Throughout this experience, clicking the paddle delivers clap-quick upshifts that are genuinely faster than what you could pull off with any manual gearbox (this is F1 technology, after all). And then there’s the sound. Oh, the sound. The engine develops a trumpet-like F1 quality as you get much above 5,000 rpm, and by the time you pass 7,000 rpm it’s spine-tingling.
You also don’t go through the always-annoying ‘steps’ of engine braking that are programmed into so many modern cars (in the interest of drivability for the masses, and perhaps emissions, we’ve been told). Here the moment you ease up off the accelerator you get the kind of engine braking that’s rare today—but much appreciated, as it adds to the driving experience, and after just a short time driving the Spider you know exactly how it’s going to respond as you lift for the next corner.
The gearing, by the way, is quite widely spaced, with what feels like a relatively short, launch-oriented first gear and a 7th gear that, according to Ferrari, is what it is for reaching the 458’s top speed. But it’s also nice and relaxed in that top gear—only around 2,900 rpm at 70 mph.
Communicates in a way other modern supercars don’t
As we toured on a mix of those tight winding roads, as well as some highways with high-speed sweepers, we found the 458 Spider to be communicative in a way that many modern cars aren’t; you can feel the weight transfer in corners, as you’re easing into the throttle, far more than most other high-power supercars—and long before the tires get to their maximum grip or the electronic systems need to pull their weight.
This isn’t a car that you should simply get into and drive fast. You can do that, but you risk trouble—especially if you start being adventurous with those mannetino settings. Gradually work up speed, and work into confidence with the car, and it’s all rewarded. You feel on intimate terms with the car, feeling the transfer of weight, from the seat of your pants, long before the tires reach their grip limit. It’s one of the most exclusive sports cars, yet like the best sports cars, it’s one that doesn’t keep secrets.
It’s no coincidence, either. Looking down on the car, the midpoint, lengthwise, between the front and rear wheels is right where your hip point is. .