2009 Ferrari revealed a car that would replace its 430 model, It was named the Ferrari 458. It came to re-define supercars and really put the bar for high performance cars for some years to come.
At a first glance the 458 looks really, really nice. Especially in the Dark red color this car had. All the styling is said to have been made in the wind tunnel, it probably has but it is actually really beautiful. Not many cars earns the title of “Beautiful”. For example, the McLaren F1 GTR is not beautiful, it’s brutal and more of a “cool” car. Sure, the 458 has a really sinister attitude from the front, but at a whole, it is a truly beautiful car.
When you enter the driver seat you are greeted with a steering wheel that has more in common with a Formula 1 steering wheel than a normal one. All the buttons, switches and levers like turning signals, windscreen wipers and start button are on the wheel instead of the column. Some complain about that, but I think it works perfectly and brings a high-tech feeling to it. There are no levers or anything in the way when you use the Paddle-gearbox. The steering wheel was made for the “quarter-to-three” style hand position. Any other way just feels wrong. One other thing you notice is that it is really nicely put together. No squirms och squeals at all, and there is a solid and satisfying “click” when you use the knobs and buttons. Not like some American cars I used to own when I lived in the US, where it felt like the interior would fall off if you hit a bump.
Now here is a biggie for new cars; the Computer interface. Same here, some people complain about the complexity of buttons and menus. Well they have never tried to operate a Garmin 1000 unit in Aircraft, That interface is completely unfathomable. I really like it in the 458 though. The buttons are where they are supposed to be and they do what you think they do. Ok, if I have to be honest it took some time to get used to it, but when you do, it works really well. On a side note: it is not as Top Gear says. You can have GPS and speedo at the same time, just so you know.
To start it, you have to have the key in the ignition and press the BRB (big red button). The engine always starts with a satisfying roar. It sounds even more spectacular when the engine is cold and newly started with its bubbling and sputtering. When you drive, you should wait for the temperature to go up in the engine, luckily there is a setting on the interface that shows you when the car is ready for hard driving. Small details that enhances the overall feeling.
If you drive with the manettino-setting in “slow-and-nice-mode” it’s really an exceptional long distance tourer. It’s quiet, smooth, and has a nice ride comfort. The gearbox in this setting is by default a 7-speed seamless automatic gearbox (you can still set it to manual if you want). The only thing missing is a Cruise control, the throttle foot actually gets tired when you try to keep legal speed, you can only touch the pedal gently, and otherwise the speed quickly gets out of hand. You can use this car every day without a doubt.
Enough smooth-driving talk, time to talk about how it is to drive quickly. The first thing you notice with the 458 when you open up the taps a bit is its super-fast steering. Trust me, it’s not possible to describe it to someone that has not driven it. You don’t really steer it with your muscles, more like using the force or thinking it. Or a simpler way to put it; the car is driving on a scalextric track. The car goes exactly where you want it to go, with breathtaking ferocity. And if (when) you push a little bit too hard there is some safe under-steer, but that can be cured by a tap on the throttle and my god does the car respond to the throttle! It’s the same response there as the steering, as soon you give an input it answers INSTANTLY.
The lightning-fast response in the throttle mostly comes from the cars heart, the 4,5 liter naturally aspirated 562 horsepower V8 engine. It’s something special with an instantaneous power delivery, you feel more connected to the car than if it would have turbo-lag, and it does of course result in a smoother drive.
And then we have the brakes. Four absolutely huge carbon-ceramic discs sits in each wheel and are capable of decelerating the car quicker than I thought was possible. It’s hard to get a feel for them when they are cold, but as the temperature builds, your confidence grows.
On the steering wheel there is also a “mood-button”. Here you can set up the feriocity of the cars handling and drivetrain. As you set it to a more violent setting, the car really transforms. The ride comfort disappears, the sound transforms from a nice humm to a brutal rumble you can feel in your chest and the throttle response increases even more. How it could possibly do that is for me a mystery. The gearbox is now a manual sequential gearbox that changes instantly; there is no power loss to the back wheels. Another nice feature is that the top part of the steering wheel is a LED rev indicator, just like an Formula 1 car. It really does help when you drive fast and don’t have time to look down on the rev-counter.
One thing I don’t like in other double-clutch gearboxes is the seamless gearshifts. When you drive hard, you want a little jolt when you change gear. Thankfully, Ferrari implemented it in this one on the track-mode settings. It works astonishingly. At first, you just marvel in horror/excitement when you try to get your mind around how much the car has changed from “easy-long-drive-mode” to the “superfast-race-mode” it really is two cars in one. It’s an extraordinary machine to drive!
When you drive this car on the track, you feel safe with the car almost instantly and can achieve really good lap times within a couple of laps. I don’t know how it does it, usually i take some time to learn the car and its habits. Of course, I did not drive it at the cars limit, since it was not my car. But 8:10-8:20 laps on the Nürburgring were achieved after just 3-4 laps with it.
A lap on the 'Ring
If you want to find something bad with it, you really need to dig deep. Maybe that is the bad thing, it’s almost too perfect. I can’t really find anything, one thing is that you can’t get 4p or 6p harness when you get the car; you need to fit them afterwards. Driving the ‘ring in a car like the 458 with normal seatbelts, that is not not a very pleasant experience. And the brake pads wear out fast if you drive quickly with the traction control active.
In the end, it all comes together in a beutiful package of reliability, driveability, looks and feel.
The 458 will probably go to history as one of the best cars ever made.
All I need now is of course to try it’s successor, the Ferrari 488.