It is hard to tell what is first noticed about the all new 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia. It looks like no other previous Ferrari. You climb into the driver’s seat and immediately see that the interior has been redesigned to make the driver the central focus of the car. All controls are easily accessible, mostly because the majority of them are located on the steering wheel, but we will get in to that later.
Slide the bright red key into the ignition and then rotate it clockwise by two clicks. Then, get ready for one of the greatest sounds the automotive world has ever heard. Press the ‘Engine Start’ button located on the steering wheel and experience the 4.5 liter V8 come to life. Gently tap the accelerator and marvel at how freely, and quickly, the engine spins.
From there it is best to take a quick moment and familiarize yourself with the new placement of the controls. Gone are the stalks on the side of the steering column. Instead, the functions that were once located there are now placed directly on the wheel. Immediately you will notice the location of the turn indicators. At first they are difficult and unintuitive, but after just a few minutes (and a few times of hitting the shift paddle to put on your blinker) you will quickly get adjusted to the new layout and realize that Ferrari has once again optimized the driving experience.
A single click of the right paddle quickly engages first gear and the journey begins. Amazingly, the 458 Italia is extremely easy to manage, even on Los Angeles’ congested Sunset Boulevard heading down to the PCH. Looking out the windshield the driver will get the feeling that they are piloting an F-16 fighter jet. The Pininfarina design produces high front wheel arches that direct your focus down the front of the car. Forward visibility is fantastic from the driver’s seat. Rear visibility is limited, however, the car is still extremely manageable to navigate through traffic.
Acceleration in the 458 is visceral. The high reving V8 puts out 562 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque and will scream all the way up to 9,000 rpm. Paired to a 7 speed dual clutch gearbox the car is capable of rocketing itself to sixty miles an hour is less than 3.4 seconds with a top speed of 202mph.
As we cruised up the Pacific Coast Highway in the mid-morning fog we discussed how big the interior cabin felt. For a small car, the interior space is cavernous and comfortable as well. The optional Recaro race seats are firm, but extremely supportive.
Continuing through Malibu it was obvious that the 458 Italia can be either Doctor Jekyll or Mister Hyde, and is able to transition between the two as quickly as you need. With a gentle foot on the throttle it is easy to keep the engine from getting too loud. However, as soon as you start to get on it, it is acoustic masterpiece and the engine comes alive! First and second gear goes by at a blistering pace and the engine revs so freely that the LED steering wheel is a ‘must have’ option. As you approach the redline, which can happen in the blink of an eye, a series of LED lights start to illuminate on the steering wheel to let you know when a shift is absolutely necessary.
After our first comfort stop in Ventura we continued onto our planned stop for lunch in Ojai at a little place called Boccali’s. Dining on their fresh sandwiches and pizzas we relaxed as we discussed the improvements to the 458 over the previous generation 430. When the 430 arrived on the market it was hard to imagine that it would ever be able to be improved upon. However, the 458 is light years ahead of its predecessor. Ferrari has embraced technology and loaded the 458 up with as much of it that it can handle. At the same time, the car still retains its heritage and most of all, its soul. This is a Ferrari like no other.
After lunch the trip continued north on Maricopa Highway. Cruising through the twisty roads the 458 is exceptionally well composed. Feedback through the steering while is immediate and the car executes turns with extreme precision. Exiting the canyons we were presented with a long, straight, flat piece of roadway where we were able to let the 458 Italia stretch its legs. At higher speeds the car feels even more composed and stable. There is no worry of the front end starting to float over the bumps, nor is there any worry that the engine will run out of power. This car will eat up the pavement as fast as possible.
As we climbed through the mountains to Pine Mountain Club we enjoyed the beautiful weather an noticed that even bumble bees were extremely attracted to the bright yellow 458 Italia. Stopping along the way always led to a small gathering of onlookers who would come out of the woodwork to get a glimpse of the magnificent car. On lookers would ask to take pictures of it, get a closer look at the interior, ask how fast it is and of course, ask how much does it cost.
The Ferrari 458 Italia has a base price of $225,325. Our car was equipped with the following packages: AFS1 AFS System ($1,889); Yellow Color Brake Calipers ($1,339); Colored Safety Belts ($866); Central Tunnel in Leather ($709); Daytona Style Seats ($3,620); Interior Grids in Leather ($315); Ferrari iPod ($881); Carbon Fiber Steering Wheel w/LED ($4,564); Scuderia Shields ($1,542); Radio Nav System ($3,305); Rear Parking Sensors ($1,259); Sport Sill Cover ($1,102); Full Recaro Seats ($6,138); Upholstered Top ($787); Rear Shelf Leather Upholstery ($2,503); and additional Special Features ($9,696).
Including Gas Guzzler Tax ($2,600), Dealer Prep ($350) and Transportation ($2,000) the total MSRP came to $270,790.
Cruising back into Los Angeles we discussed the merit of the 458 Italia. The car is surely an engineering masterpiece and, in my opinion, worth every penny of its price. At the time of our test our car had already accumulated over 7,000 miles. During our 9 hours we did not experience a single issue. No rattles, to loose odds and ends, no sticky components. The car performed as if it had just rolled off of the production line.
With Ferrari now also include 7 years of scheduled maintenance there are more potential buyers who are going to be attracted to the marque instead of being scared away from the rumors of how expensive it is to maintain a car of this caliber.
We look forward to testing the 458 Spider to see if the added structural support has any impact on handling or driving dynamics. Stay tuned!
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