The all-new Ferrari 458 Italia has arrived in Australia, making its official right-hand-drive debut in Brisbane this week - less than a year after its international debut at last September's Frankfurt Motor Show.
Succeeding the F430 in the global Ferrari line-up, the 458 Italia will start at $526,950 (about $60,000 more than the 430. Its unveiling this week has seen another 20 orders added to the growing list of prospective buyers. After delivery and on-road costs, each 458 buyer will hand over around $590,000.
“Australian deliveries have started a little earlier than planned because the interest in this remarkable car has been so great that the car has been air freighted to Australia,” Kevin Wall, General Manager for Ferrari in Australia and New Zealand said.
“Even before it was announced we have had Australian clients expressing interest in the 458 Italia and, once its specification was announced, revealing it to be, even by Ferrari standards, a technical tour de force, interest has climbed dramatically and shows no sign of slowing.”
Ferrari expects to deliver around 60 F458 supercars in Australia this year (from 120 orders nationally so far), with six of them already secured for Queensland - a market that makes up 20 percent of the company's Australian sales. New South Wales and Victoria account for about 35 percent between them.
Unlike the 430 that preceded it, The 458 Italia is a completely new car, inside and out. While this is clearly evident in the car's external design, it is no less obvious in the new supercar's interior.
All steering-column mounted controls - including indicators and window wiper stalks - have been relocated to the steering wheel boss.
Behind the wheel sit controls for a number of secondary functions, including audio controls for the stereo.
The steering-mounted gear shift paddles have also been lengthened to improve reach from any steering angle.
The dash is a technical tour de force, with the right-hand side featuring controls for the infotainment and sat-nav display screen, and the left-hand side offering options for the instrument cluster screen and the on-board computer interface.
The Vehicle Dynamic Assistance system can also now be controlled by the driver, providing access to the computer-controlled parts of the engine, transmission, tyres and braking systems.
The engine of the 458 Italia, a 4.5 litre V8, features a racecar-like compression ratio of 12.5:1 and cranks out a huge 425kW at a stratospheric 9000rpm. Torque is similarly eye-widening, with 540Nm being generated at 6000rpm and 80 percent of that figure being available from 3250rpm.
The V8's substantial grunt is channeled into a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle, which is the sole gearbox option and replaces the conventional six-speed manual and six-speed robotised manual transmissions of the F430.
The result of the bigger V8's extra power and the new gearbox's lightning-quick shifts is a 0-100km/h time of just 3.4 seconds. The Italia's top speed is claimed to be in excess of 325km/h, 6km/h more than the hard-core 430 Scuderia.
Straight line performance will only be half of the Italia's appeal however, with Ferrari claiming that the new car's handling has been improved markedly over that of the outgoing F430.
The chassis, like the F430's, is constructed from lightweight aluminium and weighs 1380kg dry. Weight distribution is a track-friendly 42 percent front/58 percent rear, and the double A-arm front and multi-link rear suspension are tuned for maximum performance.
Technical Director Roberto Fedeli says that the 458 Italia benefits from over 360kg in downforce at the rear end. The steering ratio has also been tightened up to improve response.
The F458 Italia also comes with a brace of performance-enhancing electronic aids. It incorporates the latest version of Ferrari's F1-trac traction control system and E-Diff3 active differential, working in concert with a performance-optimised anti-lock braking system.
Ferrari says the combined effect of the electronics and suspension tuning results in an increase in lateral acceleration out of corners of 32 percent.
Traction is also enhanced by a pair of active winglets in the front airdam, which change position depending on speed to reduce wind resistance at high speed and increase downforce during cornering. Approximately 140kg of downforce is generated by the F458's body at 200km/h.
Not only is it quick, but the F458 is also surprisingly thrifty. Thanks to the direct-injection engine, Ferrari claims that the Italia returns a relatively low 13.7 litres of petrol per 100km on the combined cycle. On the other hand, with CO2 emissions of 320g/km, it's no tree-hugger either.
While the 458 is less than a year old, Ferrari has already confirmed a convertible version, with the 458 Spider expected to arrive in the next couple of years.