Ferrari 458 Italia 2010 Review
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In the natural order of evolution the latest version of any new car has to be better, safer, grander and in today's world even greener than the one it replaces. That's a given. But sometimes that natural order gets out of step.
There are newcomers who don't just take one evolutionary step forward, but to borrow a line from the bloke who walked on the moon, they take a giant leap forward.
Such is the F458 Italia, Ferrari's quickest road-going model and the stunning replacement for the F430, which followed the 360 which itself was a remarkable car.
The 458 arrives in June with more than 100 deposit-paid "expressions of interest" being signed on the $580,000 car that's an order bank almost larger than the number of cars Ferrari sold in total last year. So what's been happening? Has Ferrari, after a few hit and misses in its line-up, finally built a car of desire? It looks like it.
Buyers have been handing over five-figure deposits to secure their place in the queue — those at the top of the pecking order will be getting their new Ferrari before Christmas; latecomers may have to wait for up to 18 months.
The majority of Ferrari buyers are traditionally also big spenders: adding between $120,000 and $180,000 to tailor their cars before they leave the factory, and if they really insist on an odd colour trim combo then the amount of deposit rises substantially. Understandable, because the distributor, European Automotive Imports, doesn't want to get stuck with an expensive car with little market appeal.
So how good is the first all new mid-engined V8 Ferrari for in a decade? The 458 isn't just a step ahead of the 430, it's in another time zone. The two-seater has more finesse, is more powerful, more responsive and resets Ferrari's bar on ride and handling perfection. It also has a green tinge, using less fuel and producing less harmful CO2 emissions than its predecessor.
The raw figures are staggering: with 419kW peaking at incredible 9000rpm, the direct injection V8 delivers 93kW per litre which Ferrari says is a record for such a naturally-aspirated motor.
And this is the first Ferrari not to offer a manual transmission and that's the rub with aficionados. Not only that, all future Ferraris will be without the traditional open-gated manual shifter as well.
The diehards may weep, but there's no denying the 458's dual clutch seven-speed auto gearbox (developed for the Ferrari California with the technology now sold to Mercedes-Benz) is a gem, making the car easy as the family wagon to drive sedately in the city. If your feel the need for self shifting, there are Formula One style paddles behind the steering wheel.
Ferrari counters the criticism, saying the techno-smart auto, a spinoff from Formula One, can complete gear changing far faster than any human hand and the shifting actually boosts power and doesn't momentarily lose it as you do when using a conventional clutch.
But the 458 has other direct F1 links as well. The most obvious is the steering wheel which is crowded with all of the car's main controls including switching for lights, wipers, indicators, ignition and settings for the traction control system. Ferrari's effort to centralise controls sort of works, but you have to remember just where those buttons are when you have turned the wheel full lock, in tight turns.
While Australia baked, here in Maranello, the home of Ferrari, the temperature didn't budge from 2 deg, fog blanketed the valley and it was snowing, meaning the fantastic hill roads above the town were out of the question for this beast shod in summer tyres. The slush demanded extreme caution, even though the highways had been sprinkled with salt.
Even with the car set on its wet road setting, to allow maximum grip, too much accelerator pedal (one of those let's try it and see what happens moments) produced an instant fishtail, which was countered almost as quickly (but not quite) by the traction control system which settled the car and our nerves.
Despite the tiptoe conditions there was enough input after four hours on the road to show Ferrari has done an excellent job in body control: the car sits flat in corners, minor road bumps are well absorbed, the steering stunningly quick, the brakes are reassuring solid and benefit from an anti-lock braking system which is tuned to the road conditions.
The Ferrari flyer is rewarding as it is daunting. The question remains just where in Australia, apart from track days, can its abilities be tested?
The styling is a work of art — purposeful, muscular and mean. But every single curve, air intake and aerodynamic wind deflectors serve a purpose. The front winglets for example are flexible. At low speeds they channel air to the deeply angled radiators; at high speed they bend, moving the air to produce a low pressure area at the front of the bonnet, helping to reduce drag and in our case, ice which clung to the bonnet.
Ferrari says the 458 produces a massive 360kg of down force at its maximum speed of 325km/h that's better than the Enzo supercar. It's not until you climb into the cockpit with its overly hard seats, that you realize just how wide the Ferrari is. Not a problem for Australian roads but it demands careful manoeuvring to negotiate Italy's narrow lanes, lined with deep ditches and shared by trucks all demanding their bit of black top.
Despite that, the 458 is remarkably easy to drive. Push the red start button (we failed to see it the first time and wondered why the car wouldn't start) awakens the beast lurking behind the cabin but its there on display under the rear glass hatch window for all to see and admire.
Engine noise changes pitch quite dramatically depending on the throttle opening. It's not the typical agricultural V8 sound we are used to in Australia. This is more of a high pitched growl than belly-deep guttural.
At 60km/h the car quite happily plods through city traffic in seventh gear, such is the high revving nature of the V8. But it's not until you get to highway speeds and the revs build that the true character of the car shows itself. Stomp on the accelerator in auto mode for overtaking and the car drops a gear, and rewards you with a surfing wave of torque as speed and revs rise in unison all the way to 9000rpm although in these conditions redlining was out of the question.
The transmission will upshift automatically if you are in manual mode and thanks to the dual clutch system cog swapping is done seamlessly. Given the right road conditions, the 458 is capable of running at more than triple our road limit — something we never came close to exploring and can do the standing dash to 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds.
Think about it. Count to four it's that quick and gives the car a rightful entry into the supercar class. Equally remarkably, it has a claimed fuel consumption of just 13.4l/100km. This is the most responsive Ferrari to date.
A miracle car maybe. But it's not without its faults: there was demisting problem in our test car but a bigger problem was the lack of a rear-view camera and it's badly needed although it will be offered as an option for Australia. This $600,000 sportscar also doesn't come with vanity mirrors and cruise control was also absent, but that will probably become standard once the cars are landed in Australia.
The options list is however extensive right down to matching luggage (the same leather as the seats).
Ferrari 458 Italia
Engine: 4.5-litre V8, 419kW @9000rpm, 540Nm torque @6000rpm.
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Performance: Top seed 325km/h, 0-100km/h 3.4s, 0-200km/h 10.4s,
Dimensions: kerb weight 1485kg (with forged wheel rims and lightweight racing seats) , weight distribution 42% front, 58% rear, length 4527mm, width 1937mm, height 1213mm, wheelbase 2650mm front track 1672mm, rear track 1606mm.
Tyres: Front 235/35 20 inch, rear 295/35 20 inch.
Brakes: Front 398, rear 360mm
Fuel Economy: 13.3l/100km (claimed, European test); CO2 307g/km
Range and Specs
|Italia||4.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$310,888 – 315,000||2010 Ferrari 458 2010 Italia Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months