Ferrari has a long history of success in Formula One. Right now Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is sitting at the top of the F1 standings, neck a neck with Sebastian Vettel. All that technology, all that research, it seems only right that it ends up somewhere other than in Alonso's hands. Thankfully it has. Enter the 458 Italia.
The spiritual successor to the legendary F430, it's pretty much as high-tech as it gets right now for Ferrari. The car is practically a microprocessor on wheels with better aerodynamics than the front end of a bald eagle.
Up close it looks absolutely stunning, with Pininfarina's bodywork resulting in one of the most beautiful yet modern Ferraris to date. The pair of air intakes separated by the silver horse are perfectly understated against the big front wheel arches and high-tech headlights. Aerodynamics is the keyword here and like any Formula One car, the 458 generates vast amounts of downforce - 140kg at 200km/h. It also weighs virtually nothing, helped by an extremely lightweight aluminium body the 458 tips the scales at 3,042lbs.
Inside you get a fairly simple interior - probably because of the weight saving - albeit one that is finished with typical Ferrari love. The big red stiching on the leather of the dashboard is particularly attractive, as is the selection of buttons to the left of the driver. Most of the controls are bundled around the steering wheel which can make things fairly boring in terms of button-pressing action for the passenger.
Those behind the wheel get all sorts to play with. Dual LCD screens with data such as which driving mode you're using and speed and radio stations sit either sit of the centre mounted rev counter. On the wheel there is a set of LED lights to keep you posted on the right revs in which to change gear at a glance. There is also a quick mode select button, engine start and indicators.
The shifters are set just behind the wheel. Schumacher had a lot to do with the 458 project and you can see a lot of his Formula One influence on the instrumentation and wheel: one of the most gadget packed we have seen.
Now to the exciting bit, whacked behind your head is a 5-litre, mid-mounte, direct-injection V8. This will catapult the 458 all the way up to 202mph and help it manage 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. Amazingly, the engine also manages a huge 9000rpm redline, which is absurd even for a supercar. Unfortunately we didn't get to take the 458 out for a spin but we did fire up the engine. It sounds as you would expect: 562 Italian horses stampeding out the back end.
Handling-wise you get plenty of electronics to help you keep the 458 on the road. This means twin wishbone suspension at the front and multi-link at the back. A very direct steering ratio and the inclusion of E-Diff and F1-Trac also tightens up the whole experience, bringing greater acceleration out of corners. A new ECU for the 458 means crazy-quick launch control and extremely responsive ABS, bringing braking distance to 32.5 metres at 100km/h.
All in all quite a package from Ferrari. A more than worthy replacement to the F430 and now, as announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, available in Spider form.
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