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Ferrari 458 Speciale – Extreme Sport (Part 1)

1/27/2015 1:25:43 AM
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Improving on the 458 Italia is a fool’s errand, so Ferrari decided that this hardcode version should be ‘different, not better’. We’re about to taste the difference

Up high on this southern European mountain pass the Ferrari 458 feels untouchable. The super-quick steering lends a double-jointed fluidity, the chassis throws shapes like a 1960s Top of the Pops kid and the gearbox shifts with eye-blink alacrity. We run up and down the deserted road, sonic explosions from the flat-plane crank V8 echoing into the valley below as the revs warp to 9,000rpm. It’s as if we’ve just driven at Heaven’s gates and blasted them clean off their hangers…

Up high on this southern European mountain pass the Ferrari 458 feels untouchable

That was three years ago, the moment we named the Ferrari 458 Italia our Performance Car of the Year, casting aside the Porsche GT2 RS, Mercedes SLS and Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. We all wondered how anyone could build a better supercar than this. Since then, no-one has, while over the intervening years Ferrari’s engineers have watched a deadline creeping ever nearer: the launch of the inevitable hardcode 458 to follow in the footsteps of the 360 Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia.

Those engineers all doubtless took vigorously to desk-cleaning procrastination after receiving that brief, but one way or another they were going to have to improve on the 458′s perfection by autumn 2013. ‘We had mixed feelings when we were asked to develop this engine,’ reveals engine and powertrain boss Jean Jacques His. ‘It is not easy to improve.’

Now the work is done and there’s a 458 Speciale with my name on it parked outside Enzo’s old house at Fiorano, just as there was six years ago when I came to drive the 430 Scuderia…

The power figures alone are no quantum leap: the mid-mounted V8 remains pegged at 4.5 litres and torque is unchanged at 540 Nm, but power rises from the Italia’s 570 PS to 605 PS. You’d expect to see a chip tuner advertise those kind of gains, yet it’s actually more of a thorough working over than the naked stats suggest, as you’ll see from the panel. And, remember, that’s 605 PS from 4.5 litres and not a turbocharger in sight. Come on, that’s sensational!

Ferrari have also lopped 90 kg off the 458′s kerb weight with RTM bumpers, 20-inch forged alloy wheels, thinner glass and a pared-back interior. Do nothing but add a little power and take a little weight out of an Italia and it’d be more rapid and would doubtless stop faster and feel more agile too. It’d blow our minds.

Of course, Ferrari didn’t stop there, and what comes next will boggle the mind of anyone who’s ever driven a 458 Italia. There’s a new generation of carbon brakes, meaning the old carbon ceramics that stopped you like a lamppost might stop a frail pensioner are already yesterday’s news.

458's delicate aero comes into its own on the racetrack

 
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