Spotted in the Wild: Ferrari 458 Spyder

Two days ago some of the top automotive journalists were invited to Maranello to drive the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta.  As my twitter account is full of their thoughts I was able to see pictures, videos, and read their reviews of this new behemoth as soon as they were posted.  But this, the newest and most powerful Ferrari, got me thinking about the prancing horse in general.

Ferrari engineers do not let auto journalists anywhere near their cars unless they have “set them up” first.  In a recent story, the managing editor of one of my favorite magazines signed up for a driving event that involved a Ferrari FF.  When the company found out that he was driving it they quickly called to say that unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to hand him the keys as that particular FF wasn’t meant for journalists.  In another story, Chris Harris (whom I think is one of the greatest auto writers of all time for his genre defining video reviews) is no longer allowed to drive press car Ferraris because he once commented on the fact that Ferrari deliberately manipulate the behavior of their road cars before journalists drive them.  Other manufacturers make a car and say, “What do you think?”, while Ferrari dares you to say anything negative.

The Italian company’s justice is swift and merciless.  Rumors abound of customers who are no longer allowed to purchase new Ferraris as they have let journalists drive their cars without asking Maranello first.  I’m sorry, but if I own an orange and I want to lend it to my friend I’m not going to ask the tree that it grew on for permission.

Ferrari has more demand than ever before which allows them the privilege of turning away customers.  I would say that they don’t care about their clientele, but that is clearly not true in the fact that they do fiddle their cars specifically for the journalists to try.  This is tantamount to the doping scandals in baseball, and it only really adds to the mystiques that is Ferrari.

All of what I have just said is nice, but if I had the money none of this would change the fact that I would still love to buy a brand new Ferrari.  And when buying an exotic car, the newest is usually the best, which brings us to the F12.  It’s officially called the F12berlinetta as someone at Ferrari forgot about spaces and capital letters.  As seen from the pictures it’s a modern evolution on the 599 that it replaces.  Smaller, lighters, and more powerful than its predecessor, the F12 is quite an improvement.  Boasting a 6.3L V12 that it shares with the FF, albeit in a different guise here that produces 730hp, and allows it to lap the Fiorano test track at Ferrari HQ faster than the fabled Enzo.

The F12 is a techfest.  Take the “Aero Bridge”: simply described as a small opening on either side of the hood that allows air to flow, unimpeded over the front and along the side of the car.  It increases the cars downforce while reducing its drag.  Many other bits of trick aerodynamic wizardry are at work, but none of them look as good as the Aero Bridge.  Overall, the F12 is modern and sleek where the 599 was bluff and raw.

My personal rant on Ferrari’s business practices and this interesting information on the new F12 are all well and good, but have absolutely nothing to do with the title of this article.  Ferrari is fun to discuss, and any new model they create will make headlines, but it’s always a special event to actually see and hear one in public.  Which is just what happened the other day.

The restaurant I work at is near some very affluent households, so the automotive eye candy that is put on display during the warmer months is always something of a treat.  And on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the same day that the F12 was released to the press I had this rosso corsa beauty parked right outside.

Whereas the F12 is Ferrari’s grand tourer, and the FF is the family wagon, the 458 has always been the pure sports car.  Its mid-engined V8 pushes out 562hp and 398 torques in a package that weighs just a few more pounds than my GTI.  As with all of Ferrari’s recent offerings, no manual transmission is offered with the 458, only a dual-clutch 7-speed that helps to achieve the 3.4 second 0-96kph time.  Funnily enough the F12 only does the dash in 3.1 seconds, and needs an extra 168hp to do it.

That gearbox I mentioned is also shared with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, but in each car it has been fine tuned to behave differently.  The Mercedes is all about “wafting”, while the 458 has lightning quick gear changes to match its hard core, road racer image, which is a role it most certainty fills.

The styling has been defined as insect like, and after looking at one head on it’s plain to see the futuristic bug-like stance that this car carries itself with.  The car possesses revolutionary technology while at the same time paying homage to some of the prancing horse’s greatest steeds.  The front grill, for example, contains deformable winglets that change shape at speed to reduce drag, while there are also three horizontally placed exhausts at the rear with the central pipe being slightly smaller in diameter then its neighbors, mimicking the legendary F40.  The overall design for the car drew inspiration from the company’s most recent hypercar, the Enzo.

Debuting at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011, the Spyder variant of the 458 brought the addition of a retractable hard-top.  Usually, this variant compromises the look of a mid-engined car, in my humble opinion, as they generally necessitate the deletion of the glass panel over the engine in favour of a closed canopy to stow the roof when folded.  The Spyder follows this formula, but the designers (Pininfarina) were able to create a simply stunning lid that is almost sexual in its curves.

Simply put, the Spyder is better looking than the Coupe.  It’s almost identical with the roof up, even better with it down, and provides more of an opportunity to here that V8 run towards its 9,000rpm limiter.  I’m thankful that this owner decides to visit an establishment around my place of business (he’s not visiting my restaurant as he’s always gone before we open so what does that say about our food?) as it gives me more opportunity to drink in the beauty of this beast.  Plus watching him lower the roof in 14 seconds is pretty entertaining.

What would I buy if I had the choice?  All of them.  I always hate how people feel they have to pick just one when asked “which one would you buy?”.  I would have a coupe until the Spyder came out, then sell it because we don’t want redundancies in our dream garage.  An F12 and FF would look perfect next to it, so I’d have those as well.  Dare to dream.


~ by ubercar on July 31, 2012.

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