Best of the Best 2011: Sports Cars: Ferrari 458 Italia

    When our judging panel of nearly 50 readers selected the Ferrari 458 Italia as the 2011 Car of the Year with a landslide vote in Robb Report’s March issue, the editors and writers who had the chance to drive the car were not surprised. While we anticipated the outcome, the 458’s accomplishment still is notable, especially when considered in the context of the Car of the Year competition and, just as important, in the context of its predecessor, the superb F430, which set sky-high standards and expectations for Ferrari’s new mid-engine marvel.

    The 458 meets and surpasses those expectations. Its improvement over the F430 is nothing short of remarkable, and it is fair to say that the 458 represents a revolution, not evolution, when evaluated from almost every angle—if you can find an angle in the svelte, air-cheating shape that exploits aerodynamics unlike any previous Ferrari.

    Revolution of another kind is a hallmark of the 458, as its new 562 hp 4.5-liter V-8 spools up to an astounding 9,000 rpm, delivering a soundtrack that alone is worth half the Italia’s $230,300 base price. The Getrag 7-?speed dual-clutch transmission delivers seamless shifts with a speed and alacrity impossible in any manual.

    In fact, Ferrari does not offer the 458 with a manual transmission. Drivers can calibrate the car’s performance characteristics by flicking the steering-wheel-mounted manettino, a switch familiar to Ferraristi that controls settings such as the Sport and Race modes and remaps not only the handling dynamics but also the engine and transmission software to maximize performance for each setting. To say the 458’s handling is responsive is an understatement; the car telegraphs the driver’s input with a lightness and accuracy that will make even Porsche 911 adepts tip their hats in Maranello’s direction.

    Switch the manettino to match your taste, exploit the delicious 9,000 rpm power band to redline, and understand why the Ferrari 458 Italia is this year’s best sports car.

     

    Ferrari, www.ferrari.com

    The $100,000 cruiser is tricked out with carbon fiber and solid performance for an electric two-...
    With a turbocharged engine and three electric motors, the new NSX will challenge the top models...
    Photo by Mercedes-Benz USA
    AMG GLE63 Coupe and AMG GLE450 Coupe boast impressive acceleration times…
    The two-seat sports car features contemporary reinterpretations of classic Bentley design cues…
    One of the most technologically advanced electric power trains to make its way onto a production...
    Photo by Royce Rumsey
    The annual springtime event highlights some of the world’s finest collector cars…
    The new vehicles are lighter and quicker than their gas-burning counterparts…
    The new car has a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.1 seconds and can lap the Nürburgring in less than 7.5...
    Photo by Richard Prince
    Robb Report puts the Corvette Z06—essentially a street-legal racecar—through its paces on the track…
    The 458’s replacement is a street-legal supercar with racecar credentials…