Ferrari 458 Spider

ENZO FERRARI, THE FOUNDER of the auto manufacturer by the same name, carried a reputation that was anything but the average car producer. Initially, racing was his first and foremost passion; secondary to him was selling one (or thousands) of his sports cars. Throughout the maker’s evolution, the Formula One racecars became so sophisticated that it made complete sense to fuse elements of these precision machines with the production of cars for a gentleman who doesn’t suit up in fire retardant suits, helmet and gloves for work—the regular guy.

The newly released Ferrari 458 Spider is no exception to this rule. Based on the 458 Italia coupe, the Spider is the fifth generation of this Ferrari model.

As with nearly all Ferraris, the looks are simply stunning, and truly resemble no other. With its uniquely curvaceous lines and sculpturing, this convertible version is a stand out. And to make life even more a breeze, the relatively small, metal top can disappear with the push of a button in a mere 14 seconds. When the top is up, the 458 looks like its coupe cousin.

The racing heritage still plays a major role in the acceleration, handling, and performance departments. The 570 horsepower, 4.5 liter V-8 screams up to its 9,000 rpm rev limit and rips from a stand to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, with a top speed of 198 mph The Formula One-based double clutch, seven-speed transmission can, of course, be shifted seamlessly with large paddles behind the steering wheel. Carbon-ceramic braking material handles the stopping issues.

Moving to the interior does not force you to break from the racecar frame of mind. Namely, the performance controls on the steering wheel drive home the idea that one should not take your hands off the wheel to make adjustments to the suspension and general performance enhancers.

No need to think that the interior is some stark replica of a vintage racecar: Elegantly lined leather seats are surrounded by similar attention to detail finishings. Behind the seats you’ll find storage for a golf bag or soft luggage to help supplement the front trunk.

On the front of the steering wheel is a small switch that can be moved from “Wet” to “Sport” or “Race.” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the meaning of the switches, but does take one to program the various computers to control the suspension, the engine power and shifting speeds. Other positions on the switch can deactivate traction and stability controls, leaving the driver in complete control.

A video screen behind the steering wheels can warn the driver if he or she may be overdoing it. When first starting it will show “Warm-up” meaning all systems are not ready for full power. “Go” means let it rip and “Over” says slow down because systems are overworked.

Turn the ignition switch and press the start button on the steering wheel and the V-8 roars to life, felt everywhere between the steering wheel and the thunderous three exhaust pipes. Transmission choices include an automatic mode, but most will prefer the instant and controlled paddle shifting. Power, when needed, is simply breathtaking in any gear. Another button on the steering wheel can adjust the shocks to tighten or loosen the ride. Any slight tug of the steering wheel garners an immediate response—handling is as much as any good racecar driver could want.

So whether speed, handling or aesthetics are of interest, the 458 Spider has pinnacle appeal. Enzo would be proud of his namesake in this latest edition of this Spider.

Ferrari 458 Spider

Engine: 4.5 liter V-8, 570 horsepower
Transmission: 7 speed double clutch paddle operated or automatic
Speed: 0-60. 3.3 seconds; Top speed 198
Brakes: carbon-ceramic braking system
Price: $257,000

Photo courtesy Servco Lexus

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