2012 FERRARI 458 ITALIA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: V8, mid-engined, two-door coupe
Price: $526,950 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 13.3L/100km | tested: 18.9L/100km
Setting a benchmark. Raising the bar. Head of the class... top of its game. It doesn’t matter how it’s expressed, you can attach the name Ferrari 458 Italia to it.
For premium sports cars, this car is surely the yardstick by which others are judged. It’s a masterful expression of the classic formula: low-slung, two doors, mid-engined layout, rear-wheel-drive.
Under the clear engine-cover lies a naturally-aspirated V8 which revs to a stratospheric 9000rpm. It produces a remarkable 419kW from just 4.5-litres of displacement. Considering AMG needs 6.2 litres to do the same thing, this is nothing short of remarkable.
But if you’re laying down more than five hundred large, it’d want to be good. So, putting on our best objective faces, we took a pragmatic look at this paragon of performance.
Quality: This is class. Open the door to the 458 and you’re greeted by an exquisite layout of sumptuous leather and perfectly sculpted carbon-fibre (and smarter in fact than the McLaren 12C).
Like the FF, the major controls are all found on the wheel, meaning that indicating into and out of roundabouts is, well, interesting. It’s a nitpick, but we don’t like it much.
Comfort: The 458’s low centre console and narrow sills means it feels quite spacious inside and unlike the narrow, offset footwell of the McLaren, you can happily rest your legs apart if need be.
The driving position is spot on and the beautifully trimmed sports seats are comfortable enough to sustain quite long journeys (we travelled around 300km in one sitting) without the need to shift around or fidget.
The Ferrari’s climate control also never puts a foot wrong, even in searing conditions. For a car that can reel off 11.3-second quarter miles, its premium comfort level is an unexpected bonus.
Equipment: The 458 Italia comes with a Manettino; a switch which allows for varying stability and traction control settings.
‘Wet’ is no fun, ‘Sport’ is a bit more fun, ‘Race’ is an adrenalin injection, and then there’s the ‘Where are the men in white coats?’ setting, where all driver aids are switched off.
More prosaic features include electric windows, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, and a trip (race) computer. The sat-nav system is a bit old-hat and can be frustrating, and some of the menus take a bit of familiarisation.
Storage: Don’t go looking for cupholders everywhere – this is a car with a purpose. You’ll be able to fit a can just ahead of the ‘F1 Panel’ and at the back of the centre console is a small tray for a wallet or business cards.
The glovebox is ok, there are leather pockets in the doors, room for a Louis Vuitton bag behind the seats, and 230 litres of under-bonnet space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It doesn’t have the howl of the Gallardo’s V10, but when you’re heading into a tunnel with the windows down, it’s worth sacrificing your ear-drums on the altar of aural pleasure.
With its 1485kg kerb weight being motivated by 419kW and 540Nm, it’ll go from 0-100kmh in 3.4 seconds and consistently rattle off 11.3 second quarter miles.
You may think that with 42/58 front/rear weight distribution that there would be a tendency toward understeer, especially at lower speeds, but in practice, this isn’t the case.
You can be as ham-fisted as you like with the super-quick rack, and the 458 simply darts when and where you want it.
Light, but with superb feel, the steering has just two turns lock-to-lock. At speed, its dead-centre response is so immediate, you learn to think your actions first.
Combine that razor-sharp handling with the fantastically responsive V8 (which propels the 458 to 100km/h in under 3.4 seconds) and this is a devastatingly quick machine.
The F1 transmission is also lightning quick; the response from the paddles is instantaneous (only Porsche’s PDK comes close).
Refinement: At around-the-town speeds, the 458’s gearbox is so smooth, so docile it’s hard to believe the potential it has in reserve. There’s the usual dual-clutch take-up when pulling away, but it never shudders or bunny-hops.
When in Sport the exhaust note is fairly muted, only opening up at the upper reaches of the tacho. With Race selected, the exhaust flaps open from idle and the raspy, bellowing V8 makes its presence felt.
Suspension: The 458 Italia’s suspension employs a double-wishbone assembly and an L-shaped lower arm up front, while the rear uses a multi-link installation.
It’s laden with electronics: the E-Diff works with the rear suspension to reduce the need for a rear anti-roll bar (apportioning torque where needed and counteracting the unloading of wheels).
It means that responsiveness from the suspension is not only quick, but extremely accurate.
The ride is firm (but not brittle) - although the 12C is better - but for rougher roads a button on the steering wheel softens things so you don’t need a kidney transplant afterwards.
Braking: The CC brakes on the 458 are brilliant, and even more so with a bit of heat in them.
Stopping power is prodigious, with massive 398mm front rotors and 360mm rear rotors. It’ll stop dead from 100km/h in under 33 metres. Impressive.
ANCAP rating: Not tested (no EuroNCAP score).
Safety features: Ferrari’s Manettino controls the level of electronic intervention, from aggressive clamping down in wet mode, to a more relaxed setting in race. There is also an ‘off’ setting for the brave, or the cashed-up.
Add heaps of airbags, a host of electronic aids, an extremely well-calibrated ABS and a crash safety-cell.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: All servicing is included for the first seven years of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
McLaren MP4-12C ($490,000) – The 458’s fiercest competitor can beat the 458’s lap and sprint times, with a race heritage of equal provenance For some that will be enough, but the 458’s more involving response edges out the 12C for driveability. (see 12C reviews)
Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 ($455,000) – The Gallardo easily has the best-sounding engine in this category (and lots of others) but will be left in the dust of the 458 in any real contest.
That said, the rorty Lambo has no trouble making an entrance. (see Gallardo reviews)
Aston Martin V12 Vantage ($386,892) – A brilliant, involving drive with a heavenly engine note, the V12 Vantage only comes in manual, adding to its appeal. But, like the Lambo, left behind on the track (see Vantage reviews).
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Few cars get TMR’s five-star rating. We bestow it on the 458 Italia purely on its merits.
This car is so accomplished, so exceptional, that if it came from any other manufacturer, it would have the motoring world reeling.
Only the McLaren 12C can take the fight to its Italian rival, but there’s something truly special about the 458 Italia.
It’s not only the purest expression of the ‘essence’ of a sports car, but its exceptional dynamic abilities are matched by simply beautiful form.
Is the Ferrari 458 Italia the best car in the world? As of right now, we think so.