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Ferrari 458 Spider review
Driven October 2011
Hard not to jog down the stairs when the view from your bedroom window is the picture above; lots of new Ferrari 458 Spiders parked up and ready to go like a scattered set of very fast Smarties. Immediately there's a massive conundrum: which looks best? The Spider shape has morphed the Coupe's lines into something ... else. It might even be slightly more interesting. But which colour suits it best?
Yellow? - Bit showy. Dark Grey? Beautiful. Red? Traditional. It even looks good in white. Which means it looks good, full stop, even if the transparent engine cover has been lost in favour of new roof panels. You can't have everything, and if the coupe/convertible looks this good then that's a decent compromise.
Ah yes, the roof. The California may have kicked Ferrari off in the coupe/convertible shape, but this is the first time Ferrari has gone for a convertible hard top on one of its mid-engined cars, and it looks pretty damn good with the roof up or down - none of the usual associated fatness of bottom you get with CCs. Plenty of room roof-up - we'll need that space in the UK - well-insulated, quiet. It drops/erects in a very reasonable 14 seconds (only at a standstill though) from one button, essentially in three sections. The rear clamshell opens backwards, the middle section splits and then flips backwards into the gap, rear clamshell shuts. It looks fairly simple, and is more elegant as a result.
The rest is pretty much as you'd expect: brilliant 562bhp V8 that revs to 9,000pm and produces a noise not unlike a slightly slowed-down F1 car through an exhaust especially tuned to make the most of the lack of a roof. The seven-speed DSG ‘box is fabulous, allowing you to play tunes with that engine note, and the handling is pin sharp. Not quite as aggressive as the Coupe - you still get a nod to compromised rigidity through the wheel on bumpy roads - but the noisy joy of it more than makes up for it.
The switch to drop-top adds 50kg to the overall weight versus the Coupe, but you can't really tell. It's still eye-wide fast (a tenth slower to 62mph than the Coupe), and will still slither around like a naughty racing car.
Is it better than the Coupe? No. Just different. Very slightly softer, none the worse for that, given the remit. It will be launched in January/February of next year in the UK, with a starting price that's nearly Rs 20 lakh more than the Coupe. And you know what?
It might just be worth it.