2014 Ferrari 458 Spider quick drive Page 4

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Taking some time to savor the details of the Spider, you won’t be disappointed from any angle. The 458 Spider doesn’t have the clear plastic engine cover of the coupe, but that’s really all you sacrifice in moving from Coupe to Spider. And what’s there in its stead is so artful, in that classic organic-sculpted sense, that we doubt you’d miss anything. What you get with the Spider is that quick, very smooth yet Transformers-like retractable aluminum hardtop system.

A top-down setup that’s begging for frequent use

We especially appreciated how you can roll down the side windows all the way with the top down, to fully enjoy the open-air sports-car experience without added turbulence. No special patchwork wind-blocker is needed here—there’s a special mode for the rear window that shimmies itself to the right height for the task—and it’s evidence that Ferrari clearly did a lot of aerodynamic tweaking to make sure it all works as well with in each top-and-window mode. It’s a beautiful side profile, with the visual weight of the car exactly where you imagine its center of mass to be, given where the engine is.

Take the top down, and you do immediately hear the engine a bit more, in a way that shames induction piping and other fakery that’s common today in many of today’s more affordable sports cars.

As you’re driving, the little mannetino (mode lever) on the steering wheel controls all the critical driving settings (Wet, Sport, Race, and a couple of modes for the especially brave), from throttle and transmission behavior to suspension. And the magnetorheological damper system adjusts with the mannetino settings, although if you hit a suspension button on the steering wheel you can switch over to something that, to us, feels characteristically Maranello: a so-called ‘Bumpy Road Mode’ that allows you to get a little more suspension compliance while enjoying the rest of the performance-oriented settings. And when the roads turn slick, there’s a Wet setting that allows earlier stability-control intervention and what we perceived to be gentler throttle tip-in.

Sure enough, the rain did arrive on the way back into Portland, and we used that Wet setting to wrap up a great weekend outing. And to very reluctantly turn in the keys.

The Spider, in all of its supercar splendor and race-derived mechanical majesty, is the modern iteration of those classic Ferrari—plus a lot more. It’s hard not to get effusive and giddy about it. And really, there’s no reason not to.

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