[blockquote cite=”Jesse Taylor, Editor, evo Australia”]It’s the fastest, most entertaining point-to-point car I’ve ever driven.[/blockquote]
The very best cars I’ve driven really get under my skin and bury themselves into my psyche. For example, I can recall every kilometre I drove in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 and Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series. It’s a week since the Ferrari 458 Speciale’s V8 fell silent for the last time in my care, and every one of the 1200 kilometres is playing on loop in my head.
Given the above list of cars, I’m obviously predisposed to track-focused cars and, perhaps, that’s why I rate the Speciale above the 100kW-more powerful Ferrari F12. That’s a big statement when the F12 was my highlight of the first half of 2014, and of which I wrote in evo Australia 011, “I doubt there’s another car that offers the F12’s blend of speed and security“.
But the Speciale is, well, special. At 1395kg, the Speciale is 90kg lighter than the 458 Italia on which it’s based, yet its significantly upgraded 4.5-litre V8 makes 26kW more power (445kW at 9000rpm). To save you reaching for the Casio Scientific, the Speciale is endowed with a power-to-weight ratio of 317kW/tonne, just 17kW/tonne shy of the bigger-hitting F12. Perhaps even more impressive is the Speciale’s 99kW-per-litre specific power figure. The significant engine upgrades include new cylinder heads, revised camshaft profiles to increase valve lift by five per cent, 10mm shorter inlet tract, 14.0:1 static compression ratio and carbonfibre plenum chambers and air boxes (which reduce dressed engine weight by 8kg).
Aided by launch control, Ferrari claims that the Speciale will hit 100km/h in 3.0 seconds, 200 in 9.1 and 300 in under 25. Top speed is quoted as greater than 325km/h.
Though a very fast car, the Speciale shouldn’t be judged on its straight-line performance. It lives for the corners where the track-honed chassis, super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and clever electronics make it the fastest, most entertaining point-to-point car I’ve ever driven (on dry tarmac at least). The chassis and steering are alive with feedback and the rear slides easily and without big spikes in heart rate. At no point could I get the nose to push into understeer.
The seven-speed dual clutch is silky smooth or shotgun-brutal depending upon your driving commitment. Purists may miss the manual gearbox, but the Speciale is too fast for three pedals and you never lack a sense of involvement.
LaFerrari might have grabbed the headlines this year, but the 458 Speciale deserves its place in the pantheon of legendary Ferraris. It’s a huge call, but it might just be the greatest V8-engined Ferrari of all time – F40 included.