What's New for 2011
The Ferrari Italia carries over unchanged for 2011.
"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. The soul-stirring soundtrack of its V8 will turn heads until filling stations stop selling gas."
We didn't heap this load of superlatives upon the 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia. Instead, they addressed its F430 predecessor, so you can imagine the shoes this exotic sports car must fill. Yet fill them it does, as the Italia manages to make the seemingly dynamically perfect F430 seem old, slow and kind of ugly in comparison. It may seem impossible, but the 458 Italia is a shocking leap forward, blowing away its predecessor while establishing a new benchmark for not only Ferrari but supercars on the whole.
Though constructed extensively from aluminum, the Italia is actually a tad heavier than the F430. However, any fears that its added weight has stunted performance should be laid to rest at the feet of a direct-injected 4.5-liter V8 screaming to the tune of 562 horses. The F430 managed "only" 483. Ferrari says the new engine is capable of sending the Italia from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds -- quicker than virtually everything on the road-going planet not named Bugatti Veyron. This is accomplished through Ferrari's dual-clutch automated manual transmission. It's brilliant, but we're still a little sad that the days of the old-school gated manual shifter have come to an end.
While the 458 is an exquisite car to drive, it can be a little irritating to live with. Besides the inherent problems associated with any midengine supercar (limited passenger space, cargo room and visibility), the Italia features some rather bizarre ergonomics. The turn signals are triggered by buttons on the steering wheel, for instance. Still, 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. Comparatively, the 458 is sublime.
As such, we can't think of a true deal-breaker for the 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia beyond the obligatory high price. There are obviously other exotics plying for your ample money, but when it comes to driving thrills, only the McLaren MP4-12C comes close. It's certainly an incredible machine in its own F1-bred right and doesn't suffer from the 458's ergonomic shortfalls, but when it comes to overall driving involvement and pleasure, the Ferrari remains the car that will receive the biggest helping of superlatives.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 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.
Options include forged alloy wheels, run-flat tires, carbon-fiber body pieces, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, adaptive headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors, power seats, carbon-fiber race seats (available in three sizes), four-point belts, a navigation system, an iPod interface, satellite radio and a premium sound system.
The Italia is also highly customizable, with items that include contrasting roof colors, three different standard seat designs (regular, Daytona-style and diamond quilt), multitone interior schemes, contrasting stitching, extended leather or faux-suede interior trim, four gauge color choices, carbon-fiber interior trim, a carbon-fiber steering wheel with built-in LED shift lights and specialty fit luggage.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia is powered by a 4.5-liter V8 that sends 562 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Ferrari says it will go from zero to 60 mph in about 3.4 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars in the world. As if anyone cares, EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
In the off chance you do care, or are simply interested in sampling every dollop of technology Ferrari has to offer, the optional HELE system adds a number of technologies designed to reduce fuel consumption and increase performance. These include an engine stop/start system, a different air-conditioning compressor, changes to the electrical system, and adaptive transmission programming and throttle response.
The 2011 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 buttons on each 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 2011 Ferrari 458 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 ones and zeros rather than old-fashioned engineering.