10
Stupendous grip and precision, snarling performance, total devotion to the thrill of speed. Full-on and fantastic.

Our Verdict

Ferrari 458 Speciale

Ferrari's last-word 458 brings unparalleled poise and purpose

What is it?

Maranello’s new 458 Speciale – driven in the UK, and in right-hand-drive form. It’s an extraordinary beast whichever way you look at it. As a driver’s car, a supercar or a V8 Ferrari, the Speciale’s very aptly named.

Lotus’s Exige S, Porsche’s 997 GT3 RS 4.0, Mercedes’ C63 Black Series, Caterham’s R600 or Ariel’s Atom V8; these super-specialised, singularly focused track machines are all closer character matches for it than a ‘normal’ 458

One turn of the steering wheel tells you that much. And the next one grabs hold of your conscious mind and rattles it inside your head like a ball bearing in an aerosol can.

What's it like?

The Speciale loathes compromise; cares little for your frazzled senses after a long-distance drive. It’s noisy, physical and hyperactive; a rubbish motorway car. Two-thousand miles around Europe in one would probably send you deaf and dumb. So be it. It’s the job of the Italia to be a more balanced grand tourer. The Speciale is a glorious monument to vivid, visceral, microcosmic thrill in the here and now.

The headlines speak little of the transformation this car has been through, but they are as follows. Ninety kilogrammes of weight saved, most notably in the chassis, body and cabin specification. An extra 35bhp of peak power found, via a wide-reaching cylinder head and piston redesign, and a move to a compression ratio of 14:1. Transmission shift time improved by as much as 44 per cent. Body design comprehensively reappraised, with new drag-reducing active aerodynamic features adopted front and rear. And new faster-acting twin-solenoid adaptive dampers fitted as part of a wide-ranging rolling chassis update bringing with it lighter alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes from the LaFerrari hypercar, stiffer springs and special Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

Watch Autocar test the 950bhp LaFerrari

The Speciale’s cabin is deliciously sparse. It’s not just that equipment has been taken away – although it has (no audio system here, but you do get air-conditioning). It’s that the architecture of the interior itself has been pared back. There’s nowhere on the door to rest your elbow; just a carbonfibre panel with a lonely-looking handle on it. The centre console has been slimmed down; the glovebox removed completely and replaced with a passenger kneepad. Short of a street-legal Radical or something similar, driving environments don’t get much more purposeful.

The Radical wouldn’t be much noisier, either. The Speciale’s 4.5-litre V8 barks to life, and snarls with rapier-sharp voice, like it could vault out of the car and take a chunk out of the nearest kerbstone at any moment.

And still, all becomes forgotten preamble the instant you’re moving. Responsiveness such as you find in the Speciale is rarely even attempted in a road car, even more rarely delivered. That 398lb ft of torque doesn’t look huge on paper, but a good chunk of it is there to be tapped into immediately. Keep that foot in and the howling force of that V8 from 6000 to 9000rpm is something to marvel at and savour. There again, performance isn’t as violent as some cheaper alternatives - although this is still a very fast car indeed.

And yet the chassis feels ready to go faster – always, and in every circumstance. The chance to test this car on the track will come later. But on the road and in the dry, the Speciale’s reserves of lateral grip are simply incredible. Sidewindow-headbuttingly so. The steering’s absolutely pin-sharp and almost scarily direct at first. It’ll be too much for some, without a doubt. 

But stick with it and the Speciale will take you to another dimension on cornering speed, via its unflappable stability, dependable steering feedback and directional precision. A place where the national speed limit seems preposterously low for a typical UK traffic island, for example. Where inside verges on country roads charge at you until your brain begins to compute how little your wrists actually need to do in order to flick perfectly past them. 

A place, in other words, where only a handful of driver’s cars on the face of the planet can take you. A place the Speciale owns.

Should I buy one?

If you like sports cars, noise and speed, and you’ve got £210k washing around doing nothing, just do it. The new Porsche 911 GT3 may be a smarter buy, but even that may not be capable of exciting you like this Ferrari can on a summer trackday – or a favourite B-road.

Just don’t mistake the Speciale for an ‘everyday use’ kind of supercar, with a quiet cruise, a powerful stereo, a comfy ride and panoramic cup-holders. This Ferrari’s above all of that. It should come with a fire-extinguisher, four-point harnesses and a government health warning.

Ferrari 458 Speciale

Price £208,065 0-62mph 3.0sec Top speed 202mph Economy 23.9mpg (with HELE option) CO2 275g/km (with HELE option) Kerbweight 1395kg Engine V8, 4497cc, normally aspirated petrol Installation Mid, longitudinal, RWD Power 597bhp at 9000rpm Torque 398lb ft at 6000rpm Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch semi-auto

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Comments
11

17 June 2014
I do not know if it is just me but the 360 and 430 look like proper Ferrari's this 458 is not attractive ,the rear lights bland, the front lights make it laugh, side profile could be a Kia. The Mcclaren looks more Ferrari like but hey that imo.Thank goodness lamborghini look great.

17 June 2014
Ski Kid wrote:

I do not know if it is just me but the 360 and 430 look like proper Ferrari's this 458 is not attractive ,the rear lights bland, the front lights make it laugh, side profile could be a Kia. The Mcclaren[sic] looks more Ferrari like but hey that imo.Thank goodness lamborghini look great.

You mean the handsome Kia's designed by ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer. I totally disagree with your opinion, especially in regards to the McLaren. Although it has the performance to see off all but hypercars, the 12C looks like a bloated, pumped up Toyota MR2 to my eyes. The 458 Italia & Speciale look lean, beautiful, progressive and ooze with charisma.

17 June 2014
I disagree but as I stress that is my opinion, I prefer Aventador Hurrican and Mclaren 650S just think Ferrari is not as nicely designed the 360 and 430 look more balanced and beautiful than the 458. I do however agree with you on the 12c being more mr2

17 June 2014
Matt have I just read this right? You say:

'The new Porsche 911 GT3 may be a smarter buy'

Forgive me as I write this, for I do not wish to come across as a troll, but honestly it would be perfectly understandable for a well read individual to conclude that that comment you made is bordering on moronic, if not patently ignorant.

For your information, there are some 800 prospective buyers of GT3s some of whom have been waiting to receive the cars fro months and the best they will get is a car with with replacement engine following Porsche's royal f*ck up of the GT3 engine. So what on earth is Autocar doing allowing this sort of comment to be published?

On every level, buying one of these Ferrari's is the smarter choice because not only will it undoubtedly be more exciting to behold, drive and own, but it is highly likely to hold its value better too, both in the medium term and the long term.

Your basic analysis smacks of either stupidity, ignorance, or worse, bias through sponsorship. Seriously, get a grip.

18 June 2014
gaco1 wrote:

Matt have I just read this right? You say:

'The new Porsche 911 GT3 may be a smarter buy'

Forgive me as I write this, for I do not wish to come across as a troll, but honestly it would be perfectly understandable for a well read individual to conclude that that comment you made is bordering on moronic, if not patently ignorant.

For your information, there are some 800 prospective buyers of GT3s some of whom have been waiting to receive the cars fro months and the best they will get is a car with with replacement engine following Porsche's royal f*ck up of the GT3 engine. So what on earth is Autocar doing allowing this sort of comment to be published?

On every level, buying one of these Ferrari's is the smarter choice because not only will it undoubtedly be more exciting to behold, drive and own, but it is highly likely to hold its value better too, both in the medium term and the long term.

Your basic analysis smacks of either stupidity, ignorance, or worse, bias through sponsorship. Seriously, get a grip.

...look at the reviews of the GT3. The conclusion is clear - it's one hell of a car for half the Price of the Ferrari.
So a smart buy? Of course it is

18 June 2014
Those who have commented negatively on the 458's looks either haven't seen one in the flesh or are vision-impaired.

The 458 is an absolute beast in the flesh, combining a striking balance between voluptuous and aggressive styling.

Having said that, I am referring to the original, standard-spec 458 and not the Speciale.

The Lamborghinis, however, are strictly aggressive-avant-garde in their styling and quite striking, while their concepts are becoming ridiculously horrendous. (Egoista, anyone?)

18 June 2014
Oh dear another Porsche fanboy....LOL.

18 June 2014
gaco1 wrote:

Oh dear another Porsche fanboy....LOL.

but your anti Porsche rant is too obvious. I can only urge you to look at the reviews of the GT3 in any magazine. ANY!

18 June 2014
egonolzen wrote:
gaco1 wrote:

Oh dear another Porsche fanboy....LOL.

but your anti Porsche rant is too obvious. I can only urge you to look at the reviews of the GT3 in any magazine. ANY!

its not anti-Porsche, but it is obviously true. What is more telling is that you have completely failed to address my points. The magazine articles you reference are to be taken with a pinch of salt after all... the 991 GT3 is lemon and the proof is in the pudding. Had it been a 997 GT3 RS, then your point would be arguable but alas that's not the case, so get over it.

18 June 2014
gaco1 wrote:
egonolzen wrote:
gaco1 wrote:

Oh dear another Porsche fanboy....LOL.

but your anti Porsche rant is too obvious. I can only urge you to look at the reviews of the GT3 in any magazine. ANY!

its not anti-Porsche, but it is obviously true. What is more telling is that you have completely failed to address my points. The magazine articles you reference are to be taken with a pinch of salt after all... the 991 GT3 is lemon and the proof is in the pudding. Had it been a 997 GT3 RS, then your point would be arguable but alas that's not the case, so get over it.

....I ABSOLUTELY fail to understand your points. But I quess you know better than the collected press although I rate their credibility obove yours. Sorry.

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