Ferrari introduces a more extreme and technologically advanced version of the already exceptional 458 Italia.
Ferrari’s mid-engine V-8 cars have always been its sportiest machines, beginning in earnest with the 308 GTB/GTS series that was in production from 1975 through 1985 and is just now receiving its due as one of Pininfarina’s finest designs. The F355, which debuted in 1995, proved that a Ferrari really could be a daily driver. The 360 Modena ushered in Ferrari’s slippery design vocabulary of the 21st century in 1999 and became the brand’s best-selling model ever—until it was superseded in sales by the Frank Stephenson–designed F430, which replaced it in 2004.
Amid great anticipation, the technologically advanced 458 Italia arrived in 2009 and was later chosen as Robb Report’s Car of the Year. The Italia remains an archetypal sports car, a jewel in any collection of contemporary high-performance machines. Now comes the 458 Speciale, a more extreme and purpose-built iteration of the 458 Italia. It is a beautiful berlinetta that exceeds the limits of any previous Ferrari V-8.
The 458 Speciale’s engine is Ferrari’s most powerful naturally aspirated V-8. The mid-rear-mounted 4.5-liter unit produces 596 hp (the Italia’s engine develops 562 hp) and 398 ft lbs of torque at 6,000 rpm. It winds to a dizzying 9,000 rpm redline and has an incredible compression ratio of 14:1, which is the highest ever achieved by a naturally aspirated V-8 and a value typically associated with only race engines.
Applying lessons learned from the company’s Formula 1 racing program, Ferrari’s engineers redesigned various components to extract the most from the engine. They introduced new metallurgy for the pistons and connecting-rod bushings to reduce friction and mass. A revised crankshaft improves lubrication of the main bearings. The manifolds and heads feature modified intake geometry, and the four cams have a new profile. The intake plenums and air-filter box are made of carbon fiber, which, when combined with the aluminum exhaust system, reduced the engine’s weight by 18 pounds.
The 458 Speciale’s 7-speed F/1 dual-clutch transmission is the best in the business and part of the reason the car is such a thrill to drive. It has been remapped, and compared to the Italia’s transmission it delivers downshifts that are 44 percent faster—and louder, thanks to a redesigned inlet tract and repositioned exhaust plumbing.
These power-train upgrades have resulted in remarkable performance that includes a zero-to-60-mph time of less than 3 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph. The Italia reaches the same top speed but achieves 60 mph in just under 3.4 seconds.
For such a powerful machine, the 458 Speciale has a relatively light dry weight of only 2,844 pounds (versus 3,042 pounds for the Italia), resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 0.021 hp per pound and contributing to a lap time of just 1 minute, 23.5 seconds at Ferrari’s 12-turn, 1.9-mile Fiorano test track. That is the third-best time ever for a Ferrari road car, behind only those of LaFerrari and the F12 Berlinetta.
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