Ferrari 458 Speciale, the king of speed: Motoramic Drives
Creating an encore to the Ferrari 458 Italia is like trying to blow U2 off a stadium stage: It’s one tough act to follow.
But rocketing the new 458 Speciale around Ferrari’s historic Fiorano track in Maranello, Italy, it’s clear that company engineers have a $298,000 triumph on their hands. They’ve taken one of the world’s most heart-pounding sports cars, and rammed fiery shots of adrenaline and technology down its finely tuned throat.
That technology includes the most powerful V-8 of any roadgoing Ferrari in history: 596 hp from just 4.5 liters of displacement, up from 562 in the Italia. In terms of horsepower to engine size, that’s also the mightiest naturally aspirated engine in the history of production cars, at nearly 133 horsepower per liter. That monstrous output is aided by an insane 14:1 compression ratio, the highest of any V-8 in the world.
Like previous special-edition, mid-engine Ferrari berlinetta coupes, like the 360 Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia, the Speciale is the hardest of the hardcore. It’s a stripped-down, muscled-up shriekfest, its brain bursting with dirty little secrets from Ferrari’s Formula One playbook. This is not a Ferrari for South Beach poseurs or NFL bonus babies. Ferrari calls the car a training tool — with a learning curve, but still safe and approachable — for serious drivers who want to challenge and improve their skills. Company executives estimate that 50 percent of Speciale buyers are racetrack regulars.
With a slender curb weight of just 3,075 lbs., nearly 200 fewer than the Italia, the Speciale doesn’t even have a standard audio system. Yet owners can choose a telemetry system that records race laps on USB, with a teaching-tool app for detailed analysis of every lap and driving technique.
Measured against the old 360 Stradale and 430 Scuderia, the Speciale also represents a more extreme advance in performance over its standard version.
Ferrari actually calls the new braking system Extreme Design: The carbon-ceramic binders are taken directly from the new, roughly $1.3 million LaFerrari supercar. Those brakes, defying the bigger-is-better trend, are actually smaller up front than those on the Italia. Yet exotic calipers, high-silicon discs and hybrid-material braking pads reduce stopping distances and eliminate fade in the most brutal conditions.