Ferrari recently unveiled the all-new 458 Italia, but is it really a worthy successor to the 430? We wonder if all is well in Italy, Land of the Supercar
Nobody really knows if its because of the wine, olive oil or pasta, but Italian women do seem a bit prettier, a bit bustier and a bit more fiery than women from most other parts of Europe. And much of the same can be said about Italian cars, which meld performance and pageantry like no other.
German cars are all efficient, and a bit stolid. French cars are often eccentric and a bit poncy. And Swedish cars are well, nowhere, really. No, if you want fire and brio and exuberance from your car, Italy does it best. Italian cars often look wanton, libidinous even, risen of Latin fervour and red wine rather than an anonymous CAD program. And their V8s and V12s thrum and shriek with an impunity thats an impudent middle-finger flicked at the green ethos which car manufacturers from other nations are so eager to embrace.
Even the names are lusty. Say Volvo. Or BMW or Volkswagen. And now try saying Lambor-giii-neee or Ferrr-aaa-ree! You see what we mean. From their names to the way they look and sound, Italian cars have always been designed to get your pulse racing and send your blood coursing through your veins a bit faster. Or at least thats the way it used to be. The new Ferrari 458 Italia makes us wonder if things have changed.
Much as it pains us to say this, most recent Ferraris have been less than beautiful. While older Ferraris were almost uniformly spectacular, its more of a hit-or-miss thing these days. After the F355 which we think was the last of the drop-dead gorgeous Ferraris of yore we had the F360, which looked like a bath tub. And then the F430, which was quite an improvement over the 360. And while the Scaglietti was just one big, lumbering heap of metal, the more recent California is properly curvy, lean and smart.
So where does that leave the F430s replacement, the new 458 Italia, which is being shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show this month? Umm lets just say that its styling is a disappointment. Oh, the engine is all right the Italias 4.5-litre, 570bhp V8 will probably blast you from zero to the next time zone at the stomp of a foot. And since the chassis and suspension have been developed by some guy called Michael Schumacher, the 458 Italia is likely to handle very well, too.
The problem is, a Mitsubishi Evo FQ400 or the new Nissan GT-R also offers near-similar levels of engine performance and handling, at a fraction of the Ferraris price. With Ferrari, the car is supposed to go hard and look divine as well, and the 458 Italia just looks ordinary. We dont want to talk about its dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox or its fuel economy (which, at at 7km/l, is actually pretty good) or its relatively low emissions figure. We want to ask why the Pininfarina-designed 458 Italia looks nowhere near as good as an old Ferrari 288 GTO, F40 or 355.
The 458 isnt, of course, a bad looking car. But it simply isnt as gob-smackingly good looking as wed expect a brand-new Ferrari to be. We wonder if the pasta, olive oil and wine in Italy arent what they used to be.