The 458 Spider is a drop-top version of the brilliant 458 Italia coupé and ditches the fabric hood of the old F430 in favour of a folding hardtop. In a theatrical 14sec, the Ferrari’s roof will lift, pivot and descend into a spot beneath the handsome speedster humps. It’s a work of genius and, roof-up, the Spider’s as refined as the coupé.
It’s just 50kg heavier than the fixed-head and retains its 4.5-litre V8, complete with 562bhp and 398lb ft of torque. Ferrari claims an identical 0-60mph time of 3.4sec but top speed falls 2mph to 200mph. According to Ferrari, it’s just 0.5sec slower around the Fiorano circuit than the coupé.
Tease the throttle and there’s a distinct ‘pop’ from the exhaust as the pistons get to work.
Ferrari’s moved the air intakes from the side of the car to the rear and reworked the exhaust to suit the demands of topless titillation. Part throttle gives you a baritone roar, while full throttle takes it up an octave. At 9000rpm it’s cartoonishly loud and utterly magnificent.
Ferrari admits that the Spider is 30% less stiff than the coupé and you can feel some flex at low speed on badly surfaced roads. But turn up the wick and the Spider is deeply impressive. It turns on its nose in an instant and displays agility reminiscent of the original Lotus Elise. It darts from corner to corner with a twitch of your wrists and a flick of the paddleshift ’box. It’s so composed and capable and yet brilliantly entertaining.
There’s so much to enjoy about this car – even the boot is surprisingly big – but beauty doesn’t come cheap. The base price of £198,856 is £25,675 more than the coupé – and that’s before you add £7235 for the matching luggage. Ferrari reckons that most customers will end up spending £250k on their Spider. Ouch.
Even with the price jump, Ferrari reckons the Spider will account for half of all 458s sold. It’s not hard to see why. Although the coupé remains the choice for the track-day warrior, the Spider has an undeniable charm. Screaming along at 9000rpm with the roof down is one of life’s seminal experiences.