With head-turning styling, neck-snapping acceleration and that indescribable but incredibly potent Ferrari allure, the 458 Italia supercar (along with its open-air 458 Spider counterpart) is one of the most desirable rides on the market. It is the latest in a long line of mid-engined, high-performance machines from Italian automaker that started with the legendary Dino.
Displayed underneath a glass window like the piece of art that it is, the 458 Italia's heart is a direct-injected 4.5-liter V8 cranks out 562 horsepower at 9,000 rpm (125 horsepower per liter, a record for naturally-aspirated piston engines). Torque is rated at 398 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm, 80 percent of which is available from 3,250 rpm.
All of that power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual gearbox that manages to be both smooth and incredibly quick - shifts are achieved in four-tenths of a second.
Performance is impressive, with the zero-to-60 mph sprint dispatched in just 3.3 seconds on the way to a 201-mph top speed. Even more note-worthy is the Ferrari's handling - the car feels like it's hard-wired to the driver's synapses, responding to control inputs with lightning alacrity yet remaining extremely forgiving (assuming the stability control isn't shut off) for less advanced pilots.
Helping to make the 458 Italia's sublime driving dynamics possible is a rigid, lightweight aluminum chassis that features advanced alloys and aerospace industry manufacturing and bonding techniques. The suspension is composed of a twin wishbone/multi-link setup, and an electronic rear differential helps apportion power so as to make the best of use of available traction. Standard carbon fiber brakes are extremely fade-resistant and effective at bringing the 458 Italia down from extra-legal speeds.
Inside, the cabin is a postmodern collection of abstract shapes and flowing lines. The look isn't for everyone, but materials and craftsmanship are first-rate. In order to free up real estate for the large paddle shifters, Ferrari has done away with steering wheel-mounted stalks and relocated a host of secondary controls to the steering wheel. This quirky setup is a bit of an acquired taste. Other ergonomic elements of the 458 are also a bit off-beat, such as a instrument cluster that displays the navigation system or the speedometer - but not both at the same time.
Thankfully, important details like the driving position and pedal placement are superb, and the manettino - a steering wheel-mounted dial that controls traction, stability control and differential settings - is simple and prominently placed.
Should buyers want to personalize their 458, Ferrari offers an extremely wide range of options ranging from different leather upholsteries to carbon fiber trim to faux-suede touches.
To riff off a line from Ferris Bueller - if you have the means, we highly recommend picking a 458 Italia up.
Ferrari offers a more powerful version of the 458 called 458 Speciale. Offered as an exclusive limited-edition model, it packs an upgraded version of the 458's V8 that has been massaged to churn out 605 horsepower and 398 lb-ft. of torque. With it, the coupe sprints from zero to 62 mph in three seconds flat.
The 458 Speciale holds the honor of being the most aerodynamic regular-production Ferrari has ever produced, an achievement partially accomplished by fitting the car with adjustable spoilers on both ends.
On-track handling is enhanced by Ferrari's Side Slip angle Control (SSC) system. SSC uses a new algorithm to precisely analyze the car's side slip, compare it to the car's projected trajectory and work with the electronic differential and the F1-derived traction control system to instantly change the torque distribution between the rear wheels. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tires designed specifically for the Speciale help keep the extra power in check.
Thanks to a host of weight-saving modifications, the Speciale weighs nearly 200 pounds less than a 458 Italia.
Though some will only be satisfied with a sports car wearing the legendary prancing horse badge, it nonetheless bears noting that the 458 Italia can be cross-shopped against the Porsche 911 Carrera GT2 RS, McLaren MP4-12C and the upcoming Lamborghini Huracan.