Sunday, January 20, 2013

2011 Ferrari 458 Italia Track Test

Ferrari has a story – and what a story it is – that will be told over and over again for decades and centuries to come. Much like you, as a car-friend I've read bits and pieces of Enzo's life and legacy, and have always been fascinated by how he reluctantly ended up making and selling cars in order to support his Scuderia Ferrari. Now, 64 years later, his name is associated with some of the outright best cars in the world.

Now, more about the car. Actually, you're probably well aware that this gorgeous-to-behold piece of Italian art sports a mid-mounted, 570-hp, 4.5L V8. And yes, this output is all motor, no juice. In fact, the 458's 127 hp-per-litre represents one of the highest output ratings per litre of any normally aspirated car in the world.

Power is nothing without control, so would say Pirelli who happen to supply rubber for this fantastic car. The 458 is all about control. I've never experienced a transmission that so positively strong-armed an engine like the F1, 7-speed, dual-clutch gearbox in this car does. Even at WOT, the box swaps cogs with mind-boggling smoothness, speed and efficiency. Never is power cut or lost unlike the vicious E-Gear found in the Lambo. Beyond that, regardless of the position of the manettino, the E-Diff maintains and distributes the perfect amount of torque to the rear wheels.

All this electronic wizardry makes the driver feel as though they are Michael Schumacher – really. This super supercar is so trackable that only the most novice idiot could make a mistake; that is, if all the safety nets remain on.The rush of power from the V8 is instantaneous, despite max torque showing up at 6,000 rpm. I found that much of the car's 398 pounds of torque do come on as low as 4,000 rpm, and therefore up- or downshifting madly is not necessary. It is, however, a highly desirable action. All 570 hp are on tap at 9,000 rpm and tugging on the paddles anywhere in the 6,000 to 9,000 rpm range is met with intoxicating bursts of speed

Through corners and switchbacks, the 458 stays flat, poised and thanks to the trick E-Diff and high-performance ABS brakes, the car makes the driver feel constantly in control. Grip going in and coming out of the “S” turns is phenomenal and unwavering. This allows the pilot to get on the go pedal sooner, allowing for quicker exit speeds and higher trap velocities. A few more laps at the wheel of the Italia and I'm certain I could have hit 240+ km/h on the other side of the Hump by perfecting my line through corner 8.

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