When Ferrari closed the F430 chapter and launched the 458 Italia in 2009, the carmaker admitted that some of its models are more special than others. The Prancing Horse then quickly turned our attention to the fact that the 458 is one of these prodigious creatures. This car is indeed very important in Maranello’s history, as it marks the start a new chapter for the company’s V8 supercars.
The story had all started one year before the release of the 458, when the California, the automaker’s new entry-level model, was released. Ferrari denies a rumor which states that the California was supposed to be a Maserati and ended up with a Prancing Horse badge in order to justify its high price.
We don’t know if this is actually true, but we’re extremely thankful for the California’s appearance. That’s because the introduction of a more mainstream model allowed the 458 to move one step past the natural evolution brought by the generation change, marking the debut of the aforementioned new Ferrari V8 era.
Ferrari reinforced the 458 with a Spider model in 2011 and the company knew that this had to be just as innovative as the Coupe. To achieve this, they came up with the world’s first mid-engined convertible that uses a folding metal roof.
On paper, this means that the 458 Italia Spider has all the right qualities, and a fair dose of extra assets, to deliver an overwhelming experience. We recently set out to see how the pages and pages of innovation that were written into this car can be read on the tarmac.
Before we start our drive, let's pay a virtual visit to the Ferrari archive, so we can trace the roots of the 458. In order to do so, we’ll have to get back to the late 1960s: the era saw the carmaker so determined to exploit the potential of models with less than 12 cylinders, that the company decided to introduced a sub-brand called “Dino”, which would be dedicated to these vehicles. The concept of selling cars without the Prancing Horse badge was dropped by the mid 70s’, but the smaller Ferraris had already become a hit, also marking the debut of volume production in Maranello, so the idea lived on.
The last model to be sold under this sub-brand name, which came from Enzo’s late son, Alfredo Dino Ferrari, was the Dino 308 GT4. This arrived on the market in 1973 and from 1976 onwards it was offered as a Ferrari, not a Dino. It was also the automaker’s first production V8 vehicle, so it's safe to say that it sits at the top of the 458 Italia’s family tree.
If we shift the focus to 458 predecessors that are a bit more likely to be seen on the street today, we’ll move on to 1994, when the Ferrari F355 was launched. This was a brilliant car for its time, but the true junior Ferrari that introduced a new approach for the Prancing Horse was the one that replaced it, the 1999 360 Modena. This was the first Ferrari to use an aluminum spaceframe chassis and it had also seriously upped the ante on the electronics integration and reliability fronts. The 2004 F430 that followed used a linear evolution for the upgrades it brought and it managed to become a benchmark for the supercar genre.
In the end, the Dino may have marked the debut of a new, more affordable and usable breed of Prancing Horses, but it is the 458 Italia that takes this bloodline to a whole new level from the technical point of view.Continue reading