Ferrari 458 Spider 4.5 Review
On days like these

Story and photos by Raymond Lai
19 Aug 2012
 

The mind blowing 458 Italia loses its lid to become an even more complete and compelling supercar choice as Raymond Lai found out when he spent the day in one of these topless Italian beauties.

Introduction, styling

I will never forget the day when I first got behind the wheel of a Ferrari almost eight years ago. My first Ferrari experience was a bright yellow F430 – I was overwhelmed by it at first and was apprehensive to get behind the wheel. I remembered vividly driving the F430 through the beautiful Italian countryside above Maranello and it reminded me of the opening scenes on the original version of The Italian Job. With Matt Monro’s On Days Like These as the background music, the scenes show a bloke driving an Italian sports car – the Lamborghini Miura through the scenic mountainous roads. Just like in the movie, I was behind the wheel of a thoroughbred Italian sports car, driving through the beautiful mountain roads.

There’s just no turning back now. I’ve succumbed to the legend of the Prancing Horse. That first drive in a Ferrari in the Italian countryside finally made me understand why Ferrari is so revered as a legendary marque. Lucky me – thankfully, my experience of the Prancing Horse didn’t just end after the F430. I had the opportunity to try out some other great Ferraris since then and each drive in one just reaffirmed the special feeling when one is behind the wheel of a Ferrari. It might sound passé but anyone who asks me what is the best car I’ve ever test driven, I would answer them, “The next new Ferrari!” which brings us to Ferrari’s latest beauty to go on sale here, the stunning looking 458 Spider, the topless convertible version of the epic 458 Italia.

At first glance, the Spider looks remarkably similar to its coupe cousin. That’s because the new topless Ferrari features an aluminium hardtop roof. The retractable hardtop, designed and developed by German company Webasto, is a first for a sports car with a mid-mounted engine. The recently unveiled McLaren MP4-12C Spider will also utilize the same roof design as the 458 Spider. Advantages of the hardtop design over the F430 Spider’s traditional folding soft top include a reduction of weight of around 25kg and the ability to retract in just 14 seconds.

The roof is also fully integrated into the styling of the car, so much so that more than a glance is needed to mark out a Spider with its roof up from a coupe. The hard top is made up of two sections that fold so as to take up very little space and without raising the line of the rear deck. When retracted, it neatly stows itself away into a compartment ahead of the engine bay without compromising the 458’s aerodynamic performance. The design of the roof though, means that the fire breathing V8 is no longer visible via a glass engine cover like on the coupe.

Just like the rest of the styling details on the 458, the rear buttresses behind the passenger compartment on the Spider are designed for specific purposes – in this case, to act as a roll bar as well as to optimize the flow of air to the engine intakes, clutch and gearbox coolers. Between the two buttresses, there is an electric glass window which, as well as being something of a recognisable styling statement for mid-rear-engine Ferraris of the past, is also an effective wind-stop. Despite being styled in the wind tunnel for maximum aero performance rather than for visual effect, the 458 Spider is still one stunning looking sports car, roof up or down.


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