My dad and I visited the Chianti wine region of Italy and decided it would be more fun to rent a Ferrari for the day. Enter this topless Italian beauty!
It was surprisingly quiet during civilized driving, and only started making angry noises once I opened it up. Obviously, it has baffles in the exhaust, but it was still disconcerting being in a 560hp mid-engine supercar that doesn’t make a noisy spectacle of itself when cruising through town. The sound was great in an F1 technical sort of way, but a Chevy small block V8 sounds more way more brutal and imposing.
Initially I was disappointed with the speed until I learned to downshift 3+ gears at once and really wring out that 9000 RPM redline. Remember, I drive a C6 Vette, so I’m used to having ridiculous torque from less than 2000 RPM. That’s where the Ferrari’s fancy DCT comes in handy, since you can downshift from 7th to 2nd pretty much instantaneously. And once you’re into the upper rev range, it’s properly fast.
Although, if I’m honest, I’m really not sold on the DCT. To preface, the first time I sampled a paddle-shift gearbox was in a Ferrari 599, and it was an awkward, jerky, uncoordinated dumpster fire of a crapbox. That said, I later test drove Porsche’s PDK, and was pleasantly surprised at how its 3 settings matched normal/spirited/track driving styles.
But IMO, the 458's dual clutch was actually pretty disappointing by comparison. Immediately after setting off, it defaults to grandma mode (7th gear at 30mph). But after a bit of spirited driving, it stops changing gears on its own and waits for you to shift manually. So once you catch up to traffic or enter a town, it refuses to upshift. So unless you’re at a race track, the gearbox is constantly fighting you or just shirking its responsibilities in auto mode. It would have been more fun with a manual.
But where the 458 really shines is in the twisties. The steering and turn-in was phenomenal. Incredibly quick steering and a light/eager front end. You really feel it plant itself when accelerating out of a turn. Above all, it feels incredibly small for its size, and really makes you seek out twisty back roads. The 458 drives like a Boxster that just happens to have 560 hp. It really is in a class of its own.
Some random notes:
1) The 458's cupholders are a joke. It has one “functional” cupholder and a shallow cupholder-shaped tray for loose change (remember, Euro coins are actually worth something).
2) The interior door handles are fantastically chinsy and feel like they’re about to snap off when you pull them.
3) The turn signal bong is too damn quiet, so you’re constantly driving around with your indicators on.