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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The New Hardcore 458 Should Be Very... Speciale

Ferrari 458 Speciale. That's Spe-scha-lé, I think
After the Ferrari F360 came the 360 Challenge Stradale, whose name explained that it was the street ("Stra-da-lé" in Italian) version of the Challenge cup racer. Then, once the F430 had replaced it, along came the 430 Scuderia, a lighter, more focused version fettled by Scuderia Ferrari (the F1 team). Now, the 458 Italia replaced the F430, so here is that version again. Lighter. More powerful. Meaner. Louder. Pricier. Faster.

The name this time? Ferrari 458 Speciale. But is it special...e?

Well, let's look at the headline figures, because, well, that's pretty much all we've got except pictures. Plus they're kind of the point of this car. That screaming 4.5-litre V8 that gives the 458 its name is now throwing 597bhp (605PS) at the rear wheels via a 7-speed DCT, and because it's a full 90kg lighter - at 1290kg - it goes from 0-62 in 3.0 seconds. Three. Seconds. Dead. That's as much as 0.4s faster than what's now the "regular" 458. It can hit 125mph (well, 124mph, or 200km/h) in just 9.1 seconds! The top speed isn't mentioned, but the regular 458 tops out at 202mph, so it'll be in that region somewhere close. Finally, it can lap the Fiorano Test Track in 1:23.5, which is a significant 1.5 seconds faster than the Italia.

But let's give a special mention to the power again, because Ferrari have managed to get 605PS out of 4500cc, giving the 458 Speciale the highest specific output of any naturally-aspirated engine, at 135PS/litre. If you want more power per cubic centimetre, you'll need something turbocharged or supercharged. Impressive. That said, torque output is the same as before, at 398lb/ft (or 540Nm if you're a stickler for SI Units).

Keeping all that extra thrust on the ground is a new aero kit comprising a re-profiled front bumper, bonnet nostrils, a steeper quiff spoiler on the tail, a strange shark fin thingy on the side skirt and a bigger diffuser with different exhausts, eschewing the triple-piped F40 tribute for something lighter and out of the way of that sizeable piece of aero witchcraft. The only problem is that these changes have made the attractive 458 body into something slightly... questionable, to my eyes. The front now looks like an angry fish, the shark fin does nothing to dispel that image and the new rear grille is going to take some getting used to as well. It almost looks like something a tuning company came up with rather than Ferrari themselves, although it's actually the work of Pininfarina. How much they were actually allowed to do though, I'm not sure, because Ferrari is pretty anal about its aerodynamics these days. Maybe they should try that little finlet thing on the F1 cars...

In fact, the aero cleverness doesn't stop there. Somewhere under the car at each end, there are little flaps that adjust to balance downforce and drag from front to rear as requirements change, just like LaFerrari, the arrogantly-named hypercar that hasn't even hit production yet (although neither will this for a few months, to be fair). Another nugget of information is their new Side Slip-angle Control (SSC). This computerised system can analyse the car's slip angle when you're going sideways, compare it to a target figure you should be at and - through the electronic differential (E-Diff) and "F1-Trac" traction control system - will then optimise torque management and torque distribution between the two wheels accordingly. So basically, it's a torque-vectoring system across the rear axle that reacts to drifts and keeps you in a position to save the slide. Further saving your bacon are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that make you faster when it's dry and offer "maximum available grip in the wet" too. I could make a dig at Pirelli here, but that's unfair as it's the FIA messing them about that's getting them bad press.

So now you know. Chances are it'll cost more than £200,000 when it goes on sale, but before that it has to be unveiled proper at the Frankfurt Motor Show 21 days from today. So for now, here are more pictures!

Seriously, it looks like something you should avoid if you're in Pirates of the Caribbean, with that face...
Perhaps you could paint that shark fin black and add a whaletail spoiler? Might annoy Porsche...
The new racing stripe is most likely a tribute to a classic racing car, of which there are many in Ferrari's illustrious history
The interior has been revamped too, with bum cheeks on the glovebox that probably cushion the passenger's knees under braking
As well as floor flaps, another LaFerrari carry-over is this gearbox fin, with reverse gear, automatic mode and Launch Control buttons
Even the engine has a go-faster stripe! I bet for £11,000 you can match it to the other stripe...
I'd wager that those red squares on the bottom of the diffuser are the moving rear flaps.
New wheels are undoubtedly lighter. Vents by the headlights to reduce wheel arch air pressure now has gills. 'Cause, y'know, angry fish.
See the Ferrari microsite here. I intend to cover the Frankfurt Motor Show, but then I also intended to keep posting F1 reports, soooo........ we'll find out together if it happens.

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