Best of the Best 2012: Convertibles: Ferrari 458 Spider

Ferrari purists seldom are followers of soft-top fashion, preferring the marque’s rigid berlinettas and their beautiful flowing forms to the canvas-roofed spiders. However, Ferrari’s latest mid-engine marvel, the 458 Italia, has morphed into a convertible without the fussy fabric flying buttresses of its predecessors. The 458 Spider features a folding aluminum hard top that transforms the convertible into a civilized coupe. When raised, the top cuts an elegant profile, but it disappears completely when the 458 sets out in full Spider mode. The aluminum top weighs about 50 pounds less than a conventional folding soft top.

The 458 Italia set the bar for modern sports cars, and the 458 Spider compares well to its berlinetta brother when it comes to performance and torsional rigidity. Ferrari engineers have maintained the same exquisite handling characteristics and steering feedback bordering on telepathy that make the Italia such a thrill to drive.

Of course, the real thrill of the 458 Spider is situated aft of the driver, where eight stampeding pistons spool up to a fevered 9,000 rpm redline, tempting the driver with every gear change. The 4.5-liter V-8 develops 562 hp and 398 ft lbs of torque and enables the Spider to nudge the 200 mph mark when the top is up. When the top is down, the engine’s induction roar and exhaust note delight driver and passenger with a soul-stirring scream that accompanies every high-rpm shift. Gear changes with the 7-speed, dual-clutch, paddle-shift gearbox are lightning fast and butter smooth. With a dry weight of less than 3,200 pounds, the 458 Spider is relatively light and shoots from zero to 60 mph in about 3.3 seconds.

The interior is impeccably detailed Italian modern. Leather and carbon fiber are plentiful, as are space and comfort, making the 458 Spider a true grand-touring convertible for two.

Ferrari, www.ferrari.com

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