The big news for the Ferrari faithful for 2012 is the addition of the 458 Spider to the lineup. Unlike its predecessors, Ferrari has ditched the fabric convertible mechanism for a Superamerica-like flip-top configuration. Where the Superamerica’s transparent roof flipped over and atop the rear lid, the 458 Spider’s small rear glass and bulk of the roof separate three quarters of the way into the roof, before both stack and flip under a raised tonneau cover. Ferrari says its patented design keeps the folded roof from intruding into rear engine compartment or cabin area and even leaves room for a small luggage bench behind the two chairs.
Made entirely from aluminum, the 458 Spider’s top apparatus weighs 55 pounds less than a traditional soft-top and opens and closes in a fast-for-a-hardtop 14 seconds. Altogether, Ferrari says the 458 Spider (it dropped the Italia in all the convertible’s press materials) is 111 pounds heavier than the coupe for a dry weight of 3,153 pounds; we anticipate its curb weight to be around 3,400 pounds. Ferrari says it will run zero-to-62 mph in 3.5 seconds and top out at more than 198 mph, a modest increase of 0.1 of a second and decrease of four miles per hour compared to the coupe.
The new rear cover features two large and six smaller intakes feeding the engine and cooling the radiators for the clutch and gearbox oil. Air is diverted inward by two large roll hoops behind and on either side of the passengers’ chairs. The visuals provided by the intake vents and buttresses, especially from an angle above the car, are nothing short of mesmerizing. The rest of the Pininfarina-penned coupe’s aerodynamically sculpted lines and compact shape are retained. The only item we will miss is the transparent rear window with easy visual access to the 4.5-liter V-8 engine.
Like the coupe, and an often-unmentioned aspect of the 458 Italia, the car’s screaming engine normally creates 557 hp and only makes the full 562 when the little deformable flaps in the front intakes are flattened at very high speeds. The V-8 features direct fuel injection for less fuel consumption and emissions while improving performance. Despite its high-revving nature, the power plant puts out 80 percent of its 398 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. The coupe’s traditional flat-plane racing crankshaft and triple exhaust parlay with the 9,000-rpm redline to produce a mechanical aria that is as patriotic sounding to Italian car lovers as the car’s name. Ferrari says it tweaked the 458 Spider’s exhaust note further for even more ear splendor within the cabin.
On Dupontregistry, the engine, the rest of the vehicle’s specs read much like the coupe, which is a good thing considering how good the coupe is. Although it may seem simple, keeping a closed-roof coupe and an open-top spider similar is not an easy task. Ferrari worked hard to guarantee identical levels of structural rigidity with the Spider’s roof up or down. It says that, as a result, the car is as exciting to drive as its closed-roof companion.
For maximum comfort while driving with the top down, the 458 Spider features a generously sized adjustable electric wind stop to allow for normal conversations even at speeds in excess of 124 mph; but, at that velocity, we doubt people are in great debates, unless the driver’s need for speed has the other shouting to slow down.
The sublime F430 is a pretty tough act to follow, but with the original 458 Italia and now with the 458 Spider, Ferrari has surpassed most people’s expectations while raising the bar on the other exotic-car manufacturers.
The 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia and Spider are powered by a 4.5-liter V8 that sends 562 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Ferrari says it will go from a standstill to 60 mph in about 3.4 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars in the world. As if anyone cares, EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
In the off chance you do care, or are simply interested in sampling every dollop of technology Ferrari has to offer, the optional HELE system adds a number of technologies designed to reduce fuel consumption and increase performance. These include an engine stop/start system, a different air-conditioning compressor, changes to the electrical system, and adaptive transmission programming and throttle response.
The 2012 Ferrari 458 comes with antilock carbon-ceramic brakes, traction and stability control and side airbags. A rearview camera and parking sensors are available.
Gallery 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia
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