Tuesday, 23 August 2011 4:11 PM
This is the world’s first hard-top convertible mid-engine sports car, according to Ferrari. Not that that really matters because the 458 Italia is a stunner and now with the extra Monaco pose-value of the drop-top Spider, happily none of the original 458 design flare and flow is lost in roof-to-boot-translation. This newest 458 will be showing off at next month’s Frankfurt show; two years after the much-heralded 458 Italia made its own debut in the very same exhibition halls.
No heavy and flappy fabric here; every inch of the Spider’s tin-top draft excluder is made from aluminium, and in this case it’s 25kg lighter than the fabric equivalent, and stows in just 14secs. The total weight penalty for this roofless ambition is 50kg over the Italia.
Ferrari engineers fully integrated the disappearing roof into the styling of the car, with the hard-top fitting ahead of the engine bay without compromising aerodynamics or air-inducting engine performance. There is even some space left over behind the seats to stow some luggage on what Ferrari are calling “a generous rear bench”.
The rear of this already erotic slice of Italian auto-art now benefits from even more arousing curvature with twin buttresses designed to optimise the flow of air to the engine intakes and the clutch and gearbox oil radiators. Like the single air intake scoops on Formula 1 cars. A large, adjustable electric wind stop is said to slow and diffuse the air in the cockpit to the extent that “normal” conversation can be had even at speeds over 120mph.
Does that take into account the high-revving V8 yowl that’ll be boxing the ears when taps are opened? A soundtrack that’s “been honed to ensure that the car’s occupants are completely captivated by the drop-top driving experience,” say the Maranello men. An open air, echoing-airbox-powered symphony of aural ecstasy, if the Italia is anything to go by.
Of course, the 458 Spider is powered by the same naturally-aspirated, direct-injection 4.5-litre V8 engine, with full forward force delivered to the (cowering) road by Ferrari’s super-quick-shifting dual-clutch F1 paddle-shift transmission through the sophisticated E-Diff (electronic rear differential); itself integrated with the F1-Trac traction control and high-performance ABS. Some other Italia features have had a little tweakage however, namely the accelerator pedal mapping and the damping of the multilink suspension; possibly “softened” just a touch. After all, drop-top motoring is more about smooth cruise than max attack.
Happily matching the hard-top car is the Spider’s acceleration; an incredible 3.4secs, while top speed is now a tut-tut-inviting 198mph, compared to the Italia’s juicier 202mph top whack.
Make a date for the mid-September Frankfurt show to see this topless beauty in the flesh.
By Daniel Anslow
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