BEST of the BEST 2014 | Wheels | Sports Cars: Ferrari 458 Speciale

The sharpest knife in the drawer...

The sharpest knife in the drawer…

Before the advent of computer-aided design, or CAD, draftsmen plied their trade with T-squares, compasses, templates, and a bewildering number of alphanumerically coded pencils that made marks ranging from smudgy and soft to nearly invisible. The pencils included a 9H, which seemingly could carve through vellum with its needle-sharp lead. More scalpel than pencil, this was a serious, single-purpose instrument—useless for doodling but essential for rendering lines of the utmost precision.

The Ferrari 458 Speciale is like that 9H pencil: a special-purpose tool enlisted by serious drivers (or those who want to look serious) seeking an even more exacting 458. The original 458, the Italia, was Robb Report’s 2011 Car of the Year and had remained perhaps the archetypal sports car until Ferrari introduced this sharper iteration, which represents a more thorough upgrade to the Italia than the Challenge Stradale or 430 Scuderia did to its series’ predecessor. 

The 458 Speciale, which is priced at $288,000, is equipped with Ferrari’s most powerful naturally aspirated V-8 engine, a mid-mounted 4.5-liter unit producing 596 hp and 398 ft lbs of torque at 6,000 rpm. It has a scorching 9,000 rpm redline and a compression ratio of 14:1. The 458 Speciale’s zero-to-60-mph time of less than 3 seconds only hints at its performance capabilities.

The car employs Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control, which analyzes dynamic data and accordingly distributes traction and torque to enhance its performance and control. The car also features active aerodynamic systems that reduce drag and increase downforce.

Compared to that of the 458 Italia, the 458 Speciale’s dual-clutch F/1 transmission delivers 44 percent faster downshifts, which are more audible thanks to the repositioned exhaust plumbing. And Ferrari has beefed up the braking system and complemented it with lighter, forged 20-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

The company has also judiciously resculpted most of the Italia body panels and pared the car’s weight by using thinner glass and a Lexan backlight. The alterations also include a larger rear spoiler and enhanced underbody diffusers that further increase downforce. The cockpit features carbon-fiber-shelled Sabelt seats, a streamlined dash, and plenty of Alcantara.

Ferrari, www.ferrari.com

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