What's New for 2010
The Ferrari 458 Italia is an all-new model for 2010.
"Thanks to the inherent balance of its midengine layout, this Ferrari's handling is as good as it gets for street-legal cars, with perfect fore-and-aft balance and precise steering that all but speaks to you in real-time Italian about what's going on below. It's also one of the sweetest-sounding; sports cars come and go, but the soul-stirring soundtrack of its V8 will turn heads until filling stations stop selling gas."
We didn't say that about the new 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia; those particular poetic waxings concerned its F430 predecessor. Big shoes to fill, yet all of those superlatives also apply to the new Italia. Even so, the 458 Italia manages to make the dynamically perfect F430 seem old, slow and kind of ugly in comparison. We didn't think it was possible, but the Italia is a shocking leap forward, blowing away its predecessor while establishing a new benchmark for exotic sports cars.
Though constructed mostly of aluminum, the Italia is nevertheless a tad heavier than the car it replaces. But it's also safer because it's packed with more technology. And any fears that its added weight has stunted performance should quickly be calmed by looking under the glass rear hatch. The Italia's direct-injected 4.5-liter V8 screams to a 9,000-rpm redline and produces 562 horsepower. The old F430 managed "only" 483. Ferrari says the revised engine is powerful enough to propel the 458 Italia to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds -- quicker than the F430 and even its more track-oriented Scuderia variant.
There are significant ergonomic foibles in the new car to be sure (the turn signals are triggered by buttons on the steering wheel, for instance). But we've lusted after Ferraris since back when their electrical systems rarely worked, the pedals were halfway in the passenger footwell and you needed a man named Carlo on retainer just to keep the thing running. As such, we can't think of a true deal-breaker for the 458 Italia beyond the obligatory high price.
Of course the upcoming 2011 McLaren MP4-12C could be described in many of the same glowing terms. It certainly has a different feel from behind the wheel and doesn't suffer from the 458's ergonomic shortfalls, but this pair of road cars from F1 rivals presents the sort of can't-lose cross-shopping scenario of any car lover's dreams. There are other exotics to be sure, but if you're looking for the absolute best driver's car, the McLaren or Italia are your best bets.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia is a two-seat exotic sports car available in one coupe body style and a single trim. Standard are 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, performance tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, adjustable driving and vehicle settings, automatic xenon headlights, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery and trim, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with buttons for the turn signals, wipers, lights, ignition, suspension and other vehicle settings), Bluetooth and a sound system with an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional features include forged aluminum alloy wheels, 19-inch run-flat tires, adaptive headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, cruise control, power seats, four different seat design choices, four-point race belts, faux suede upholstery and/or carpet, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a navigation system, an iPod interface, satellite radio and a premium sound system. There are also innumerable customization options involving exterior paints and interior color schemes.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia is powered by a 4.5-liter V8 that sends 562 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission. A traditional manual transmission isn't offered. Ferrari estimates that the 458 Italia will go from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.
The 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia comes with antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, traction and stability control, and side airbags. A rearview camera and parking sensors are available.
Interior Design and Special Features
To free up space for the enlarged transmission paddle shifters, Ferrari did away with traditional steering wheel column stalks. While it's one thing to change the light and wiper controls to buttons on the steering wheel, it's quite another to reinvent the turn signal stalk as a button on the spoke of the steering wheel. It's unintuitive, just a bit silly and likely destined to eventually become only a footnote in history.
There are also other ergonomic faux pas. The stereo, navigation and other infotainment systems are controlled via buttons on knobs that flank both sides of the steering column. This makes it a wee bit difficult for the passenger to control anything, but the bigger deal is that the display shares real estate with the gauge cluster. Want to see your speed and the navigation system? No can do. You can either know where you're going or how fast you're getting there, but not both at the same time.
On the upside, the cabin is still slathered in beautifully soft leather, the refinement and build quality are better than that of any previous Ferrari and the driving position is more comfortable than ever. So even if it can be a little frustrating to use, the Italia's cabin at least offers the luxury one now expects from this rarefied segment of sports cars.
The 2010 Italia's V8 is a legend in the making, with brutal acceleration bettered by only a scant few cars on the road. The powertrain has been blessed with a mechanical whine that is at first gruff and then intoxicatingly vibrant as the engine revs fly toward 9,000 rpm. We'll always lament the absence of a traditional manual transmission, but the dual-clutch automated manual whips through its seven gears with a quickness and smoothness that perhaps only Porsche can match.
Of course, a Ferrari is also meant to be characterized by its poised handling. In this respect, the Italia shines even brighter. The steering effort is weightier than other Ferraris and the action is remarkably quick, demanding small inputs that create a sense of hyper control. The chassis is beautifully tuned to a degree that not only showcases truly incredible talents around corners but also makes it easy to exploit those talents. There is an abundance of high-tech wizardry going on to keep you safe and the car perfectly composed, but the Italia never feels as if it is relying upon 1s and 0s rather than old-fashioned engineering.