The Ferrari 458 Italia just may be the sexiest car on the planet. Although “sexy” may not be a term you customarily hear used during a review of an automobile, in this particular instance the usage is apt. With radical, dangerous curves, sleek styling, and a seductive throaty purr, the latest offering from the iconic Italian automaker threatens to entice even the most jaded and hard-to-please performance car aficionados.
The 458 Italia was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009 as a successor to the Ferrari F430. It was designed by car designer and coachbuilder Paninfarina, and assembled in Maranello, Italy. Because of its over-the-top horsepower and performance, the Italia is in the “supercar” class.
Reception among both critics and the public was positive from the outset, and that recognition continues today. In 2009, the Italia was crowned both “Car of the Year” and “Supercar of the Year”. Since then, one model, the 458 Spider, won best Cabrio awards from both Top Gear and Auto Zeitung magazines in 2011. At the same time, the Ferrari 458 Italia was recognized by Motor Trend as “Best Driver’s Car” for 2011.
As has become the hallmark of Ferrari vehicles, the 458 Italia is a work of aerodynamic art, with every styling element designed to underscore and improve the aggressive performance and driving experience that is the bailiwick of the supercar class. The result is an amalgamation of aesthetics and technology that was meticulously planned down to the smallest detail.
The shape of the 458 Italia was developed using Computational Fluid-Dynamics (CFD) techniques, which created a near-perfect juxtaposition of minimum drag and maximum downforce. For example, at top speed, at least 800 pounds of downforce are generated, giving the Italia remarkable stability and responsiveness. Aiding the aerodynamics is a virtually perfect balanced weight, with 58 percent aft and 42 percent fore.
There is but one opening in the nose of the vehicle, directing air to the radiators. Adorning the nose are two small winglets which change shape as the vehicle’s speed increases. This deformation reduces the amount of drag and increases the downforce.
Performance styling was inspired by several other Ferrari models of the past. As with the FXX, hot air from the oil radiators is shunted under the noder and into the slipstream. Taking a cue from the F430 GT2, the engine is cooled by air intakes located on the 458 Italia’s flat underbody. The sporty triple exhaust pipes located in the tail are reminiscent of the iconic F40 and give voice to the aggressive growl synonymous with the Ferrari brand.
Engine and Performance
The 458 Italia is powered by a 4499 cc, direct injection Ferrari/Maserati V8 engine that provides an extraordinary 570 horsepower at redline, 9000 rpms. What is even more amazing is the fact that this engine will produce an efficient 80 percent of that horsepower at only 3250 rpm. The engine in the 458 Especiale, a variant of the Italia, tops out at 596 horsepower, making it the most powerful V8 engine Ferrari has ever offered. This power means that the 458 Italia can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds and the Especiale in a flat 3.0, reaching double that speed in 9.1 seconds with a Top speed of just over 200 mph.
One of the most significant technological innovations affecting both performance and the overall sport driving experience was implemented on the 458 Italia a seven-speed, dual-clutch, electro-hydraulic gearbox without a torque converter. Because gear shift time has been virtually reduced to zero, the comfort of an automatic transmission is combined with the fun and excitement of a manual one. Without torque interruption, gear shifting and acceleration are instantaneous, which means enhanced response and a smoother, more comfortable drive.
The interior components are all influenced by F1 racing, with special emphasis placed upon creating a seamless human/machine interface. By designing ergonomics of the cockpit from a track-inspired point of view, Ferrari has crafted a control system that basically serves as an extension of the driver.
Control levers have been removed from the steering column, replaced with integrated controls directly on the steering wheel. Now, drivers can shift or make any other adjustments without their hands ever leaving the steering wheel. Instrumentation is streamlined and presented directly in front of the driver, meaning the driver’s attention is never diverted from the path straight ahead. These features are directly inspired by the racing circuit, and improve the driver’s focus while improving safety.
The handling and performance of the 458 Italia is customizable for different road surfaces and conditions. A manettino dial is installed to allow for quick and easy adaptation for the electronically-controlled settings for the traction control, suspension, differential, and gearbox. Five different settings are available to assist the driver maintain stability and safe control. Included is a Launch Control button, designed to deliver maximum torque and acceleration from a dead stop.
To offer maximum ergonomic containment, the premium Racing Seat has a carbon fiber infrastructure, hand-stitched leather of the highest grade and a capacity to accommodate over 99 percent of the population.
There is nothing subtle about the Ferrari 458 Italia. Power, performance, precise handling and a strict adherence to the principle of adapting the utmost in racing innovation to align with the requirements of a sporty driving car have all come together in perfect alignment to deliver an exhilarating driver experience unlike any other. Ferrari owners already know this, and would not change places with the owner of any other vehicle. Non-owners have only one reason why they do not feel the same—because they haven’t driven one yet. When you do don’t forget the worlds best driving roads!