Set to make its world debut at next month's Frankfurt motor show, the 458 Italia (that's "Italy" in English) is intended to pay tribute to the country in which it was born, according to Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo. It is a land he describes as being synonymous with "excellence, creativity, and quality" -- all characteristics he believes his company's newest model embodies.
One look at its exterior and you'll get a gist of what di Montezemolo is talking about. The Pininfarina-penned design is executed in hand-laid aluminum and carbon-fiber panels underpinned by the latest in Ferrari's F1-derived aluminum chassis technology for weight minimization.
Up front and at the rear, improved aerodynamic features like a sealed undertray, diffuser, and what the brand calls "aeroelastic winglets" at its nose, all culminate to create a more stable, precise, and sleeker super sports car, according to Ferrari. At roughly 124 mph (200 km/h), the car produces 309 pounds of downforce, according to the automaker's engineers.
The 458 Italia looks ultramodern and much sleeker than its two immediate predecessors, the F360 and F430. Still, the car is a clear evolution on the same swoopy-fendered Pininfarina styling premise that began with the Dino 206GT of the late 1960s. There are plenty of Enzo cues too -- especially toward the rear clip -- and the long, slim headlamps appear to be directly inspired by the Enzo-based Pininfarina Ferrari P4/5. Offset above the headlights are vents crafted to cool the giant available carbon ceramic binders; Yes, there are plenty of new touches here too.
It's indeed a compact design compared with other exotics in the segment, but the 458 Italia grows ever slightly in length (178.2 inches. versus 177.6) and width (76.3 inches versus 75.7) compared with the outgoing F430. Height remains at a short 47.8 inches. Its wheelbase is extended by nearly two inches (104.3 inches from 102.4) and its dry weight is upped to 3042 pounds with forged wheels and carbon-fiber racing seats onboard (expect a curb weight of at least 3250 pounds) compared with the 430's 2974. As the tenet goes, muscle weighs more than fat, and per Ferrari's specs, the 458 Italia has been a definitive body-builder during the R&D process.
Set low in the mid-gut of this Prancing Horse is a more muscular direct-injected 4.5L V-8 producing 562 horsepower at a screaming 9000 rpm and an associated 398 pound-feet of torque at 6000 revs. Engineers improved upon the 430's 4.3-liter unit by incorporating a racing-like low piston compression height combined with the usual flat-plane crankshaft.
In total, it's a substantial 79-horse and 55-pound-foot improvement over the F430 (483/343) and impressively, the motor drinks less fuel to the tune of 17 mpg U.S. (converted from EU combined cycle) and emits less harmful gases from its tri-tipped exhaust (320 g/km of CO2 versus 345 g/km). Its longitudinal positioning also helps greatly in achieving a 42-percent front/58-percent rear weight distribution, which should prove ideal for the mid-engine car.
In addition to the extra power, the 458 Italia has two big tricks up its sleeve designed specifically for enthusiast drivers who want to go fast -- really fast.
First is the beautifully-crafted seven-speed dual-clutch semi-auto Getrag transmission already employed by the California Grand Tourer -- a gearbox we called "nothing short of absolute perfection," in our recent test of the California. In the Italia, it incorporates revised ratios unique to the engine's power delivery patterns and of course, promises ultra-quick, adjustable, and crisp -- but not harsh -- Schumacheresque gear changes.
Second, the operation of the Italia's E-Diff and F1-Trac traction control have been integrated and are now controlled by the same ECU, which Ferrari says increases longitudinal acceleration out of corners by some 32 percent. Its ABS brakes, also controlled by the same ECU, feature a brake prefill function that also makes its debut on the car and has been designed to load the caliper before hard braking maneuvers in order to shorten stopping lengths. Traditional double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension setups keep everything planted accordingly, though we wouldn't be surprised if the brand's magneto-rheological dampers make their way onto the car as well.
Combine all these go-fast technologies with the countless other improvements, and Maranello officials say their 458 Italia can blast to 62 mph in "under 3.4 seconds" before hitting a 202-mph-plus top speed. The best we could muster from the standard F430 was a 4.04-second sprint. And believe us when we say we can't wait to put this Italian thoroughbred to the test.
In the cockpit, 458 Italia also gets a thoroughly reworked cabin befitting the car's sporting intentions, employing what Ferrari calls a "revolutionary ergonomic interface" featuring a multi-function steering wheel as its centerpiece.
After its debut in Frankfurt, the 458 will reportedly hit Ferrari dealerships around the end of this year in Europe, with U.S. deliveries coming sometime in 2010. Expect pricing to begin quite a bit higher than the $255,000 starting point of the F430 coupe. Stay tuned for more details on the car from Frankfurt along with our complete First Drive of the Ferrari 458 Italia in the coming months.
|Ferrari 458 Italia|
Ferrari 458 Italia
Ferrari 458 Italia
Ferrari 458 Italia