Ferrari 458 Speciale Review
Is it as fast as it looks?
How about 0-62 in three seconds dead? It’s rocketed along by a 4.5-litre naturally-aspirated V8 that makes an astounding 605bhp. It can corner at 1.33g, where an Enzo managed a not-piffling 1.1g. It’s caressed onto the road by about 210kg of downforce at 125mph.
How do they do that?
A weight cut, for a start: it loses 90kg thanks to a some even more rinky-dink alloys in the all-aluminium structure, a lighter roof, lighter intake system (carbon-fibre airbox), more skeletal wheels, thinner glass and a plastic rear window. In the cabin, it’s all low-fat trim and no carpets.
Next up, some truly nifty aero. At the tail, the spoiler is re-shaped, raised and moved back. This works hand-in-hand with the gaping lower diffuser, a triple-channel tunnel – the exhaust had to be re-shaped to make room for it. The diffuser causes drag though, so at 140mph three motorised flaps open down into the channels, stalling it and cutting the drag back. As soon as you turn the wheel, you need your downforce again, so the flaps pop shut.
Meanwhile, also at 140mph, a passive vane in the nose opens to restore the front-rear balance. Oh and there are ‘turning vanes’ at the nose and fins over the sills ahead of the rear wheels, both further improving downforce, though only by a few kilos. They, like the stripes, probably add mostly psychological speed.
And more power demands more cooling. But instead of making the radiators bigger (and heavier), there are new extractor openings in the front bonnet. It starts to look like a proper racer.
The dampers are a new generation of adaptive magneto-rheological items, with re-programming to match. The springs are stiffer, the whole suspension recalibrated. And the tyres are a new generation of Michelin, grippy beyond belief in the hot and dry, without losing out to the standard 458 items in the wet and cold.
This is not a car that lacks soul. For a start, the engine could quicken the dead. It fizzes with instant reactions, sings for joy and head-butts its 9000rpm red-line. The mid-range torque might not match a McLaren 12C or 911 Turbo, but the engine’s always-on attentiveness and sounds make up for it. The twin-clutch transmission has also been put on high alert, with faster shifts than the already swift calibration of the 458 Italia.