Motorised loo can hit 55mph - gunning for world's fastest toilet record
Ferrari 458 Spider review (2012 onwards)
What - Ferrari 458 Spider
Where - Central Italy
Date - October 2011
Price - £198,856
Available - Spring 2012
Key rivals - Aston Martin DBS Volante, McLaren MP4-12C, Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster, Audi R8 GT Spyder, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
Summary - The perfect supercar on every level
We like - Awesome performance, intuitive driving experience, fabulous sound
We don't like - The price
Ferrari was never going to sit back and let McLaren get all the headlines. As impressive as the MP4-12C is, the 458 Italia was always going to give it a run for its money.
Now there's a Spider version of the 458, with a neat two-piece aluminium roof that folds behind the seats in just 14 seconds. You lose the coupé's glass-topped engine cover and view of the 570hp V8 as a result but that could be a minor trade-off.
It's a superb design. Without an Italia alongside as reference the Spider looks just like the coupé with its top in place. Detailing around the rear haunches is changed, and there are new air intakes, but the result is remarkably cohesive.
The core specification of the Spider is identical to the Italia in most respects. But the Manettino settings for the chassis, throttle and more besides are redirected slightly towards more stability. Spider owners aren't likely to take their cars on track days.
At the same time the Italia coupé is sharpened up, Race setting more track focused than before and the gearchange more "involving". Ferrari now gives a seven-year maintenance programme on its new cars so some of those big-cost servicing worries can be laid to rest too.
The Spider costs almost bang on £200K, an eye-watering £25K more than the Italia coupé. There's certainly been some smart engineering for that extra. Just 50kg is added to the overall weight of the coupé, a remarkably low figure for a metal folding roof.
Whichever way you look at it, 570hp is an awful lot of power for a road car. Even more impressive is the fact this is achieved from a 4.5-litre V8 without any form of turbo-charging.
Yet slip away in the default Drive mode and driving the Spider is a surprisingly benign experience. The seven-speed double-clutch transmission shifts smoothly so all the driver needs to do is point and steer.
With a bit more throttle valves in the exhaust open and all hell breaks loose. It's enough to bring the locals into their gardens to watch you pass, the metallic wail of a fast approaching Ferrari clearly doing funny things to Italian men of a certain age.
Initially the noise seems over the top. That feeling soon evaporates once you start driving the Spider like it's meant to be driven, the sound not unlike what you'd get from the in-car footage of Alonso driving his F1 Ferrari. Nothing, even the McLaren, comes this close.
Part of the fun is undoubtedly the extraordinarily fast paddle gearshifts. The 9,000rpm limit becomes rather superfluous, as you'll want to cram gear changes in as quickly as possible to hear that crack-crack-crack from the exhaust as the gears shift.
Within the paddle and auto mode options there are more than a dozen scenarios that can be set with the Manettino knob on the steering wheel. There's no right or wrong setting, just find one that suits your driving style most.
Ride and handling
Ferrari has a tough job beating the McLaren's advanced suspension for ride comfort. The 458's suspension stiffens as you move the Manettino into its more advanced settings, but there's a button on the steering wheel that overrides that with a softer setting.
It's good enough to be a viable option for all road use, with little trade off in handling, and attributes like these reflect Ferrari's years of experience in developing mid-engine sports cars.
So the major controls work in complete harmony, allowing you to simply get on with extracting the most from the dynamic package you've selected. On winding mountain roads peppered with second, third and fourth gear corners the Spider never puts a foot wrong.
The steering is fast and accurate, wheels simply go where you point them and the ceramic brakes haul you back if you overcook it into a tightening corner.
Where this 458 transcends so many rivals is the ease with which the driver can get so much out of the car. Whatever the level of skill, there's a setting that will help you feel like, if not Alonso, still something of a superstar.
As long, that is, as you can adjust to the very quick responses to movements of the steering wheel. It demands concentration at motorway speeds, but if it's an issue, perhaps the Ferrari California is a better choice.
The bald fact is that the area behind the steering wheel is not a thing of beauty. Arguably it's even ugly, the bulging vents on either side of the instrument binnacle especially challenging.
But this is a bespoke interior and it does function well. The large rev counter has a TFT display on either side that can be swapped between various options, including the speedometer, sat-nav, radio and chassis settings.
It's a pleasing talking point, though it's understandable that some would prefer the sat-nav in the middle of the dashboard. Which would make the Ferrari like every other car.
The Spider tested here had the optional sports seats - lower and a lot more bolstered at the sides. I actually had to stop driving due to the pressure on my kidneys from an hour's repeated high cornering forces.
There's room for a set of golf clubs behind the front seats, so they say. More plausibly, the under-bonnet area has good space for squashy bags.
When the roof is lowered the glass rear window sets itself automatically to the optimum height to minimise buffeting. The open Spider is a relatively unruffled way to travel. Roof up, and you could well be in the coupé. It's that refined.
Economy and safety
Even Ferrari needs to be seen giving a nod towards environmental issues. So the 458 Spider can be chosen with the optional HELE - Ferrari shorthand for High Emotion Low Emissions.
This suite of technology optimises areas like the air conditioning, fans, fuel pump and the adaptive shift, and incorporates engine stop-start.
HELE, should you choose to select it, improves economy and CO2 by around 10%, without compromising performance. Otherwise the mean consumption is 21.2mpg and CO2 307g/km.
The aluminium chassis has built-in crash structures and there is a full complement of air bags. But no such thing as a EuroNCAP crash test result.
The MSN Cars verdict
This is the perfect convertible supercar. Stylish roof up or down, with an interior that's distinctly Ferrari, the kerbside appeal of the 458 Spider is unsurpassed.
Yet it's the driving experience that is so overwhelmingly addictive, proving that the Italians can still teach the competition a thing or two.
|Need to know|
|Torque, lb ft||398|
|0-62 mph, secs||3.4|
|Top speed, mph||200|
|CO2, tax||275-307g/km, 35%|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
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