Ferrari 458 Spider review

* Ferrari's drop-top 458 tested * Price 198,856 * On sale now...

Ferrari 458 Spider review

What is it? This is the Spider or open-top - version of Ferrari's much-praised 458 Italia, a 570bhp V8 supercar that hits 62mph in 3.4 seconds and will go on to 199mph.

Rather than the fabric top used by the F430 Spider that it replaces, the 458 Spider gets a two-piece electrically operated aluminium roof. It takes just 14 seconds to pack itself into an impressively small space, which preserves the sizeable luggage area behind the 458's two seats.

The redesigned rear bodywork now hides the engine beneath a metal cover rather than exposing it through glass. The buttresses behind the 458's doors provide not only hinging for the roof, but roll-over protection, too.

Ferrari has strengthened the roofless 458 sufficiently to allow its suspension to remain unchanged, aside from a slight softening of the electronic dampers; Spider owners demand a little more comfort, according to Ferrari.

What's it like to drive? If you think the (slightly) softer suspension lessens the drama of driving a 458, think again: this thing launches itself down the road like a guided missile.

It's ferociously rapid, as well as dartingly fast into corners, which it can tackle at scarcely believable speeds. Yet it's also surprisingly easy to drive fast or slow once you're familiar with the semi-auto gearbox's paddleshifts, and the buttons that start the engine and engage reverse.

There's also a rotary knob on the steering wheel called a Manettino, which sharpens the car's responses, the soundtrack, and the level of the electronic anti-skid aids.

What's it like inside? A haven of sumptuous complexity will likely be your first impression of this cabin.

The complexity is to be found on the steering wheel, which carries a vast array of knobs, and a dashboard display and infotainment system that takes quite some mastering. Still, the major controls are easily managed.

Roof up, the 458 Spider feels sportily snug, and its retractable hard-top helps keep wind noise to a minimum, even at high speeds, making this Spider just as civilised as the coupe.

Roof down, Ferrari's efforts to control in-cockpit drafts have been successful, there's no more than a cooling swirl of air with the side windows up. Drop them and there's more of a blast, but it's rarely uncomfortable.

Should I buy one? If you're in the market for a drop-top supercar, this Ferrari should be on your shortlist. It remains the utterly addictive driver's car that the 458 coupe is, while the body barely quivers at all with the loss of the fixed roof.

Not only do you gain the more connected sensations of open-sky motoring, but a more audible exhaust too. You can also drive it roof up, but with the rear window down, allowing you to hear the engine's efforts on a rainy day.

More practically, the 458 Spider is now available with an optional package of so-called HELE (high-emotion, low-emission) economy features, including an engine stop-start system, which usefully improve its fuel consumption and reduce emissions. They're not bad value in the context of the 458's price either, although the road tax remains the same.

These days Ferrari's V8 supercars are looking extremely pricey, but they're extremely accomplished with it. Few cars of any price deliver as much exhilaration, and the Spider only makes the experience that bit more memorable.