First shown at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Ferrari 458 Italia is the continuation of the run of mid-engine V8-powered Ferrari models dating all the way back to the 308 GTB of 1975. This car, in turn, owes its existence to the success of the Dino 246 GT, Ferrari’s first mid-engine sports car for the street.
The Dino was also Ferrari’s first model produced in relatively high numbers. Intended to be a direct competitor to lower-priced models like the Porsche 911, the Dino opened Ferrari ownership to a new group of enthusiasts. It became Ferrari’s entry-level model f and paved the way for a succession of mid-engine sports cars from the storied Italian automaker.
And, while today’s Ferrari 458 Italia (offered as both a coupe and a convertible), is no longer the brand’s least expensive model (the California Spyder fills that role these days), the 458 Italia is currently the only mid-engined model in the marque’s lineup of road going automobiles. However, it is still intended to be a volume-selling model for the company. (Relatively speaking—of course.)
Anyone familiar with Ferrari’s naming conventions will tell you the 458 Italia is powered by a 4.5-liter V8 engine (4-5-8, get it?). In this case, that engine generates 562 horsepower and 389 ft-lbs of torque. Featuring the first application of direct fuel injection to a mid-engine Ferrari model, the engine’s output passes through a seven-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission on its way to the rear wheels of the seductively shaped automobile.
By the way, Pininfarina designed the 458’s body, as has the company for the majority of Ferrari’s models for many, many years. Speaking of that body, it is bristling with subtle aerodynamic aids to improve roadholding, decrease drag, and improve cooling of various mechanical components. As an example, in the front grilles of the Ferrari Italia there are small deformable winglets. As the speed of the Italia increases, the pressure of the air passing over them actually changes the shape of the winglets to diminish the size of the opening of the radiator intake—thus reducing drag.
Michael Schumacher, who won the Formula 1 championship seven times, had a hand in the layout of the interior of the Ferrari 458 Italia. One of his suggestions was the steering wheel design, which incorporates many of the features and controls normally found on the dash of more conventional cars. Ferrari claims a zero to 60 of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 202 miles per hour.