Used 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Coupe
Edmunds' Expert Review
What the 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia loses in ergonomic perfection, it makes up for with all-out performance. As V8 exotics go, the 458 sets the bar.
There's nothing quite like the sound of the 2012 Ferrari 458's V8 -- a mechanical 562-horsepower scream that's only a few inches from the driver's head. There's really only one way to make it better, and that would be to remove that pesky roof and back window unfortunately placed between your ears and its addictive wail. For 2012, that's exactly what's been done, as the convertible Spider model joins the 458 Italia coupe.
Together, the 458 Spider and Italia represent a stunning leap forward not only for Ferrari but also for supercars in general. Naturally you expect the perfect fore-and-aft balance of the handling, the precise steering and the fantastic high-tech electronics that combine to keep the car poised on the road while still making you feel fully engaged in the process. There's also the 4.5-liter V8 that can deliver the 458 from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. The act of driving doesn't really get much better -- at least when you've got a sparsely populated back road and a friend in the local sheriff's department to watch your back.
With the Spider added to the lineup, the 458 stands above the crowd in another way. Its clever retractable hardtop roof provides a quieter, more secure cabin and a better top-up appearance than a conventional convertible, yet the aluminum pieces of the top and its operating mechanism are actually lighter than a traditional folding soft top. Although the 458 sacrifices some structural integrity in the process of losing its roof, the Spider is still remarkably rigid, and it's hard to argue with the wind in your hair and sound of the high-revving V8 in your ears.
Even though the Ferrari 458 Italia and Spider are incredible to drive, they 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 the days 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 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia and Spider 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 doesn't (yet) offer a convertible version, but it's certainly an incredible machine in its own F1-bred right and doesn't suffer from the 458's ergonomic shortfalls. The Audi R8 coupe and convertible and Lamborghini Gallardo are in the game as well. Yet when it comes to overall driving involvement and pleasure, the Ferrari 458 remains the car that will deliver the most chills up your spine.
2012 Ferrari 458 Italia configurations
The 2012 Ferrari 458 is a two-seat exotic sports car available in two body styles. The coupe is known as the Italia and the convertible is known as the Spider.
Standard equipment includes 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. The Spider includes a fully powered retractable hardtop roof.
Both body styles can be equipped with forged alloy wheels, 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 can be furthermore equipped with run-flat tires.
The 458 is also highly customizable, with items that include three different standard seat designs (regular, Daytona-style and diamond quilt), multitone interior schemes, contrasting stitching, extended leather or faux-suede interior trim, four color choices for the instrument faces, carbon-fiber interior trim, a carbon-fiber steering wheel with built-in LED shift lights and, finally, specialty fit luggage. The Italia gets the option of contrasting roof colors.
Performance & mpg
The 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia and Spider are 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. Ferrari says it will go from a standstill 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 2012 Ferrari 458 comes with antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, traction and stability control and side airbags. A rearview camera and parking sensors are available.
The 458'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. The only way it could sound sweeter would be to remove the roof, and that's been done for 2012 thanks to the Spider. 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, and the response to even small inputs creates a sense of hyper control. The chassis is beautifully tuned, showcasing incredible talents around corners in a way that 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 2012 Ferrari 458 never feels as if it is relying upon digital 1s and 0s rather than old-fashioned analog engineering.
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, while the refinement and build quality are better than that of any previous Ferrari. Even the driving position is more comfortable than ever. So even if it can be a little frustrating to use, the 458's cabin at least offers the luxury one now expects from this rarefied segment of sports cars. The Spider also stands out with the first retractable hardtop applied to a midengine supercar. Not only does it maintain the look of the Italia coupe, but it also provides improved security and road noise isolation than the soft top of the previous-generation Ferrari F430 Spider. Top operation is also fairly quick, taking just 14 seconds to open or close.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
According to Ferrari, its sports car buyers are split into two very different camps.
The average buyer of the Ferrari 458 coupe likes to drive alone and fast, might take in the odd track event and revels in pushing his brakes, engine and suspension to the limit (or so he tells his friends).
The likely buyer of the 2012 Ferrari 458 Spider, on the other hand, is a much more sociable animal. He prefers to cruise at lower speeds, spends as much time as possible with the roof down, is more likely to use his car as a daily ride, and likes to take someone along to enjoy it.
Which is why, with the introduction of the new 458 Spider, Ferrari has made a conscious effort to create a slightly softer 458. Yep, it uses slightly different suspension tuning and a reprogrammed stability control system, but it's no second-class Ferrari. It's still aimed at the Ferrari faithful, while newcomers remain served by the even softer, front-engine California.
Spider Now Means Hardtop
The 458 does have one thing in common with the California: a folding hardtop. Ferrari figured that a folding hardtop was a surefire way to get one over on its supercar rivals even if building the world's first midengine hard-shell origami cabrio wasn't going to be easy.
Folding hardtops tend to be bulky, and an early idea of slipping the vertically folded top behind the rear seats as in a Mazda Miata was abandoned. It was discovered that it would have eaten into space in the engine bay, the wheel arches and fuel tank area, and would also mean losing the useful storage shelf behind the seats.
Instead, Ferrari revisited the 575 Superamerica, which had a hardtop that flipped 180 degrees to lie flat on the rear deck like a dead squirrel baking in the sun. The 458 Spider's top, though, is much more sophisticated. Its two panels are all hidden away neatly under the flip-up tonneau cover and there are no ugly roll bars. The aluminum chassis is so strong that the stumpy bases of the B-pillar, which form part of the stylish humps on the rear deck, are enough to support the car in a rollover crash on their own.
Top Is Quick as Long as You're Not Moving
Laying the top horizontally rather than vertically may have been better for space, but it does mean that you can no longer see the V8's red-crackle induction plenums. And unlike most power tops today, the 458's lid requires you to be absolutely stationary before the motors will whirr into action. Once they're moving, it takes 14 seconds to open or close the roof.
There are no catches to undo, just a simple switch in the center console between the seats. Two switches, in fact. The second one raises and lowers the pane of glass behind the seats that acts as the rear window with the roof up, and a wind deflector when the roof's down, an idea pinched from the BMW 6 Series.
Hours of computer modeling and wind tunnel work calculated the optimum position for the deflector at about 2 inches high, but you can raise it higher if you want.
Listening to the Hidden V8
According to Ferrari, the sound of the car is right up at the top of Spider buyers' priorities, so work was focused on getting that right with the roof down. The result is a new exhaust system and a soundtrack that — without the advantage of driving them back-to-back — sounds every bit as useful at erecting neck hairs as the coupe.
Exhaust apart, the Italia and Spider engines are identical. There's no soft California tune for this engine. You get the same direct-injection all-alloy engine as the Italia, the same 562 horsepower and the same crazy 9,000-rpm redline. This is a supercar engine from the old school, an engine like you used to imagine them as you gazed up at that poster on your bedroom wall — but in fact light-years better than that 1980s reality. It's loud, exciting and more than a little intimidating to newcomers.
Compared with the F430, there's far more torque, 398 pound-feet instead of 343, and 80 percent of it is available at just 3,250 rpm. But unlike the new wave of turbocharged supercar engines, you still don't unlock its true greatness until you wind the thing out toward that 9,000-rpm redline. Once there, you simply pull the huge column-mounted gearshift paddle back to engage the next of seven gears in the excellent dual-clutch gearbox. Changes are instant and seamless, which is good, as it's the only gearbox available.
Naturally, the folding roof and extra strengthening in the rocker panels of the aluminum chassis adds a little weight, in this case 110 pounds over the coupe's 3,042-pound dry weight. Ferrari says a cloth roof arrangement would have been another 55 pounds heavier. The key thing is that performance barely appears to have suffered at all. Ferrari still claims a 0-62-mph figure of 3.4 seconds. Only at the top of 6th gear are the coupe and convertible separated — the Spider being pegged to 198 mph thanks to its inferior aerodynamics, while the hardtop Italia stretches on to 202 mph. Big deal.
Also unlike those supercars you used to dream about, this is one you can jump in and thrash the pants off without worrying about ending up spearing backward through a hedge at your first corner. The combination of the electronically controlled E-diff 3 and Ferrari's F1-trac traction control system allows you to take outrageous liberties with the right pedal, even with the manettino lever on the steering wheel switched to Sport or even all the way up to Race.
The speed of the super-quick steering — typically Ferrari light and not quite reference quality for feel — still takes a mile or so to get used to and even then you might find yourself carving a tighter line than you'd planned. Slides, too — with the manettino switched to CTS Off' (the only position that will allow big angles) — are mostly gathered with a simple flick of the wrist instead of armfuls of opposite lock.
Despite its two-turn lock-to-lock rack, the 458 never feels remotely unstable on entry to a corner, something Ferrari attributes to its work on the rear suspension. And because more of that rear-end stiffness was achieved through spring rates rather than anti-sway bar girth compared with the F430, the ride is exceptional on uneven ground. Should you encounter some really bumpy terrain, there's a button on the steering wheel that relaxes the damping without turning off the spiky throttle response and exhaust note of the manettino's Race setting.
Great, but Not That Great
Inevitably, though, the Spider is not quite a match for the Italia coupe. Chopping the top means the Spider is around 30 percent less stiff than the Italia, although that's a big improvement over the old Spider, which was 40 percent bendier than its coupe equivalent. This time it's barely noticeable except for the occasional and barely detectable tremor from the rearview mirror over broken pavement and a touch more understeer when turning in to tighter corners.
You might find yourself spending more time in the Race setting, too, if you want to re-create the Italia's ultimate agility and body control. But we're talking degrees here. In real terms, the Spider offers almost all of the dynamic ability that made the coupe such a hit. And virtually all of its refinement, too. Raise the roof and you soon forget you're not piloting a true hardtop. It's quiet and squeak-free, although as the roof is not a structural component, there's no increase in chassis rigidity with it in place.
The rest of the car is unchanged. The confusing dashboard and the world's most button-heavy steering wheel are still as easy to decipher as a Tokyo subway map. But the quality is good, as is the cabin space, although the unfashionable mid-'80s-Civic-style floating dash means less room for center console storage. Our car had the standard chairs, but the optional, more sculpted sports buckets are mounted much lower for a better driving position and are worth a tick on an options list that also includes lightweight forged wheels and some beautiful fitted luggage. The trunk space in the nose is huge, big enough for three flight cases, and the shelf behind the seats is designed to swallow a golf bag.
The $30,000 Option
Compared to the $227,000 458 Italia, there's about a $30,000 premium to pay to get yourself a 458 Spider. Well, that, and a couple of years to wait if you haven't already got your name on the list.
You'll pay a dynamic penalty, too; but in real terms, unless you do a lot of track work, it's miniscule. You don't get to gaze at that engine when you park it either, but you get even more noise to remind you it's there. And the styling isn't inferior to the Italia's, only different. In fact, compared to the hardtop, the Spider loses almost nothing but offers a whole new dimension to its character at the flick of a switch.
Ferrari knows its customers better than anyone else. The Italia coupe is still the best drive, but the 458 Spider is so good, that we imagine more than a few die-hard coupe fans might find themselves wavering for the first time. That being the case, it's a shame they've softened it across the board without offering the option of leaving it alone. The average Spider buyer might prefer the more relaxed feel, but we'll take the convertible top and the hard-edged performance, too. Isn't that what a Ferrari is all about?
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Coupe Overview
The Used 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Coupe is offered in the following styles: 2dr Coupe (4.5L 8cyl 7AM).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.