Seven-seat version of Fiat 500L revealed with new ‘Multi Purpose Wagon’
Ferrari 458 Italia review (2010 onwards)
Model: Ferrari 458 Italia 4.5
Bodystyle: Two-door coupé
Engine: 4.5-litre V8, petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Gallery: Ferrari 458 Italia
Read more Ferrari reviews
Ferrari FF - Ferrari's new 4x4 four-seat
What is it?
MSN Cars' car of the year for 2010 no less. So, does the Ferrari 458 Italia deserve its accolade? Time to find out, snowy weather no barrier to putting the latest mid-engined Ferrari through its paces thanks to Pirelli Sottozero winter tyres...
And just look at it! The F430 had that essential Ferrari sense of exotica. But, let's face it, it was no looker. No such problem with the 458, which pulls off functional and aesthetic beauty with equal ease.
Where does it fit?
Rivals right now would include the equally talented, if very different, Mercedes SLS AMG (571hp, £160K) and Lamborghini 560hp Gallardo LP560-4 in both standard and 570hp Superleggera (£180K) form. But the 458's true rival is a Brit.
Yes, the £168,500 McLaren MP4-12C so closely mirrors the £170K 458 in almost every regard it's like the two were built to compete and take the two firms' legendary Formula One duelling to the road. Which, more or less, they were.
There are important differences. But in price and on-paper stats the Ferrari and McLaren are very closely matched. For the 458's 570hp - 80hp up on the F430 - McLaren counters with 'around' 600hp. Size, weight and price are keenly matched.
The Ferrari guys are clearly obsessed with the McLaren, referring to it constantly when we went to pick up the 458. But they're not scared. They know they've set McLaren a mighty, mighty target with the Italia. And can't wait to prove it!
Is it for you?
Life with an Italian supercar like a Ferrari traditionally demanded compromises. You'd accept the glamour and association with that unmatched racing pedigree came at the expense of daily usability and practicality.
No more. No longer is a hardcore mid-engined Ferrari a car that needs mastering. Learning. Coping with. The 458 Italia is as usable as a 911 or an Audi R8 and feels as mechanically tough too. But in terms of pose value it's in another league.
Nothing comes close to the drama of driving a Ferrari. The lack of that racing pedigree will forever be a chip on Lamborghini's shoulder, no matter how dramatic its cars.
And no matter how much Ferrari prostitutes that famous prancing horse with merchandise and theme parks, when it's worn by a car like the 458 the association is with Formula One champions, not branded polo shirts and baseball caps.
What does it do well?
The 458 Italia is nothing if not willing to deliver on the kind of thrills you hope for when firing up a £200K's worth (as our test car was) of Italian exotica. And your heart will be racing before you've even pressed that red start button.
Thing is, once the initial novelty wears off you quickly realise there's nothing to fear. Sure, the steering feels weirdly light and startlingly direct. And at low revs the engine strangely flat in tone.
But it rides OK. And in auto mode the new dual-clutch transmission slurs the shifts with none of the lurches or hesitation of previous Ferrari gearboxes. You can see out of it. It's all so easy.
Enough tip-toeing. Time to push harder. And you know what? It's still just as easy. The engine's reach is epic. Happy to short shift to seventh at little over 30mph in traffic that same gear will take you to 9,000rpm and over 200mph.
You'd be missing out if you didn't give that left shifter paddle a few tugs to unleash the drama at lower speeds though. Tractable and yet utterly spectacular at high revs this screaming V8 is an absolute wonder.
There's a Lotus-esque sense of flow and connection to the tarmac in the 458 that flatters both marques. And this combination of sensitivity, poise and mind-numbing potency is every bit as thrilling as it sounds.
What doesn't it do well?
Quite simply? It's borderline too good. Like being given an amazing dish cooked by the most talented chef in the world and told you can only eat one forkful before the plate is whisked away, driving a 458 is a lesson in frustration.
The fact that neither car nor driver break a sweat when the numbers on the dials suggest they really should is a tribute to the 458's technical ability. But to sample even a fraction of its ability with even the faintest grasp on speed limits? Impossible.
What's it like to live with?
Driving a 458 Italia, especially one with the best part of £13K's worth of yellow paint, is like being in a very noisy, very fast and extremely ostentatious goldfish bowl. You are, and forever will be, the centre of attention.
Some of that attention is flattering. Quite a lot of it isn't. But that's something you're going to have to live with, no matter how purist you are about choosing the 458 Italia for it's sublime talents.
That dual-clutch gearbox is comfy around town and able to bang home racing car fast shifts with a twiddle of the manettino switch, the ride and traction control systems similarly able to adjust to your mood, talent and confidence.
And if you're driving the 458 anywhere near its limits on the public road the laws of the land will be a worry long before those of physics become an issue, even in the wet. And, with the right tyres it seems, the snow too.
How green is it?
307g/km isn't actually half bad for the performance of the 458. But who are we trying to kid. The Italia is as ecologically friendly as it is shy and retiring and if you make it out of the teens mpg you haven't been going quick enough.
That said, direct-injection helps curb the worst excesses and the work involved in engineering a system that'll cope with the demands of a 4.5-litre V8 spinning at 9,000rpm aren't to be underestimated.
Would we buy it?
The combination of drama, occasion and sheer pulse racing excitement generated by any drive in the 458 Italia is reason enough to say yes, of course we'd buy it. Especially given that it'll do all that with a new-found sense of usability too.
But it's all so easy. Purists and posers alike will love the accessibility of the performance. But the 458 doesn't make you work for your gratification at all. Criticising it is hard. But if there is a fault this is it.
Gallery: Ferrari 458 Italia
Read more Ferrari reviews
Winter motoring guide
Join MSN Cars on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
Engineers are using robots to test Ford vehicles through some of the most strenuous obstacles in the industry.
Date 18/06/13, Duration 2:20, Views 360