Ferrari's 458 Italia
is almost half a decade old now. They say you should never spend more than five years in the same position, so Ferrari followed suit, upgrading their V8 game to the 458 Speciale. Make no mistake though, this is not a beefed-up incarnation of the 458 we knew. Instead, we are dealing with a more hardcore, racing-inspired 458. One that is still street-legal, of course.
If we are to look into the Ferrari 458 Speciale's past, we find the Scuderia version of the 430 and the Challenge Stradale guise for the 360. We still regard the latter as the best-sounding modern V8 Ferrari, so we may be on to something with this Speciale here. For one thing, Ferrari didn't come up with a designation that invites you to street race the car anymore. As you have noticed, they simply called it "special". This time, the plan is a bit different.
The 458 Speciale offers more performance than any other road-going Ferrari V8 before it. The figures show it and this is immediately confirmed when you set the thing in motion.
Nevertheless, the Prancing Horse aims to make this a drivable beast, something that can also be enjoyed by those less trained in the art of motorsport. People who simply want to live a thoroughbred experience, but without having to take driving courses or head out to the track every weekend for this.
Even so, a set of aerodynamic tweaks were mandatory and we must also talk stripes.
Consider the Speciale a 458 that got itself some tattoos and piercings.
Leading the aerodynamic updates are a set of passive vanes at the nose of the car. While the 458 Italia came with aeroelastic elements in the front apron, the Speciale replaces these with more effective vanes.
The principle behind the two is the same though. As you hit a certain speed, the airflow causes the elements to move about, which reduces the airflow surface and therefore cuts drag. Don't worry though, the increased air speed means there's enough to feed the radiators anyway.
Moreover, the front apron features turning vanes, while the side skirt received aeronautical-looking fins. All hail the Downforce God!
Speaking of radiators, the engineers were supposed to enlarge the units, since the Speciale's engine is pushed beyond the limit of the standard 458. Well, they said "no", as this would've added weight. Instead, they forwarded the task to their colleagues in the design department. As a result, the bonnet now holds a set of massive vents. Welcome race car look!
At the rear, the spoiler goes for the classic "larger and more angled" profile, but the true changes lie in the diffuser underneath. This includes three active flaps that change their position to reduce the drag caused by the enlarged diffuser. Nonetheless, once you steer the car and need downforce, the flaps the flaps come into play and help generate it.
The new diffuser also meant the exhaust had to be rerouted. Gone is the triple-tip setup of the 458, being replaced by a more conventional layout.
There's just one thing though. Both the front and the rear flaps change their state when the car hits 140 mph (225 km/h), not the kind of speeds you reach every day. Moreover, these bring a limited change in downforce.
Do not expect to feel the downforce-related difference compared to the 458 Italia. At least we didn't.
What we did experience though was the extra directness of the thing. The 458 was never lacking this, but now its response is even more fantastic. As far as this part of the review is concerned, a part of the credit goes to the roughly 200 lbs (90 kg) diet the car has gone through.
It all starts with the lighter 20-inch forged wheels and from this point on, we're pretty much talking of a racing-derived stripping program. The most radical measure was to use thinner glass, while the rear window is made of a fancy plastic called Lexan
The rest of the "less is more" stuff goes on inside the cabin. As we open the door, the more focused atmosphere becomes obvious. The seats are Sabelt
bucket units, featuring a backrest-adjustable carbon fiber structure. The side bolsters are covered in Alcantara, while the center surfaces use a fabric that lets your skin breathe. Well, this may sound like a facial cream commercial, but actually using the seats is nothing like taking care of your body.
There's plenty of support to hold you in the 458's perfect driving position and the comfort is exceptional... for a race car. For something that will be mostly driven on the street though, the seats are a pain. Sabelt was a Ferrari supplier long before it made the seats for the SRT Viper
, but it seems that each of our recent encounters with their label brought physical discomfort.
What's more poised than in the 458 Italia, without causing discomfort though, is the floor. There are no mats and seeing the metallic structure of the Speciale is a delight.
Just like in the defunct Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale
, there's more of the Alcantara stuff around the cabin. Nevertheless, the 458 Speciale gives up on its glove box to save weight, with its place being taken by some padding for the passenger. Guess you won't be needing any stowage at the track, just leave everything at the entrance, will you?
Switching to the area of welcome changes once more, we'll name the carbon fiber gearbox control console.
Yes, the carbon center console. Superb form, superb function.
Oh and let's not forget about the storage shelf behind us. The luggage compartment
in our tester is occupied by the spare wheel, a normal treat for mid-endgined supercars, so the shelf has become our friend in need.
No shopping in this Ferrari then. A reasonable argument for your significant other, we have to admit. We've passed a mall just earlier - yes, for the fun of it, we started our drive in the middle of the city. Here on the boulevards, Ferrari's 458 Speciale is a bit of a paradox.
On one hand, this supercar does not come with any extreme elements that would make it ridiculous around town. There's no oversized rear wing to murder pedestrians with, while the nose lift system is still on the list of options. Too bad Ferrari's system only goes up to about 25 mph (40 km/h), so you have to press the button each time you come across a speed bump.
In addition, Ferrari has gotten really good with the drivability - despite all the tech areas of the car being sharpened up, this remains surprisingly easy to handle at slow speeds. If the 458 Italia feels like a pumped-up Fiat 500 when you're light on the throttle through the city, this is more like a grown-up Abarth
The major difference to the standard car comes from the anorexic windows, which allow quite a lot of the city's vibe to enter the cabin.
For a racing-inspired mutation, the 458 Speciale is incredibly light on its driver around town. Still, the sheer idea of mixing such a car with urban driving is a tad on the strange side.