The same technological assets that make the 458 Spider a smooth urban machine demonstrate their enormous flexibility by keeping the vehicle sharp when you hit the open road.
Here is where you’ll be able to enjoy every hundred of the 9,000 rpm the 4.5-liter V8 is capable of. This was also true for the F430, for example, but the 458’s engine doesn’t need to be pushed too hard to show its heavenly nature. The powerplant’s natural aspiration and is willingness to rev guarantee a linear power delivery. On the road, this means that climbing close to the red line for more power is a matter of choice, not a necessity. Just as important is the fact that 80 percent of the 540 Nm (398 lb-ft) peak torque delivered by the unit arrive as early as 3,250 rpm.
The engine’s best friend, a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch unit, delivers seamless shifts during normal driving and makes the most out of full-throttle gear changes, without being too harsh on your body. This setup trades the thrills of a single-clutch robotized manual for considerably superior shift efficiency.
There’s also a launch control function that sends your 1,430 kg (3,153 lbs) Spider past the 100 km/h (62 mph) mark in 3.4 seconds. This is virtually the same time as the Coupe’s one, with the fixed roof model being 50 kg (110 lbs lighter).
To use the launch control, you have to stick to the manettino’s Race mode, keep you left foot on the brake, place the gearbox in manual mode and select 1st gear. Then press the dedicated button on the center console until the car produces a beep and put the gas pedal to the metal. Once the revs climb to 3,000 rpm, give the car 2 or 3 seconds and then feed you inner demons by releasing the brake. If you keep on mashing the throttle, you’ll reach 320 km/h (198.7 mph), while if you do this in the Coupe, you'll climb to 325 km/h (202 mph).
The Spider doesn’t just receive damper and throttle pedal mapping setting that are a tad softer, it also has a livelier exhaust note. So if you drive with the top folded, or with it on, but lowering the little window at the back, the high-revving V8 will deliver an electrifying scream. At full blast this is even more memorable than a Lamborghini’s voice, for example. However, lower in the revs, where you usually find yourself while on public roads, Ferrari’s setup is far less convincing.
If you go past the engine and gearbox on the power delivering pathway, you’ll discover Ferrari’s E-Diff 3 electronically controlled wet-clutch limited slip diff, as well as the F1-Trac traction and stability control system.
You can control them using the little red dial on the steering wheel, the manettino. We have to mention that this also plays with the suspension, the exhaust valves, as well as the engine and throttle pedal mapping. You can choose between five different settings and each one of the dramatically alters the car’s behavior. The Sport mode of the manettino is for the daily use, while the Race one allows a bit of lateral fun.
The two aforementioned systems are so good that they’re in a league of their own, even in the world of supercars. To really get to feel this, you have to introduce the car to a corner. In the “Sport” mode, you’ll find out just how non-intrusive the electronics are. Moving to the “Race” mode, this will allow a bit of slip, but the diff and the individual braking will bring the car back faster than you can react. Just as important is the fact that everything works with incredible speed and effectiveness.
The “CT Off” mode allows deep powerslides, with the car having the same instantaneous comeback once this is asked. All you need to do is apply a bit of countersteer and the 458 magically returns to a straight driving state. Basically, this mode doesn’t cut the power, but it does offer individual braking. In the “CST Off” mode you won’t just put the traction, but also the stability control to sleep. Thus, it’s just you, 570 hp and the E-Diff.
Regardless of the manettino mode used, during our test drive, which combined full-throttle moments with more relaxed parts, the 458 Spider returned an efficiency of 14.5 l /100 km (16.2 US mpg).
During all the aforementioned maneuvers, you’ll be using the a steering that requires only 2 turns from lock to lock. Despite this, the vehicle doesn’t feel unstable when you enter a bend, thanks to the fine tuning of the rear suspension. The Spider uses the same springs and anti-roll bars as the Coupe in order to offer the offer an unaltered steering response. In the usual Ferrari manner, the steering is pretty light and offers a good feedback, but not a perfect one.
And when it comes to stopping power, the 458 provides monumental levels of it, thanks to carbon-ceramic brakes that also come with a perfect pedal feel regardless of the driving conditions.
Given the fact that the car is so capable, it’s a pity that none of the manettino modes provides a perfectly safe experience. It is obvious that the capability is all there, but the Prancing Horse chose not to offer any setup that simply doesn’t have anything to do with oversteer.
Sure, you’re going to be driving hard on many occasions and you’ll enjoy the effervescence of the rear end and the balance of the car. However, there are also situations when you want to move fast without the lateral bits. For example, we were pulling away from a tool booth using the “Wet” manettino mode, the most restrictive one, due to the moist road. The transmission smoothly shifted into the second gear at low revs, at which point we used about one third of the pedal’s travel. The result was a noticeable fuss coming from the rear end, not exactly what you want when you’re in between other cars. Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
Oh what an experience this Ferrari was! I folded the roof and I could drive it straight away though the city, it felt like a little supermini rather than a supercar. Brilliant! When I left the town behind I already had a huge smile on my face. So I buried my new shoes into the gas pedal and it felt like flying, but then came the first bend. The shock, the horror, I screamed at the top of my lungs as the thing started skidding. I was never so scared in my life, what kind of car is this?
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