From £177,406
Entry-level Ferrari is faster and more accomplished than its predecessor

Our Verdict

Ferrari 458
The radical-looking, mid-engined V8 Ferrari 458 oozes supercar charm

The Ferrari 458 Italia has set a new standard by which supercars are now judged

  • First Drive

    Ferrari 458 Italia

    Entry-level Ferrari is faster and more accomplished than its predecessor
  • First Drive

    Ferrari 430 Scuderia

    F1 technology turns the F430 into one of the most exciting road cars we've ever driven
2 November 2009

What is it?

The 458 Italia is the replacement for the F430. Although the basic configuration sticks to established principles i.e an aluminium space-frame and mid mounted V8 powering the rear wheels, much of the 458 is entirely new.

For starters, the engine is a 4.5-litre direct injection V8, related to that in California, but larger, producing much more power (562bhp) and revving higher (9000rpm).

And like the California the power is channeled to the road through a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, albeit with different ratios.

What’s it like?

At first relatively civilised, the idle smooth and calm. It’ll get you noticed, but it’s no hell raiser. However, like most modern performance cars, the 458 has trick exhaust by-pass flaps, so there’s a good chance with revs and throttle it will be more boisterous.

Metres is all it takes to register the first significant dynamic step change over the 458’s predecessor. The steering is much quicker. 2.0 turns lock to lock quick, and that considering a very reasonable turning circle.

The next thought, is how well the gearbox works, especially in the very ordinary roll of manoeuvring the 458 in traffic. Up in the hills though, I’m keen to explore whether a twin-clutch gearbox can deliver the sense of occasion and drama expected of a 200mph+ Ferrari.

To an extent it is a personal choice, and depends on whether you feel the jolt you get with a super-fast single clutch transmission - such as that fitted to the 430 Scuderia - to be a highlight or deficiency. Certainly the 458’s DCT is much smoother and faster than the F1 box, and yet, in my opinion, feels no less mechanical.

The gearbox is also well matched to the engine character, not only in its speed of reaction, but also its exactness. To get a handle on how much quicker the 458 is than the F430 you need to look not only at the jump in outright power (70bhp), but also where the power (and torque) is produced.

From 3500rpm the 458’s engine is already producing as much torque as the F430’s and at 6500rpm has eclipsed its peak power. This is a Ferrari V8 even more zingy and soulful than before, but now with added mid-range punch. To boot, it’s cleaner and leaner than the old 4.3.

Over the last 2000rpm, the energy and vigour is massively addictive. As is the noise. Any concerns over the timid idle have long since vanished, the 458 soundtrack not only ridiculously loud, but varied and with that shrillness only a flat crank Ferrari V8 can.

If there is a downside, it is that that on the road there are precious few opportunities to use all 458’s performance. Even in Italy. If you’re lucky you’ll see all of second gear, and occasionally third, but, such is the extent of the rev range and force of 562bhp, by then you’re really travelling.

More so than the styling, or engine performance, the one component that describes the biggest advance over the old car, is the confidence you get in 458’s front end. And this not simply a matter of more outright grip, but more consistency and better communication.

Apparently this transformation comes mostly from improvements in the rear multi-link suspension. By better controlling the camber angle and wheel centre movement, Ferrari has been able to increase roll stiffness and run faster more precise steering. And what of that quicker steering?

It takes a little getting used, but only in that it feels foreign to make such small movements (you only need move your hands for the tightest hairpins). But soon enough you find yourself intuitively applying the correct amount of lock in a single application.

Such that you can drive the 458 even in mixed conditions and still enjoy yourself, without fear of a trip to the scenery. Leave the Manettino in ‘low-grip’ or ‘normal’ and the electronics will keep things tidy, switch to ‘race’ and it lets the back slide a little wide under power. But it is testament to the predictability, steering accuracy and throttle response that the last two modes (‘traction off’ and ’you’re on your own’) aren’t completely off the menu.

Given the California exists to offer a more comfort orientated Ferrari, you might expect 458 to be ask more compromises than its predecessor. It doesn’t. Road and wind noise are very acceptable, and the ride calm.

As with the 430 Scuderia it is possible to decouple the suspension settings from the Manettino groupings, but even in the firmer settings the ride is far from jittery.

The interior is also a significant step forward. There is now a consistent quality (including two TFT colour screens), plus some genuine innovation. Ferrari has done away with the indicator stalks, putting the signals, light and wiper controls on the steering wheel. Not everyone will like it, but I think it works well.

Should I buy one?

If you can run to the estimated £160,000 Ferrari is asking, there are few reasons not to. The price may be higher than the old F430, but the 458 is a much more complete package. Not only faster, but more accomplished and more entertaining.

Jamie Corstorphine

Join the debate

Comments
32

5 November 2009

Sounds pretty amazing...

Stupid question no.1 - where's the speedo? Seriously... does it take the place of the gear selection digital whatsit?

Silly comment no.1 - Terrible build quality, look at the panel gap on the bonnet! I could fit my entire hand in there...

I wonder if the wipers and indicators being on the steering wheel really is innovation, or just the roadtester getting carried away? Are they a switch like a motorbikes? Those are very easy to forget... Are they "self cancelling" in the way the Vectra's were, but actually a right pain in the arse?

5 November 2009

This looks pretty impressive.Gotta say its the first Ferarri in a long time thats really caught my attention.Looks good on the outside and in and thats before you get to all the geeky techy stuff.

5 November 2009

[quote fuzzybear]This looks pretty impressive.Gotta say its the first Ferarri in a long time thats really caught my attention[/quote]

Could not agree more. This is one of the first cars in a long time that got a "wow" from me. It is sex on wheels!

5 November 2009

[quote theonlydt]Stupid question no.1 - where's the speedo? Seriously... does it take the place of the gear selection digital whatsit?[/quote]

I think it's digito only now

[quote theonlydt]Silly comment no.1 - Terrible build quality, look at the panel gap on the bonnet! I could fit my entire hand in there...[/quote]

Are you referring to the gap next to the lights? I believe those are air intakes, not panel gap.

I love this car, it is just about the perfect sports car with plenty of performance, style, handling, design, eveyrthing really. Also the first beautiful Ferrari in a long long time.

5 November 2009

Either it's me, but i get the feeling that the article wasn't totally bowled over by the 458 - completely missing the expected superlatives that were used to described the Merc SLS earlier in the week.

Either way i think the 458 is every inch as stunning as it looks and no doubt as good as the Merc. Thing is you know that somehow Autocar will prefer the new McLaren - even if it turns out not be as good as the Fezza!

5 November 2009

[quote Lanehogger]Lanehogger wrote the following post at Thu, Nov 05 2009 7:27 AM:

Either it's me, but i get the feeling that the article wasn't totally bowled over by the 458 - completely missing the expected superlatives that were used to described the Merc SLS earlier in the week.

Either way i think the 458 is every inch as stunning as it looks and no doubt as good as the Merc. Thing is you know that somehow Autocar will prefer the new McLaren - even if it turns out not be as good as the Fezza!

[/quote]

Yeah you get that impression.

Jamie is probably still on a downer and flat as after having been forceably removed out of the car :)

5 November 2009

To an extent it is a personal choice, and depends on whether you feel the jolt you get with a super-fast single clutch transmission - such as that fitted to the 430 Scuderia - to be a highlight or deficiency.

- Personally I do worry about the new gearbox, the pleasure for me is not in the jolt of the single clutch, and is certainly not in the smoothness of the double clutch. It is in having the input from the right foot to iron out the jolt, that is where the skill comes in and therefore the pleasure in getting it right. Personally I hate the artificial jolt that happens in the california on a quick upchange as it just seems artificial.

5 November 2009

impressive

watch-out LF-A...

5 November 2009

I don't care for tests that wax lyrical with superlatives but tell you nothing, the fact of the matter is that this is the first Ferrari in years that I ache to see in the metal.

Sublime.

5 November 2009

I want one . Now where do I get 159 999 from ? Seriously, a really beautiful car and the design flows together well for me.

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