The Ferrari 458 Spider is the new open-top version of the sensational Italia coupe. This is the first time we’ve tested it on British roads.
It’s powered by the same 570bhp V8 as the 458 coupe and has the same mid-engined chassis, although the suspension hase been slightly softened for the fresh-air version.
The biggest talking point, though, is that it doesn’t have a fabric hood, as has been the tradition for Ferrari’s mid-engined open tops. Instead it has a two-piece aluminium roof that folds away electrically, without compromising any luggage space – even if it does mean you lose that cool glass engine cover that distinguishes the coupe.
What’s it like to drive? On broken British roads the Spider’s slightly softer set-up is welcome because it brings a mildly improved ride. However, any concerns that this lessens the huge capabilities of the Spider are ill-founded: it can be speared down any road at unfeasibly high speeds.
The mightily impressive double-clutch gearbox also makes it fantastically easy to drive when you’re not in full-attack mode and not using the paddles to swap gears. In ‘auto’ mode it’s virtually as smooth as a conventional automatic ’box.
These attributes are shared with the coupe, so how similar are the two cars? Well, with the roof up you are hard-pressed to tell the difference. Roof down, though, there are some discernable shimmies through the wheel and wobbles when you hit lumps in the road. Still it’s far from being a deal-breaker.
What’s it like inside? Seriously snug, even with the roof down. We drove in temperatures close to zero, and because you sit so low and are so isolated from crosswinds, the Spider is never uncomfortable.
When its metal roof is latched in place, the Spider feels just like the coupe. True, this means you lose full access to the outstanding sound of that V8 behind your head, but you can let the noise back in by dropping the rear window independently of the roof.
Elsewhere, all of the controls are identical to the coupe's. The myriad of steering wheel buttons and binnacle displays take some getting used too because they’re so idiosyncratic – but they’re worth the effort to master.
Should I buy one? At this elevated price, the only real rival to the 458 Spider is the soft-top Lamborghini Gallardo, and the Ferrari comprehensively outguns it.
Next year, however, we’re expecting an open-top McLaren MP4-12C and this should provide more competition – although we doubt it will have anything like the visual or aural drama of the Ferrari.
So, for now at least, this is the finest open-top supercar you can buy. Albeit a pricey one. Is it better than the Coupe? Not quite, but we wouldn’t fault you for wanting the Spider’s extra pizzazz.
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What Car? says
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