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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Think of a set of performance criteria that a modern supercar should meet and, chances are, you’ll have drawn up a list of performance figures that all but mirror those belonging to the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Its 0-60mph time starts with a three, its top speed starts with a two and, on the way, it passes 100mph in around 7sec, eases to a standing quarter mile in less than 12sec and breezes past 150mph before a standing kilometre is out.

By moving the Manettino to the ‘low grip’ setting, you keep also the exhaust flaps closed for longer. Useful if you don’t want to attract too much attention

More impressive than the numbers themselves, though, is the way with which the Ferrari 458 goes about setting them. Not too many years ago, extracting 562bhp from a naturally aspirated 4.5-litre engine – some 125bhp per litre – would have produced an undriveable, snarling fire-breather of a powerplant. Not too many years before that, it would never have happened in a road car at all.

So it’s a testament to advances in production, materials, injection and electronic technology that the 458 happily spins into life without drama and, as early as 3000rpm, is pulling with as much torque as the outgoing Ferrari F430 gave in total – and this despite spinning to 9000rpm. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is the speed with which the 458 builds its revs. There is no hang, no lag. You ask of the throttle and the engine delivers in an utterly predictable, linear fashion.

As with the California, the 458’s power is directed to its wheels via a dual-clutch transmission that, some might say (although not us), dilutes the thrill of a single-clutch robotised manual. The efficiency with which it goes about swapping cogs comes with no loss of mechanical feel.

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The 458, like all current Ferraris, comes as standard with carbon-ceramic brakes capable of stopping it repeatedly, from high speed, in no time at all.