Ferrari 458 Spider – Review
By Liam Bird
There are few invitations where, upon receiving, I would readily embark upon what is in effect a 600-mile round trip to accept. But, for some people – or should I say some marques – I’ll readily make an exception.
By the time you get to read this, the whopping great pothole that shut all three lanes of one side the M25, and thus caused major traffic delays for miles around it, will probably be a long-distant memory, as will the deluge that went some way to causing it. Nevertheless for me, that particular Friday afternoon will remain a memory that I’ll take to the grave. As what seemed like one half of London’s population got stuck making their way home, whilst the other embarked upon their weekly schlep towards their second homes in The Cotswolds, I embarked upon my own personal pilgrimage.
Finally, Ferrari had agreed to lend me a car – as long as I was prepared to pick it up and drop it off.
After filling in and signing a ream of very legal-looking paperwork, Ferrari North Europe’s sole 458 Spider press demonstrator was mine – well, for a couple of days at least. The rain may have best beem described as apocalyptic but three hours on the M40, plus another three hours back, suddenly didn’t seem such a chore. Excited? Who wouldn’t be?
It’d taken more than a little nagging on my part to get to this, allowing more than enough time for the cynic in me to prepare a few questions. Was there I wondered something to hide? Was the waiting just another way perhaps of further enhancing the mystique that surrounds this most evocative of brands? Is the 458, or indeed any Ferrari for that matter, really as good as everyone told me it was? Or were my pre-drive jitters just clouding my judgement?
After Jason Harris, Ferrari’s infectiously enthusiastic and impeccably dressed PR took me for what’s probably best described as a “spirited drive” up the M4, whilst simultaneously explaining all of the 458’s major and minor controls, we swapped seats.
No pressure: just Friday evening’s near grid-lock to contend with, a seven-speed automatic gearbox, 562bhp, the ability to hit 125 mph in 10.8 seconds and cold carbon ceramic brakes. Also, there were the kerbside spectators; what felt the whole of the south east either miming or shouting ‘Fer-rar -i’ and taking pictures every time I stopped for a traffic-light. Plus, in the back of mind, the constant reminder of this particular example of Ferrari’s 199mph Pininfarina-penned projectile’s price tag: just shy of £245,000.
For the record, 458s start at £198,971. But, that includes seven-years worth servicing and maintenance: No other manufacturer currently offers a similar package. Compared to the cost of running an Audi R8 over the same period of time – which, trust me, is nowhere near as exciting as you might imagine – it’s actually quite a bargain. Perhaps I’ll let you do the maths.
On that first drive, the 458 couldn’t have been less intimidating. The driving position is perfect, the view out practically panoramic; even the view rearwards is good. With the 458’s heavily sculpted and multi-buttoned steering wheel (there are no column stalks: horn wipers, indicators, dip/main-beam are all wheel-mounted) pulled-in close, and the low-set seat set just-so, the 458 proves to be extremely comfortable. The front wing-tops are easily visible and help you place it with precision.
It’s sharp – razor sharp, in-fact – the steering and throttle I’m sure respond to telepathy, yet its magnetic dampers (SCM) mean it rides with a finesse you simply don’t expect a Ferrari, or indeed any two-seater for that matter, to have. Once clear of the traffic the drive home from Slough to The Welsh Marches was sublime.
Part of me didn’t want to say that. The truth is I want to find a chink in the Ferrari armour. I want to explode the myth. After waiting this long to get my hands on a product of Maranello, strangely, I want to be disappointed. Just so I can tell that critic in me he was right all along.
I couldn’t. Over the next two days, on roads I’ve known all my life, the 458 both challenged and flattered me. Its acceleration is mind-blowing, its grip levels astonishing and the noise it makes is the stuff of teenage boys’ dreams. Roof-up it’s the perfect coupe. Roof-down, the aluminium hard-top performs it electronic folding ballet in just 14-seconds – it’s the ultimate look-at-me roadster. Nothing I’ve ever driven before has felt quite so good, so precise, so fit for purpose and so all-encompassing. The 458 makes you wish you were a better driver. It’s as simple as that.
Should Ferrari ever be kind enough to invite me back, come hell or high water, or even another hole in the M25, I’ll be there like a shot.
Ferrari 458 Spider
Engine: 4499cc 8Cyl 32V petrol
Transmission: 7 speed F1 dual clutch
Power: 562 bhp @ 9000pm
Torque: 398 lbft @ 6000rpm
0-62MPH: 3.4 Sec
Max Speed: 199 mph
MPG: 23.9 combined
Price: from £198,971 (car driven £244,971)