The Ferrari 458 Italia is the most awarded Ferrari of all time, so can lopping the roof off make it any better, or has Ferrari ruined a masterpiece?
The Ferrari 458 Spider replaces the Ferrari F430 Spider, which was arguably one of the world’s best supercars.
While the F430 drew a crowd, the 458 is absolutely stunning to look at.
From the elegant nose with its LED headlamps, to the bold haunches, the Spider’s proportions have it dripping with emotion in a way only a Ferrari can.
The rear-end of the Ferrari 458 Spider – a car Ferrari says is the world’s first mid-rear engine sports car with a retractable folding hardtop – has the same trademark circular tail lights and triple-exhaust positioned in the rear diffuser as the fixed-roof Ferrari 458, but gains turrets behind the seats that melt into the body in a superbly integrated design.
While Lamborghini has focused on carbonfibre to reduce weight and increase strength, Ferrari has invested a great deal in aluminium technology and the Spider’s hardtop is a prime example.
Ferrari says that it weighs 25kg less than an equivalent soft-top, while offering more refinement. It takes only 14 seconds to open or close, making a swift traffic light change easy or a sudden downpour less of a worry.
There’s a clever piece of design where the glass rear windscreen also doubles as a wind deflector to prevent buffeting, but more importantly it also lets you hear the addictive sound of the award-winning 4.5-litre V8 as it drenches the cabin with its shrieking, high-revving timbre.
Sadly though, the turrets replace the 458 coupe’s transparent engine cover, denying owners the joy of looking at the superbly crafted V8, something that archrival McLaren has achieved with both coupe and convertible versions of its McLaren MP4-12C.
The McLaren simply can’t match the emotional appeal of the Ferrari, though; with the roof off, the Ferrari 458 Spider is pure entertainment with its theatrical note and charismatic looks.
While bassy at idle, the 419kW 4.5-litre V8 develops a fabulous bark at more than 3000rpm before a race-car like shriek as it revs hard all the way to its 9000rpm redline.
It’s faster than the Audi R8 V10, with a 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds, and it’s only a tenth of a second slower than the Ferrari 458 coupe.
You can slap through the seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox with its smooth and near-instant rapid-fire changes while the urge of 540Nm at 6000rpm provides effortless motion.
Like the coupe, there’s no manual version, but there’s still a 320km/h top speed.
The Ferrari 458 Spider weighs 1420kg – an extra 50kg over the coupe –courtesy of the inevitable body strengthening required for a performance car with no full-time roof.
It’s still relatively lightweight, with its all-aluminium chassis suffering only a tiny bit more flex – but genuinely tiny – compared to the coupe, but it’s so minor that you’ll be hard-pressed to notice, even if you drive the coupe and Spider back-to-back.
From the Manettino switch on the leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, there’s a choice of driving modes that allow you to go as far as turning all driver aids off.
Here, the Ferrari 458 Spider is at its most raw, most brutal and arguably best, with telepathic steering response and sublime changes of direction.
The 20-inch alloy wheels and stiff sports suspension provide abundant grip and poise, ensuring it doesn’t feel any less exciting than the coupe, and still stops in near instant fashion with the standard carbon-ceramic brakes.
Flick it into Sport mode – which keeps some of the safety nets, like stability control, still in place – and the 458 Spider is surprisingly comfortable, soaking up bumps well around town.
This, combined with enough space behind the seats for a set of golf clubs and the large front storage area, makes the Ferrari 458 Spider much more practical than you’d expect for a no compromise supercar.
Fuel efficiency is impressive, too, with a combined figure of 11.8L/100km. But that’s still pipped by McLaren’s claim of 11.7L/100km for the MP4-12C.
Ferraris are never what you’d call cheap, but the Ferrari 458 Spider will start at $590,000, making it $63,000 more than the coupe.
It’s also nearly $200,000 more than both the V8 and V10 versions of the Audi R8 Spyder and $50,000 more than the McLaren MP4-12C Spider. The recently unveiled Lamborghini Aventador Spyder, however, will likely be more expensive.
It’s no surprise that Ferrari says the 458 Spider will make up one-third of its global sales, as it’s just as exhilarating to drive and arguably has even more sex appeal than its hardtop sibling.
There’s also no better way to enjoy the V8 masterpiece behind you, making the Ferrari 458 Spider the pick for its sensory experience alone.