2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider Debuts Ahead of 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider Debuts Ahead of 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Ferrari officially reveals its 458 Italia Spider, three weeks before the supercar debuts at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.
  • The 562-horsepower Italia Spider features an aluminum hardtop instead of a fabric roof.
  • The aluminum roof weighs 55 pounds less than the F430 Spider's top.

MARANELLO, Italy — Ferrari has officially revealed its spectacular 458 Italia Spider, three weeks before the 562-horsepower 4.5-liter V8-powered supercar is due to make its public premiere at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. Set to go on sale in the U.S. in early 2012, the new car will compete head-on with the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.

Described by the Italian carmaker as the first mid-rear-engine supercar to feature a retractable roof, the 458 Italia Spider eschews the traditional fabric hood used by a long line of illustrious open-top Ferrari models down through the years for a contemporary hardtop.

Made from aluminum, the patented structure is claimed to automatically retract back to a dedicated stowage area behind the seats, in front of the engine bay, in just 14 seconds. Significantly, it is also said to weigh 55 pounds less than the fabric roof of its predecessor, the F430 Spider — allowing the 458 Italia Spider to retain the same 42:58 front-to-rear weight distribution as its fixed-roof sibling, the 458 Italia.

Although the official photographs generated by Ferrari do not show the new aluminum hardtop, Ferrari says it has been engineered to fit in front of the engine bay without any compromise to aerodynamics or performance over the 458 Italia. Additional domes behind the high-set seatbacks are said to help channel wind over the rear bodywork to air intakes used to cool the engine, clutch and gearbox.

The small space required to house the hardtop has enabled the addition of what Maranello insiders describe as a "generous rear bench for luggage" behind the seats. To reduce buffeting within the interior at speed, Ferrari has also equipped the 458 Italia Spider with an electrically operated wind stop it says allows normal conversation between occupants at speeds up to 124 mph.

The rear-wheel-drive 458 Italia Spider runs the same highly strung 4.5-liter V8 engine as the 458 Italia. Mounted behind the space used to stow the new hardtop, it provides a solid 562 horsepower at 9,000 rpm along with 398 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm. Detailed modifications have been made to the exhaust to provide the open top with a slightly different exhaust note than the coupe.

The direct-injection unit is mated to Ferrari's latest seven-speed double-clutch F1 gearbox and sophisticated e-diff electronically operated differential. Other features include the F1 Trac traction control system and high-performance brake system.

Despite carrying 110 pounds more than the 3,152-pound 458 Italia (modifications were made to the convertible's chassis to offset the loss of rigidity brought on by the lack of a fixed roof), the new 458 Italia Spider is just 0.1 second slower over the standard 0-62-mph sprint, with an official time of 3.5 seconds. Ferrari puts the new open-top two-seater's top speed at 198 mph — or 3 mph down on the fixed-roof coupe, which is claimed to run to 203 mph.

Edmunds.com says: Ferrari breaks tradition with the introduction of a hardtop Spider. Purists may prefer a fabric top, but the advanced engineering in this setup may leave them wondering why.

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