wear as well for those who can appreciate and afford its automotive exclusivity.
Ferrari 458 Italia Quick Facts
Engine: 4.5-liter V8
Horsepower: 570 @ 9,000 rpm
Torque: 398 @ 6,050 rpm
City/Highway: MPG NA
Transmission: 7-Spd Auto Manual
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Overall Length: 178.2 in
Width: 76.3 in
Height: 47.8 in
Curb Weight: 3,042 lbs
Did You Know?
Ferrari’s founder, Enzo Ferrari began his automotive career in 1929 as a sponsor for amateur racecar drivers. He prepared and raced Alfa Romeos, and eventually was hired by that automaker to head its racing department in 1938. Ferrari left two years later and produced his first racer, the Tipo 815, in 1940. The first Ferrari road car, the 125S, debuted in 1947 and was powered by a 1.5-liter V12 engine.