Story by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/blog/post/2009/11/06/First-Drive-Ferrari-458-Italia.aspx
Automotive journalists were given their first crack at the 458 Italia on Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in Maranello, Italy. The outcome, like when the F430 replaced the F360, is the new car has pulled off what seems like the impossible and has surpassed the old car by leaps and bounds.
First, the looks. Car and Driver doesn’t say the car is necessarily pretty, but justifies its design for the sake of better aerodynamics, noting that “like the oddly shaped Enzo, the 458 is meant to show off everything Ferrari has learned about airflow with its wing- and duct-bristled F1 cars, whether it’s pretty or not.” Automobile, on other hand, calls the car “drop-dead gorgeous.” Stating that catching the car on the street “will not just turn your head, it will make your head spin around like a top.”
The car’s drivetrain was unanimously praised. Automobile commended Ferrari for its “V-8 that revs, longingly, to an incredible 9,000 rpm,” while Car and Driver noted the engine’s throttle was easily modulated and comes with a “torque band so flat that it never runs away on you.” Autoweek proclaimed that the “exhaust note is typical Ferrari magic, taking on a race-car-like pitch past 4,000 rpm and simply growing louder as the revs climb.”
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the only transmission offered but performs so well that most of the magazines doubted whether the manual transmission would even be missed.
The shocks are of the new magnetic-fluid variety and allow—because their infinite, automatic, and instantaneous adjustability—the spring rate to be raised and the anti-rolls bars to be reduced, improving the car’s roll control without the ride penalties of big anti-roll bars. Motor Trend says the car “tracks remarkably true to the driver's intended path” and Automobile states the “steering is exceedingly well tuned. Perfectly weighted. Perfectly precise. Perfectly communicative. Perfect. Divinely perfect.” Everyone admired the car’s ability to make driving fast look and feel easy.
Any complaints focused on the new interior, which is more driver focused. Automobile remarked that the driver’s surroundings “may come off as a little inelegant to some, especially the oddly shaped center protrusion from the instrument panel, which contains two air vents and a central controller for the electronic display.” Motor Trend also found fault on the car’s inside, pointing out that Ferrari has “succumbed to the multi-function mouse-knob mania now afflicting the entire auto industry,” and using the new controls are “about as intuitive as those on BMW's first crack at iDrive.” Autoweek had the most disparaging remarks about the ergonomics, calling the “entire concept…ill-conceived and downright gimmicky.”
Motor Trend says the car “makes one question the superlatives one has so blithely applied to what now seem like much lesser vehicles. It makes the F430 seem like the model one graduates from when one's means at last permit purchase of the 458 Italia” and ends by saying that it promises “Enzo performance at 60 percent off. It's also one of the prettiest and best engineered supercars of this century."
Car and Driver notes that with the so many Gs being forced on the body by the car’s acceleration, cornering, and braking abilities that any owner better pick passengers “carefully for their intestinal fortitude,” and ends by saying the Ferrari “has performance that race cars could once only dream of.”
Automobile remarks that the “level of performance and driving pleasure in the 458 Italia is nothing short of extraordinary, “ and that “Ferrari has, unquestionably, rewritten the rules once again for mid-engine sports cars."
Autoweek sums up the car by saying that “Ferrari has created a high-performance experience that does not feel at all contrived. With performance to match, the 458 Italia has set a new target for future mid-engined, V8-powered exotics.”
Car and Driver Motor Trend Automobile Autoweek