The Ferrari 458 Spider is a car for those as interested in being seen driving the latest Ferrari as actually driving it. Or to put it more charitably, one for those who want an ever richer, noisier and more evocative everyday driving experience than the already rich, noisy and evocative Ferrari 458 Italia can provide.
The launch of any new Ferrari brings with it plenty of excitement, but this car was that bit more significant than the usual decapitation job. The 458 Spider was Maranello’s first mid-engined convertible with a folding metal roof – the world’s first, or so said Ferrari. The roof is an aluminium arrangement that’s actually 25kg lighter than the cloth roof fitted to the F430 Spider, and motors from open to closed in just 14 seconds. It also packages very efficiently, doesn’t compromise the 458’s aerodynamics with the roof up, and leaves room behind the car’s seats for a small luggage shelf.
One consequence of the rearranged rear deck is that you no longer have a glass cover over the engine. Instead you get a painted cover with six air extractors. The air intakes, which on the coupe are located near the B-pillar, have been shifted back just ahead of the rear lights.
Mechanically, the Spider gets more supple damper rates compared to the Italia, a gentler throttle map and a slightly fruitier exhaust tune. Ferrari has left the springs and anti-roll bar unchanged to preserve the terrific steering response, lateral grip and cornering ability of the coupe. The weight penalty it carries relative to the coupe is an extremely creditable 50kgs, and that means there’s very little appreciable performance difference between the two cars. Ferrari quotes an identical 3.4sec for the 0-62mph sprint, and there’s only 4mph between the maximum speeds of the two cars – the Spider being the marginally slower.
When you look at the cockpit from the outside, you wonder if you’re going to get the full roofless experience. This is partly due to the buttresses behind the seats that not only contain part of the hinging mechanism for the roof but also double as static rollover bars. It’s a clever design because it means you don’t have to have pop-up rollover bars and the extra weight that comes with such a system, but it does leave the 458 Spider looking almost like a targa-roofed machine.
Any concern is dispelled when you get behind the wheel, because you do feel exposed enough. With the noise from the V8 engine, the performance and the rush of air, driving it is a more visceral experience than the coupe.