- Available for £315,000
- 4.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol V8, rear-wheel drive
- Pared down for mega-trackyness, so not mega-refined on the road
- Incredible reliability by any standards
- After a blip prices are on the way up
- Aperta convertibles are reassuringly expensive
In 2013, four years into the 458’s production run, Ferrari released the Speciale. It was the fourth member of a ‘more power, less weight’ Ferrari line that had started with the 1992 348 Competizione. Follow-ups came in 1999 with the F355 Fiorano, 2003 (360 Challenge Stradale) and 2007 (430 Scuderia). There was a 458 Challenge in 2010 but that was track only.
Ferrari might not be that great at establishing a name for a sub-brand and then sticking with it, but the cars under the badges made it very easy to forgive that. The 458 Speciale was the high-performance version of the regular 458 Italia, a car criticised by few. Measured against such a high bar the Speciale could easily have been a disappointment, but it fully lived up to its super-458 billing, not only in its 430hp-per-tonne performance figures giving 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds and a 202mph top speed, but also in its sublime road manners. Substantial weight cutting plus active downforce flaps and other aero body tweaks worked seamlessly with world-class suspension and a newly introduced Side Slip-angle Control system to deliver an utterly thrilling drive that had the world’s journalists struggling to find adequate words to describe it.
The Speciale was a five-star car all the way. Other supercars could trump it on measurable performance but few, if any, could beat its mix of poise and potency. At the Fiorano test track, its 133hp per litre – then a world record figure for a naturally aspirated road engine – and superb chassis made it 1.5 seconds quicker than the standard 458 Italia, 0.5 seconds quicker than the 599 GTO, and only marginally slower than the mighty 730hp F12 Berlinetta. It was also really pretty.
The convertible 458 Speciale A (for Aperta) version of the Speciale was launched at the 2014 Paris show. Besides the obvious difference above your head, the Aperta had unique diamond-cut tulip-spoke wheels plus some livery changes which we’ll get into in the Body section later on. The car needed to be stationary for roof deployment but the process only took 14 seconds.
499 Apertas were built, 49 of which were assigned to the UK. Of course, some LHD cars were imported here but it’s still a rare car and that rarity has very much lifted the Aperta’s values, just as it did with the convertible version of the 458 Italia. Dealers were offering owners double the Aperta’s £228,000 new price pretty much as soon as they hit the road and values eventually crossed the £700k mark. They dropped to £500-£600k in 2021 because of global financial uncertainty but by mid-2023 they were back up again to over £700k, or ‘POA’ which as we all know is usually more than the highest published price you’ll see. The first Aperta off the line was auctioned for charity in the US for $900,000. All pretty incredible really when you consider that the convertible was only £20k more expensive than the Coupe when it was new.
Both Speciale and Aperta lines came to a halt in 2015, clearing the way for the turbocharged 488. Nobody is sure how many Speciale coupes were made. It was a limited production vehicle, but the limit was on the timeframe rather than numbers. You’ll see estimates (or guesses as they are sometimes called) spanning a range from 2,000 to 3,000 worldwide, of which around 250 were UK-supplied right-hand drive cars.
Coupe values didn’t take off like Apertas, with fairly minimal initial increases to around £250k. However, by 2015 they were up to £400,000. Like the Apertas they dropped back in the early 2020s, in their case to around £250k, but today they’re back up again to a current starting price of around £315,000-£320,000, reflecting a growing interest not just in the last of the naturally aspirated Ferrari V8 engines – a unit which won the ‘Best Performance Engine of the Year’ award in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – but also in the sheer magnificence of the Speciale driving experience.
SPECIFICATION | FERRARI 458 SPECIALE (2014-16) + APERTA (2015-16)
Engine: 4,497cc V8 32v
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 605@9,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@6,000rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.0
Top speed (mph): 202
Weight (kg): 1,395
MPG (official combined): 20.9
CO2 (g/km): 275
Wheels (in): 9 x 20 (f), 11 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
On sale: 2014 - 2016
Price new: from £208,000 (Aperta £228,000)
Price now: from £315,100
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Ferrari has quite a reputation for designing and building epic engines and the Speciale’s dry-sumped, naturally-aspirated, direct injection flat-plane 4.5 litre V8 – built on a bored-out version of the 430’s F160 block – fitted right into that tradition. Its 605hp maximum (35hp up on the normal 458, but with an identical 398lb ft figure) was remarkable for the fact that, as in the 458, it was developed at a rampant 9,000rpm, which was also the rev limit. It was an opera singer of an engine with lower-friction internals, higher-lift cams, higher-compression pistons and shorter inlet manifolds than the 458. These mods plus the use of aluminium for the 25 per cent reduced back pressure exhaust and carbon fibre for the intake were responsible for 8kg of the 90kg that the Speciale sliced off the 458 Italia.
They also partly accounted for the 0.4 seconds snipped off the 458’s 0-62mph time, although the modified Getrag 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox also had a say in that. Previously used in the California and the Mercedes SLS, the Getrag had lightning-fast shift speeds which became even faster on the Speciale, with quicker rev-matching on downshifts. There was no manual option, although earlier this year (2023) US-based Ferrari specialist Modificata brought out a gated six-speed manual conversion for the car. A car fitted with that is bound to be slower than the factory auto but for many that will be worth it in exchange for the legendary clickety-clack of the gearchange.
New buyers could specify a HELE (Hi Emotion, Low Emission), which was a kind of deluxe stop-start system. If the used Speciale you’re buying is fitted with it, you don’t have to use it because it could be disabled by a button in the ceiling light panel. Essentially it was a way for owners in high-taxation countries to get a bit of money back from their Government.
Mechanically the Speciale has a great record for reliability. Some 2012-ish 458s suffered from engine failure caused by incorrectly fitted crankshafts. A recall was put out for that, affecting 200 or so cars. One high-mile 458 came down with a bad case of camshaft wear, and faulty fuel senders were an issue too, but we couldn’t find evidence of problems in any of these areas on the Speciale.
Similarly, the difficulties that some early 458 owners experienced with their transmissions and clutches have not been replicated in the Speciale, which came with a seven-year servicing package, a four-year/unlimited mileage warranty and a year’s worth of tracking. Tracking, not trackdaying, though plenty of owners went in for that. They wouldn’t have had as broad a comparison sample as journalists who had tried out hundreds of cars on the world’s tracks. Many of these scribblers put the Speciale right up at the top of their ‘best ever’ road-going track car list. Luckily they weren’t paying for fuel, which in that environment would be disappearing at the rate of 6mpg. The tank held 90 litres though so you were good for 400 miles between fills as long as you were running reasonably close to the 20.9mpg official combined mark.
Servicing costs at a specialist are surprisingly reasonable at under £500 for an inspection and report, under £650 for an oil and filter service, under £900 for an annual service and under £1,200 for a major. Timing on this engine is by chain not belt.
With 58 per cent of its weight over its rear wheels, the mid-engined 458 Speciale was razor-sharp in its responses. Some testers said they found it almost too reactive but they usually came back to their senses after slapping themselves in the face.
A new wet-weather friendly tread design was put together for the Speciale’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and the adaptive dampers were recalibrated to tie everything together in a wonderfully balanced package. The basic chassis would have been magnificent on its own but when you added in the cunning driver aids plus the new SSC (Side Slip-angle Control) which worked with the car’s traction control and e-diff to deliver an extra element of on-limit fun, the end result was no less than a total triumph.
The 398mm front, 360mm rear carbon-ceramic brakes (also using a new compound) had no problem stopping something that weighed only 1,395kg. Forged wheels accounted for 12kg of the 90kg saving over the Italia. The 458’s steering geometry (and the easy availability of opposite-lock cornering) could accelerate inner-edge tyre wear. The low mileage typically accumulated by cars like the Speciale, combined with their age, makes it a good idea for used buyers to keep a close eye on the tyres which could easily be original on some of the cars that come up for sale.
The dampers for the magnetic adaptive suspension (which were also used on the Audi R8) do have a reputation for leaking and they’re not cheap to replace. Front lift is not as essential on the Speciale as it can be on other supercars as there’s good ground clearance built-in plus the backup feature of a plastic protector under the front of the car.
A Lexan engine cover and thinner glass trimmed 13kg off the 458. Active aero played a big part in keeping what weight remained under the wind. Flaps on either side of the front prancing horse stayed shut below 106mph to feed cooling air to the radiators. Between 106mph and 137mph they opened to cut drag, and above 137mph they moved to a new position to add rear downforce and shift the front-rear balance backwards for better stability at higher speeds.
The aluminium exhaust followed a new route to allow optimal operation of the Speciale’s new diffuser whose active flap angle was dependent on speed, steering and throttle settings. The way it worked was a brilliant exposition of the chassis engineers’ skill, and confirmation if any were needed that racing really did improve the breed.
Colour has always been very important on any Ferrari. For the Speciale, Rosso Corsa red was of course nailed on as the no-cost default colour but other colours were equally popular, with smoothly painted stripes (not stickers) adding an extra design dimension. Red bodywork with a blue and white ‘NART’ stripe was well liked, as was Giallo Triplo Strato (yellow) with a black and grey stripe, or Bianco (white) with a black stripe, or green and red stripes for a patriotic tricolore effect. The Aperta’s NART stripes were inverted, i.e., blue on the outside and white on the inside, with a blue pinstripe. You weren’t allowed to have that livery on a Speciale coupe. A few cars were ordered without a stripe. Stone chips on these were less difficult to touch up but stripeless cars tend not to reach top prices on the used market.
Special paints were available, usually at a £15k-£16k premium. On the reds you could have Rosso Formula 1 2007, a sought-after red with a gold flake through it, or Dino, Fuoco, Scuderia, Fiorano, and Maranello variants. You should be able to find a red to your taste. Failing that there was black, silver, grey (e.g. Silverstone or Titanio) or various blues including Tour de France. They all looked amazing. On grey or white cars a contrasting roof colour worked well.
Carbon wing-top air vents were a relatively cheap option at £1,500 but even so not every Speciale has them. Carbon fins were more expensive at £2,500 but are perhaps more commonly seen on used cars than the wing vents. Carbon generally looked ‘right’ on the Speciale. You can retrofit carbon with factory parts but at a somewhat higher cost than if the car had been specced with them from new.
Parking sensors and rear cameras make a lot of sense on this type of car, as does Advanced Front Lighting if you’re going to be doing any amount of night-time driving. There have been very occasional reports of the fuel filler cap release cord snapping. Ferrari provided a manual release to get you round that.
Unless you specified the Alcantara add-ons to cover up what would otherwise be bare metal surfaces the Speciale’s cabin was spartan. Even if you were applying kit car standards to it, it looked basic.
This apparent minimalism all fuelled the fires of outrage about the new price of the car back in 2013, most of it drummed up in the tabloid media, but buyers who understood the Speciale concept – some of whom had been F40 owners – knew that less was more. What mattered was the driving position and the ease of access to key controls. Both were exemplary.
A carbon fibre driving zone was standard on the Speciale, with the dash, door panels, sill kick plates, central ‘blade’ with the transmission selector buttons and the desirable steering wheel with LED change-up lights all made from it. On top of that, you got carbon-shelled racing seats. New buyers had to choose between four-point race harnesses or seat belts. Regular belts are much more convenient for everyday use.
The Speciale offered a ‘3D’ bespoke seat fabric that wicked the heat away from your back and backside. Full Alcantara was a nice choice and cars thus equipped are seen as more desirable than full leather ones. Climate control was included – even purists liked to keep cool – but sat nav and Bluetooth were absent by default. If you paid to have the media reinstated you could then order up a £6,000 factory telemetry system that would not only give you just about any information you might want to have about how you were doing on a particular circuit, but also suggestions as to how you might improve your performance through increased corner speeds and the like.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the painstaking effort Ferrari put into getting the 458 Speciale just right, not just in the drivetrain but also the chassis and the cabin. It was practically a nut-and-bolt rejig of an already brilliant car. The aero package in particular seems to have been a labour of love. You can imagine the engineers really enjoying the process. What a sense of vindication they must have felt when the car’s performance was first revealed at Fiorano.
The Speciale wasn’t just a car to jump in and enjoy, although you could do that. It was a car to drive and savour. To do that you had to see past the lack of civility, easy enough once you understood that the extraordinary purity of the driving experience was due in large part to the paring-down that had gone into its design. Undoubtedly there were rivals wielding bigger sticks, and there were truly exceptional cars like the considerably cheaper 911 GT3 which came close to matching the Ferrari, but we’re struggling to think of anything that was obviously superior to it on road or track.
There was a lot of muttering in 2013 about the Speciale’s launch price of £208k without options, which was £30k more than the normal 458 Italia, but ten years later with Speciale base used prices starting at 50 per cent above that new price (and apparently on the way up after a blip in the early 2020s) £208k now looks crazily cheap.
Not many Speciale owners have sold their cars. Without speaking to every one of those who did it’s a fair bet that most if not all of them will have suffered from seller’s remorse. Not just because the values have shot up, partly of course because not many cars come on the market, but also because they’ve found it difficult to find anything to equal let alone beat it.
As a bonus, the Speciale’s reliability record looks all but spotless. Bad moments seem to have been restricted to trackdays where any car would be more open to breakage. Organised two-day Corso Pilota courses in which thirty bods thrashed the living daylights out of Speciales generally resulted in zero problems.
Most Speciales on sale in the UK today will have been registered in either 2014 or 2015, with just a few early 2016 cars available. The most affordable coupe (or berlinetta to use the official Ferrari handle) on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this 2015 UK car with 6,300 miles on it. It does have carbon sill fins, sat-nav/Bluetooth, rear camera and parking sensors but not the carbon wing vents. Not everyone will like white with a black roof and a tan Alcantara interior that looks like it might create windscreen reflections. On top of that a service is due, but the price is right (relatively) at £317,500.
For a few dollars more (£329,950) you could be into this slightly leggier but arguably more appealingly specced 19,000-mile Rosso Corsa with full carbon (including the sills, which not everyone is a fan of), titanium Novitec exhaust, nav, Bluetooth, camera and lift system.
There’s a decent choice of coupes on PH in the £350k area, going up to £395k for this 1,300-miler, but if it’s an Aperta you’re after, and why wouldn’t you be, the sound is absolutely glorious, the bad news is that the POA 87-miler signed by Raikkonen and Vettel that our Matt told you about in May ‘23 has either been sold or, if the owner has decided to hang on for a bit longer, withdrawn from sale. Fear not though: as we went to press you could still grab this late-model delivery mileage (72) car for £5 short of £740k.
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