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Something Speciale

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On: Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:31AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Something Speciale

The newest Prancing Horse in the stable in Maranello is more than even its name hints at. The 458 Speciale is a rare beast indeed, and "special" doesn't quite cut it for us. But then, names like 458 I-Can't-Believe-It's-This-Fast don't really fit on a bumper, or something like, 458 I-Would-Trade-My-First-Born-Child-For-This-Car also doesn't quite flow off the tongue in day-to-day car talk. Taking a model in the twilight of its production cycle and revamping it just enough to warrant a slightly different variation of its namesake is something Ferrari has made a habit out of, starting almost 20 years ago with the Ferrari F355 Challenge, then the F360 Challenge Stradale, and most recently (until now, of course) the F430 Scuderia.

The 458 Speciale is basically a little bit better at everything than the base 458. It accelerates quicker, stops shorter, turns in shorter, and shifts faster. The quicker speed comes from an additional 35 horsepower, bringing the new total to a staggering 597 ponies, thanks to some age-old hot-rodding tricks: 14:1 compression ratio, revised combustion chambers, an increase in valve-lift, shorter intake runners, and reshaped intake valves. Torque remains unchanged at 398 ft-lbs, but thanks to a shorter final-drive ratio and diet program that resulted in a 200 pound weight loss, the 458 Speciale is wicked fast. Although official numbers are not out yet, if the Speciale can crack 0-60 mph in under three seconds, it will be the first production rear-wheel drive car sporting a naturally-aspirated engine to accomplish such a feat.

Better braking on the 458 Speciale is due in part to the aforementioned weight-loss diet, as well as newer revised carbon-ceramic brakes. Suspension tweaks include retuned magnetorheological dampers, stiffer springs, and softer anti-roll bars—all of which help the Speciale handle even better than its... ahem, less special... sibling. Aside from the hardware updates, Ferrari has added some interesting software to its newest Pony. Designated the "side-slip angle control" or SSC, a computer system that moderates the differences between engine speed and differential rpm helps to keep the car in line through the twisties. In essence, it is Ferrari's answer to the torque vectoring systems used by almost any other automaker.

Visually Ferrari differentiates the Speciale from the base mode with a center-stripe paint motif, extra vents on the hood, forged wheels, and a deletion of one exhaust pipe, bringing the count down to a more universal dual setup. The other way to figure out if you just got smoked by a 458 Speciale is just how fast it flies passed you. The 7-speed dual-clutch auto helps the Speciale rip through 60 mph in an estimated 2.8 seconds, through 100 mph in an estimated 6.2 seconds, and down the quarter-mile in a staggering 10.7 seconds with a top speed of just over 200 mph.

Expect the 458 Speciale to be out this spring with a base price just short of 300 grand. And while the cost of a decent mortgage might seem a bit extreme for a car price tag, keep in mind that this update usually signifies the end of the model line for a given Ferrari. So, if you want one, this slightly more limited edition might be the one to buy, because, let's face it, this Prancing Horse is something Speciale for sure.

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