But before heading out for those real test roads, we familiarized ourselves with the 458 Spider closer to home. From the driver’s seat, it feels like you’re at once part of a rich heritage of mid-engine V-8 Ferraris, as well as part of the brand’s modern racing brain trust. You sit very low; firm bolsters jut forward beside your rib cage (with a slim build, I appreciated that, although it would have been too tight for larger typical ‘American’ builds). The layout is adventurous, cockpit-like, and highly functional and driver-focused, of course.
Getting used to Maranello’s interface
As with most modern Ferraris, there’s also a steep technology-and-interface curve when you first step into the car. Turn signals are operated by little thumb buttons on the steering wheel that you’ll likely tend to hit off-center at first (and perhaps leave on, until you start thinking 1-2 for each lane-change); the wipers are run by a little toggle-button on the right side of the steering wheel; and meanwhile, two control pods some inches away from the steering wheel, on either side, group separate functions. Performance-oriented functions are on the left one, while audio, nav, and other such things are on the right. Even starting the engine is a conscious, two-step routine; first you turn the key, then fire it up with the big red button toward the left side of the steering wheel.
DON'T MISS: 20-Year-Old Crashes BMW M4 In Germany
Those who have older Ferraris are going to appreciate the ergonomics of any of the newer models from the Italian maker. The gauges can now be well in the line of sight for the tallest drivers, and you no longer need small feet to drive a Ferrari; while the models of a generation ago had narrower footwells—or at the least, very narrow pedal placement—driving the 458 allowed a comfortable driving position for my 6’-6” and size 13 shoes. Visibility really isn’t that bad either, considering you’re in a piece of rolling sculpture—a Ferrari!
Then there’s the gearbox, which Ferrari has kept as F1-like as possible. You click the right paddle-shifter to engage first gear (right to go up, left to go down), or pull both at the same time to engage neutral (if you want to blip the throttle for bystanders). Reverse is engaged with a button on the center console, while another button there lets you toggle between fully automatic mode (basically, what you use in traffic) and the manual mode that we’d think you’d use the rest of the time. Parking on inclines and hills requires a little faith at first, as you pull the electronic parking brake lever to engage ‘Hold’ or ‘Park’—and the lack of idle creep can make things a little tricky when you’re parking. Then again, what Ferrari 458 Spider owner is doing that by themselves?
The ‘frunk’ in the 458 Spider is huge—larger than what you’ll find in some Porsche models, and shaped in a way that could allow two carry-on-size suitcases, or several weekend bags. We managed to fit a camera tripod diagonally into the trunk. There’s also some center-console storage, as well as some spare space behind the seats, and a glovebox. People were thinking of daily driving and true weekend trips when they designed this car; we’re just not sure how many owners will use them that way—although we hope they do.
The sound of a Ferrari V-8: the best mood therapy ever?
A quick blip of the throttle, and any worries about practicality simply disappear.
In short, there’s plenty of reason to let the engine rev into its beautiful-sounding range—which is, essentially anywhere above 2,500 rpm (it even sounds good when pressed below that). The dual-clutch gearbox can shift with a clunk when you’re accelerating only gradually in traffic, yet when you’re running hotter on the backroads it feels completely in its element, shifting with the finesse needed to avoid ever losing grip from an ill-timed shift.