Like its Frank Stephenson-designed 430 predecessor, the 458 was designed in collaboration with Pininfarina, but the headline designer for the new car was Donato Coco. Previously working for Citroen on the C2, C3 Pluriel, Xsara and C4, Coco also contributed to the 458, 430, California and 599XX. By the time the 458 went on sale however he was working for Lotus under Danny Behar.
The mid-engined 458’s 4.5-litre naturally-aspirated dry-sump V8 (hence the 458 name) was another product of the Ferrari-Maserati joint project. It was a 9,000rpm masterpiece, channelling 562hp and 398lb ft through a fast Getrag 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and working with sophisticated aerodynamics, cutting-edge suspension and carbon ceramic brakes with FBP-F ‘brake prefill’ (delay-minimising calipers) to deliver blinding performance on both track and road. The 0-62 time was 3.4 secs, the top speed 202mph. Michael Schumacher reportedly played a part in the car’s development. In another hat-tip to Formula 1, quite a few driver functions – even the indicators – were destalked and relocated to the steering wheel.
A track-only Ferrari 458 Challenge was announced in 2010. It had a stripped-out interior, thinner bodywork, polycarb windows, recalibrated transmission, stiffer/lower suspension, a 210mph top speed, and a 0-62 time of 2.9 sec. After Ferrari’s usual one-year delay a Spider edition of the roadgoing 458 was launched at the 2011 Frankfurt Show. It was the firm’s first mid-engined V8 hardtop convertible.
Sadly, the Spider’s redesigned bodywork hid the gorgeous engine from view and the extra body strengthening added 50kg to the overall weight, but on the plus side the twin humps doubled up as rollover protection, the 14-second retractable two-piece aluminium top was claimed to be considerably lighter than the old 430’s soft top, and the rigidity and integrity of the 458 design was uncompromised by the chop. The 458 Spider’s 0-62 time was the same as the coupe’s, but the top speed was slightly down at 199mph. More importantly the Spider managed to add even more emotion to the 458 experience. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Vicky Butler-Henderson was moved to tears while driving one around Italian country roads.
A high-performance 458 Speciale with 597hp, 398lb ft and a 0-62 time of 3.0 secs was revealed at the 2013 Frankfurt Show. The main physical differences between the Speciale and the regular 458 were the forged alloy wheels, vented bonnet, finned sills, larger rear spoiler, and a freer exhaust. Ferrari’s SSC (side-slip angle control) system was introduced, working with the car’s traction control and e-diff systems to add an extra edge of tuneability to on-limit handling.
A Speciale A (Aperta) convertible was announced at the following year’s (2014) Paris Show. Just 499 examples were built in its one-year lifespan before the 458 was phased out in 2015/16, to be replaced by the 488. It’s thought that the total number of 458s built over the six-year run is between 13,000 and 15,000.