Ferrari 458 Speciale A

mind-bending supercar convertible

BEN BARRY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

LEAVE your retractable hardtop preconceptions with the Beverly Hills valet. Yes, the Ferrari 458 Speciale A’s folding roof improves refinement roof improves refinement compared with a fabric hood.

Yes, it adds a little weight. And yes, it folds away neatly in just 14 seconds so you can soak up the rays. It’s just that the car it’s attached to accelerates from 0-100km/h in three seconds dead, laps Ferrari’s Fiorano track faster than an Enzo and is 40kg lighter than the regular 458 Italia coupe.

Oh, and it’s about as soft as a Greg Inglis tackle.

Ferrari took all the ingredients that transformed the 458 Italia into the Speciale coupe, then applied them to the Spider; the A in the name stands for ‘Aperta’, which is Italian for open. You get revised bodywork with extra active-aero trickery, uprated suspension, La Ferrari-spec ceramic brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. There’s also a more purposeful interior with sports seats, carbonfibre flooring and doorcards, and Alcantara pretty much everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the powertrain that defines this Ferrari. Power rises from the Italia’s 419kW to 445kW at an astonishing 9000rpm. Combine that with a dual-clutch gearbox that somehow swaps cogs even faster – 20 percent for upshifts, 44 percent going down – and the driving experience ramps up significantly beyond the already breathtaking 458 Italia. The gears are stacked like sardines, the throttle fizzes with electricity, and the crank is drawn to the rev limiter like a pin to a wrecker’s magnet. Everything happens at a mind-blowingly frenetic pace.

Losing the roof adversely affects the chassis, but the compromise is small. The steering is still super-quick and more feelsome than the 458 Italia’s, but you can feel a little wobble through the rack on rougher surfaces. There’s still that delicious 458 chassis balance, with an even pointier front end courtesy of the Speciale modifications and a rear that constantly goads you to squeeze it out of line, but it doesn’t quite have the hard-wired precision and rigidity that gives such confidence in its coupe sibling.

The Speciale A is still one of the sharpest supercars ever produced, though, one that strikes the perfect balance for a convertible customer. Yet for all its hardcore posturing, the Speciale A is incredibly easy to live with; the interior is highly comfortable, the ride a little softer than the coupe’s, its exhaust less overwhelming.

You should buy one instead of a 458 Spider, no question. But with all 499 cars already accounted for, you’ll need to go pre-owned if you’re to hand a nervous valet your Speciale A keys. th h th

Worth the weight

BULKY retractable hardtops are often the enemy of performance, so it might seem perverse to offer one on the 458 Speciale – a car pared back to minimise weight and maximise thrills. But Ferrari’s system adds just 50kg to the Speciale coupe’s kerb weight, meaning it’s still 40kg lighter than the 458 Italia coupe.

However, McLaren’s 650S Spider carries an even leaner 40kg penalty.

PLUS & MINUS

Not quite as rigid as the fixed-roof version; all of them are sold A stunning supercar achievement, especially for a ‘convertible’