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.