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2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Ferrari's latest mid-engine Berlinetta ushers in a new era of sports cars

Rob Hallstrom
Jun 29, 2010
Photographer: Roberto Carrer
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It's comfortably warm in Maranello. The sun is shining, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel of one of the most highly anticipated Ferraris in years, the all-new 458 Italia. Just need to get through a technical briefing of the car, and the keys are mine. Oh, and the small matter of waiting on the registration for a replacement car following a misadventure a few days prior involving a foreign journalist and a 458 off-road excursion into a vineyard, but I digress. I'm thinking this is Ferrari and we're in Maranello. Who's going to stop me for lack of plates and registration? Thankfully, another car had been prepped and the paperwork arrived a couple hours later.

Epcp_1008_01_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+front Photo 2/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Giddy with anticipation, I can't help but smile as I approach the car. It's drop-dead gorgeous. A Pininfarina supermodel.

It's not every day one is tossed the key to such a magnificent vehicle, and with time ticking, I'm finally off to get better acquainted with Ferrari's latest berlinetta in the hills North of Modena.

Pulling away from the historic main gate, I notice a few people waiting to catch a glimpse of anything that rolls out. They're in luck. Their cameras poised, I goose the throttle. Their jubilant expressions are as evident as mine.

The 458 is a quantum leap forward for Ferrari, with a slew of track-derived technological innovations. This is a completely new car from every respect; engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension, electronic controls, aerodynamics, instrumentation, ergonomics-it's all new. The vast improvements over the outgoing F430 is like comparing the F355 to the 360. In other words, there's really no comparison. Sure, it's still a mid-rear engine V8 berlinetta, but that's about where the similarities end.

Epcp_1008_02_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+side Photo 3/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Deep swooping lines stretched over the slightly longer all-aluminum body make for one of the most beautiful Ferraris ever. Bold angular lines, especially at the front and rear, wonderfully bisect each corresponding curve. The contemporary styling is further carried out with the use of elongated headlamps, which feature rotating bi-xenon beams, as well as a vertical stack of 20 high-intensity LED running lights.

While the new open mouth grille meshes well with the overall aesthetic, I suspect some owners who have grown fond of the former nose may consider painting the center section to match the exterior. Most however, including those who see the new face as a welcome nod to the classics, will agree it couldn't look any better. The rear is all business with in-your-face center-mounted triple exhausts, flanked by the massive rear diffusers. Single circular taillights prominently extend to the upper corners.

Thanks to innovations from Ferrari's F1 experience, and extensive wind tunnel testing, the 458 produces better cooling, less drag, and increased downforce. The former large side intakes behind the doors have disappeared within the C post, leaving a smooth open span that draws your eye up and over the rear shoulders. It also creates a clear aerodynamic path by which airflow is directed within the bodywork. New inlets at the headlights direct airflow through the front wheel arches, and small winglets in the front intakes help to reduce drag and generate downforce, as well as increase cooling for the repositioned radiators. The flexible winglets actually deflect downward as much as 20mm at speeds starting at 125mph, further optimizing directional airflow, and reduce lift over the front fenders by a full 40 percent. A new flat underbody with engine cooling ducts, and rear diffuser also show a marked increase in overall aerodynamic efficiency. Even the transmission radiators, now located in the tail, act as spoilers, creating an FXX-derived base bleed effect. The resulting aero-sharp styling and optimized aerodynamics provide a slippery 0.330 drag coefficient (down from 0.343), and up to 795 lbs of increased downforce at 200mph.

Epcp_1008_03_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+rear Photo 4/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Running trough town, I familiarize myself with the dizzying number of new steering-mounted controls. The removal of the steering column-mounted stalks and the clustering of the main controls on the steering wheel, now also including the lights, wipers, and all, means that you can make any adjustments or gearshifts required with your hands firmly on the wheel. It all feels very intuitive, although signaling with your thumbs does take a little getting used to.

Epcp_1008_05_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+on_mountain_road Photo 5/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

The minimalist dash features a pair of monitors at either side of the center-mounted tach, which provide instrument display, infotainment, and vehicle dynamics, including the engine, brake, and tire temps. Pretty much everything but a backup camera.

Thanks to a slight increase in cabin space, it's nice and comfy, even for my 6-foot 4-inch frame. There's even a little more room for light storage behind the seats. The well bolstered, supple Italian leather-covered buckets are nice, but the optional carbon fiber race seats are the way to go. The familiar circular air vents have been replaced with rectangular units designed to resemble F1 exhaust chimneys.

Overall, the driver-to-car interface is about as good as it gets, and I'm starting to itch for some open roads. The VDA tells me the engine is ready, but my tires are still cold. That'll soon change.

The all-new 4.5-liter is a remarkable, technological work of art all its own, willing and able to rev at an unheard-of 9000rpm (highest ever for a V8 production road car). The naturally aspirated engine produces an impressive 562 horses (an 80hp bump) and 398 pound-feet of torque, which places it on par with the 10-cylinder output of Lambo's new LP570-4 Superleggera. Nothing like a little good competition. The forthcoming 458 Scuderia will have something to say about that.

Epcp_1008_13_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+brakes Photo 6/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

The engine retains the 430's fundamental characteristics, including the flat-plane crankshaft, and its signature continuously variable timing, but also adds direct fuel injection, lofty 12.5:1 compression, dry-sump scavenger lubrication, and super finishing surface treatments for friction parts like the piston skirts, cams, and tappets. Despite the increase in engine capacity and power, reduced internal friction has increased fuel efficiency, dropping fuel consumption by 13 percent. It also offers record low C02 emissions with 13.3 l/100 km and 307 g/km, respectively.

Roughly 30 minutes of city driving passes before I decide to abandon the map book for a serpentine road that has my name on it. The route called for lots of challenging roads and open stretches, but I just can't wait. I can usually sniff out a good road and this one is tailor-made. I switch the manettino from Sport to Race, lean on the throttle, and simultaneously sink deep into the seat. When idling and light on the throttle, the exhaust note is actually fairly quiet using only the middle of the three exhaust pipes, ideal when not wanting to attract attention and for normal in-town driving. Hold the pedal, and the outer pair comes alive, emitting an awe-inspiring, harmonious, iconic roar that only a Ferrari can claim.

Paired with the new seven-speed dual-clutch F1 gearbox, acceleration is like no other naturally aspirated engine and power continues to build nearly all the way around the 10,000rpm dial. Over 80 percent of the power output is readily available at just 3250 rpm, as well as handfuls of record torque. G-force-induced stops are made with Brembo-sourced brakes with massive carbon-ceramic rotors, now standard on all Ferraris.

Epcp_1008_12_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+steering_wheel Photo 7/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Laughably fast, zero to 62 arrives in a blistering 3.4 seconds, and a mere 10.4 seconds is all that's needed to hit 124mph. Top speed breaks the 200mph barrier with change to spare. Ferrari says the 458 ties the Scuderia's Fiorano lap time of 1:25, which means it also matches the legendary Enzo.

With performance numbers like this, there's really no need to offer a manual trans, and thus, the 458 is the first Ferrari that will not receive a manual gearbox, and I doubt anyone will miss it.

The Getrag-built, dual-clutch automated manual is the same found in the California, albeit with closer ratios to suit the high-revving V8. Gear changes are crisp and silky smooth with virtually no delay. And should the need arise for a quick three-point turn, not to fear. Unlike the single clutch box, back and forth gear swaps are made without hesitation. Thanks to the elimination of the column stalks, the paddles are now even taller, making them always within even easier reach than before.

Epcp_1008_15_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+interior Photo 8/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

The revised mannettino is biased toward more sporting setups, giving the driver a wider selection of electronic control parameters, including a CT Off setting which de-activates the traction control while maintaining stability. Perfect when in the mood for controlled unleashing of the rear end. There's also Low Grip for snow and wet conditions, and CST Off, which removes the electronic systems altogether with exception of the E-Diff3 and ABS. Another steering-wheel-mounted button softens the shocks even if you're still in the hard-core race or CT Off mode, which came in quite handy on some of the bumpier roads.

Despite its longer-by-two-inches wheelbase, the 458 is exceedingly more agile in the twisties. Steering is unbelievably quick, and laser beam precise. The new rack is wonderfully matched with the lighter, more rigid (by 15 percent) chassis, providing all the right amounts of feedback. It also takes just two turns from lock-to-lock, which means that combined with the taller paddles you really don't need to cross your hands, even in the tightest of turns. Whether on a wide open stretch or climbing a hill stacked with switchbacks, the 458 makes you feel like a stud, extending the abilities of driving prowess. It allows you to drive faster and more confidently than ever before, all while maintaining complete control.

Epcp_1008_14_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+controls Photo 9/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

The new double wishbone front and multi-link rear does a phenomenal job absorbing the bumps, and the ride is exceptionally comfortable. Thanks to the E-Diff 3, optimized stability, and sticky Ferrari-spec Michelins, I'm equally amazed with the huge amounts of traction coming out of the corners. In fact, exit acceleration has improved by whopping 32 percent.

Overall, the 458 is a blessed step up, and it's hard to imagine a driving experience more thoroughly rewarding than this. Hands down, the best Ferrari I've ever driven.

A synthesis of technological innovation, creative flair, style, and passion, the 458 Italia has not only raised the benchmark, it has rewritten the rules, creating a new era of modern sports cars.

I can't think of a more fitting way to pay homage.

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive

Epcp_1008_04_o+2010_ferrari_458_italia+front_passenger_side Photo 10/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

Engine
4.5-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve

Transmission
Seven-speed F1 dual-clutch automated manual

Suspension
Double wishbone front, multi-link rear

Brakes
Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, ABS

Dimensions
Length/Width/Height(in.): 178.2/76.3/47.8
Curb Weight: 3,042 lb

MSRP $225.000(est.)

Performance
Peak Power: 562 hp @ 9000 rpm
Peak Torque: 398 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.4 sec.
Top Speed: 202 mph

Evolution of the Pininfarina Berlinetta

308 GTB
Years produced: 1975-1985, 13,136 total units
Engine: Mid-mounted 3.0-liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Performance: 255bhp, 0-60, 6.5-sec. 154mph max speed
Original MSRP: $50,625

Epcp_1008_06_o+ferrari_308+gtb Photo 11/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

328 GTS
Years produced: 1985-1989, 6,088, total units (8,548 total units incl. GTS & Turbo)
Engine: Mid-mounted 3.1-liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Performance: 270bhp, 0-60, 5.5-sec. 153mph max speed
Original MSRP: $77,350

Epcp_1008_07_o+ferrari_328+gts Photo 12/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

F348
Years Produced: 1989-1995, 8,844 total units
Engine: Mid-mounted 3.4-liter V8,
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Performance: 300bhp, 0-60, 5.6-sec., 171mph max speed
Original MSRP: $113,800

Epcp_1008_08_o+ferrari+f348 Photo 13/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

F355
Years Produced: 1994-1999, 11,273 total units
Engine: Mid-mounted 3.5-liter V8, 380bhp
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed F1 single clutch electro-hydraulic manual
Performance: 375bhp, 0-60mph, 4.6-sec, 186 mph max speed
Original MSRP: $126,300

Epcp_1008_09_o+ferrari+f355 Photo 14/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

F360 Modena
Years produced: 1999-2005, 8,800 total units
Engine: Mid-rear mounted 3.6-Liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed F1 single clutch electro-hydraulic manual
Performance: 405bhp, 0-60, 4.5-sec, 183 mph
Base price: $136,000

Epcp_1008_10_o+ferrari_f360+modena Photo 15/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive

F430
Years produced: 2004-2009,
Engine: Mid-rear mounted 4.3-liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed F1 single clutch electro-hydraulic manual
Performance: 483bhp, 0-60, 3.8-sec, 196 mph max speed
Original MSRP: $186,900

Epcp_1008_11_o+ferrari+f430 Photo 16/16   |   2010 Ferrari 458 Italia - First Drive
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By Rob Hallstrom
7 Articles

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