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The Newest Italian Stallion

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On: Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 10:05AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


The Newest Italian Stallion

When it comes to Ferraris, any new addition is celebrated by its many adoring fans like a new child in the family. The only sad part about adding a new Ferrari is that, more often than not, it comes at the cost of losing one of our favorites. The new Ferrari 458 Italia is no different. With its arrival, we must now cast off one of the most beautiful and crazy fast stallions from Maranello, the F430. From 2005-2009 the F430 scorched streets and racetracks all over the world with its 483-horsepower 4.3-liter banshee imitating V8 that pushed that car in to a terminal velocity of 196 mph. You had your choice of either a traditional six-speed manual, or an F1-style six-speed electro-hydraulic paddle shifter. It was a car that was called by some (including your author) as the most captivating Ferrari since the mighty F40. With such large tires to fill, the question is:  Is the new 458 Italia up to the task?   

 

Yes. Yes, it is.  

Just by the sheer numbers alone, you can see why the 458 has no problem with the role of track star Ferrari. The engine-under-glass tradition thankfully lives on with the bloodline that started the trend back with the 360 Modena in 1999. The 4.5-liter V8 pumps out a staggering 562 horsepower at a stratospheric 9000rpm, which by the way is the highest redline for a production V8. Ever. Torque is an impressive 398lb-ft at 6000rpm, and Ferrari says that 80% of that overall power is readily available at 3250rpm. The newest, nastiest Ferrari hits 60mph in 3.4 seconds on its way to 202mph before it runs out of steam. Perhaps the most impressive stat that Ferrari can cite is the fact that the 458 Italia took a hot lap around the Fiorano Circuit track in Italy and matched the iconic Enzo’s time of 1:25 seconds. But it's not all fun and games; Maranello has engineered direct fuel injection to go with a racecar-like 12.5:1 compression ratio, while lowering friction on all of the crankcase's precious parts, resulting in a 13% drop in fuel consumption, though it is still a pretty good bet that there will be a gas-guzzler charge with the purchase of your 458.

The transmission is a racier version of the seven-speed Getrag built unit found on the 458 Italia’s sibling, the California. The 458’s transmission has closer ratios built to handle 9000rpm redline shifts, and offers three different settings. The first allows a normal sport setting, a Low Grip mode for those who don’t have a beater in the driveway and need to drive their $225,000 458 Italia in the rain and snow, and finally a third option that allows all the electronic systems to be shut off (with the exception of ABS and E-Diff3) and give a pure, back-to-basics feel. The only downside to the 458’s transmission is the fact that there is no manual option. Ferrari seems to feel that the manual transmission is on its way out of style and usefulness. They cite the performance and speed of their F1-style paddle shifters that continue to rip off quicker lap times compared to the slower manual shifter.

The 458 Italia's suspension is like everything else, upgraded. It has a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear that is designed to take on nasty bumps and provide a substantial amount of comfort despite the 458's racy breeding. Ferrari claims exit acceleration has improved by 32 percent over its predecessor due to the improved suspension, along with better tires and some clever tuning. The wheelbase did increase two inches, though no one will notice, but the 15 percent stiffer chassis might catch the attention of those drivers who traded in their F430.

Obviously, the most obvious changes are to the new hot rod's exterior. The car overall looks as if it is the offspring of an F430 mated with a 599GTB, and, at first, looks like just a mix of angles and curves, but upon closer inspection one can truly start to appreciate the genius in the making of this beast. The car has a devilish grin with two windswept bi-xenon headlight eyes that are tattered with 20 of the newly fashionable LED, yet functionally questionable running lights. If looking at the 458 dead on, you will see nothing but flat hood that bulges out into wheel arches, all of which gracefully flows into a broad windshield. From a profile view, the car looks as if it the automotive embodiment of fire in a windstorm. The car's lines seem to follow a sense of reason and purpose beyond the superficial. As with most Ferraris, the 458 Italia is a work of art in motion, even standing still.

The substantial amount of wind-tunnel testing has obviously paid off in a very functional, yet very beautiful form. The open mouth of the 458 directs the rushing air in and over the wheel arches (look closely and you'll see those little slits). Tiny winglets on the front of the car can reduce lift by as much as 40% and help to create 795 pounds of downforce at 200 mph. Even the 458's underbody has been looked at carefully and streamlined in order to create the very impressive 0.330 drag coefficient. Sitting between two large rear diffusers are three tailpipes that are not always in use at the same time. The central pipe flows alone during idle and part throttle applications. But once you mash the go pedal, all three pipes blare an orchestral wail that could make an atheist believe in the divine.

Although we can already hear the F430 faithful debating on whether or not the 458 Italia will be enough, fear not, the bloodline has been well preserved. Your car had its day (or decade) in the sun, and now it is time to retire and move forward. But if you find yourself dreaming of the glory days of yesteryear, wondering if this new upstart is good enough for your stable, just wait until that newer, faster, lighter, more fuel efficient, higher revving, and better handling car flashes by at 200mph and you will realize one thing.

Yes. Yes, it is.


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