What is it?
The chop-top 458 Spider really is everything you could wish for. Clean, lithe, purposeful, it’s the kind of poster schoolchildren would have on their bedroom wall – a supermodel in the very truest sense of the word.
This is the first time Ferrari has attempted a folding hardtop on one of its mid-engined cars and it has been almost completely successful. The Spider looks as interesting and sinewy as the Coupe: roof up or down, this is one good-looking car.
Without a roof in the way, and with a retuned exhaust to maximise the lack of barrier between tailpipes and ear, the 458 Spider sounds like an F1 car with its balls dropped. The noise doesn’t so much filter in as explode, bomb-like, in the centre of your head. It’s so loud and penetrating it stings (although it admirably settles back into an elegant cruise on a motorway).
The 458 Spider is all but as fast as the Coupe and it’s no less astounding to drive, either. You can get the wheel and windscreen to shimmy when you hit a series of lumps at speed, but generally it’s solid enough and as per the Coupe. The steering is quick and accurate, the body control superb and supple: this is a Ferrari that makes you look good in every sense, without requiring you to be a racing driver in order to gain satisfaction from the experience. We used to have to compromise for access to a convertible sky. Not now.
On the inside
Inside, it’s pretty much the same as the Coupe. With buttery leather smeared liberally over all the bits not fashioned from carbon fibre, it’s very sports-luxe and slightly overdone in places. Even so, there’s nothing quite like it, particularly as there’s generous headroom roof-up even for taller drivers, a decent seating position and major controls all on the steering wheel.
There’s one extra button too. The one for the roof. As with the exterior, this is a nicely elegant surprise. Pull a single rocker on the centre console and the rear deck lifts up and back, the panel above your head splits and the roof rotates backward to be sandwiched again by the rear section. It takes 14 seconds and works brilliantly. Roof down, the tiny back window remains in place, becoming a windstop. With the large rear buttresses also staying put, it works well – a sort of super-targa.
This is a £200,000 car and, once you’ve seen and driven it, one certainly worth every penny. Beautifully built, the experience is enhanced by the clever roof, and the driving abilities are colossal. Ferrari now offers a superb four-year warranty and will also sell you service and maintenance packs for seven. There’s even an optional fuel-saving stop/start system.