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The 458 Speciale is the fastest, most advanced
but also the most fun to drive mid-engined V8 that Ferrari has ever built, and those
are Ferrari’s words, not ours. It’ll cost just over £200,000 when it reaches the UK
next February and in reality it will be one of the most exciting road cars there has ever
been. Here is a little taste as to why. The engine in the Speciale is the most potent
non-turbo V8 that Ferrari has ever built with an incredible 14:1 compression ratio and a
rev limit of over 9,000. It thumps out not just more power than the
regular 458, in this case a whopping 597bhp but also more torque right across the entire
rev range. Dial in a 90 kilogram reduction in overall
weight plus various other bits of tweakery to the brakes, the gearbox, the tyres, the
aerodynamics and the suspension and what you end up with is a car that can run rings around
the standard 458 Italia on road or track. And the last time I drove one of those it
didn’t exactly strike me as being slow. What does all that feel like out on the road? The moment you start driving the 458 Speciale
on the road all these instant things just come flying at you which define it as being
different and something sharper and superior even than a regular 458 Italia. The suspension has been tweaked quite heavily
to just be sharper everywhere. The steering isn’t actually that different but because
there have been changes to the front suspension it does feel that much more pinned, that much
more precise. It’s very light though. The power assistance
is, I don’t know, possibly a little bit too strong given how urgent the rack is. But you
can still put the nose of this car just where you want to in any corner. But the really big difference is, apart from
the SSC system which we’ll come to, are the brakes, the engine and most of all, I think,
the gearbox. Upshifts are now 20% faster than in a normal Italia and downshifts are 44%
sharper and that just means on the move it feels like you think about downshifting and
the thing has downshifted almost before you’ve made a physical movement at the paddle. It
is incredible how fast and how well this thing changes gear. The statistics of the engine we’ve already
talked about but what you can’t ever experience until you actually try this thing is just
the urgency of response at the peddle to what you do with your feet. It’s incredible. It
feels like a proper racing car almost the way it responds. There’s also more noise, as you can probably
hear, inside but not outside. They know full well that this car is going to be used at
track days an awful lot and there’s no point making a track day car that blows all the
noise regulations to pieces. The brakes. Let’s talk about the brakes. Basically
what you get on this car is the braking system from LaFerrari. You got different material
in the pads, different material in the discs themselves, much bigger calipers and as a
result add in the 90 kilogram weight reduction. This thing just stops on a six pence it really
does. Outside of a GT3 and I think possibly even
including the new GT3, I have barely driven a road car that stops as well as this one
does. As you can also see you can muck about with
the handling of this car, with the chassis of this car until your heart’s content and
that is because it’s just so nicely balanced. It’s sharp but it’s also friendly. Perhaps the Speciale’s best party trick is
it’s new SSC system, which stands for Side Slip Control. It’s basically a new setting
within the manettino system that allows you to go sideways in the car but with the ESP
system still engaged. So it’ll save you if things get too far out of shape. You can still turn everything off and go completely
sideways if that’s what turns you on but with SSC engaged, Ferrari reckons the car is actually
faster and more thrilling to drive for most people than it is with everything switched
off. Here’s how that works on the track. Okay, third gear corner. That is just absolutely
amazing. I mean that’s an 85-90mph corner there. Once you’ve got the car where it needs
to be at the apex, that’s when the system really works well for you because then you
can just whack the throttle open without fear of the thing turning around. I mean watch. That’s amazing. I mean that is making me look
like some kind of super hero but it’s not me that’s doing that. It’s allowing me enough
throttle to get the back end out but not so much that you turn the car around. It’s amazing. Hard though it might be to believe, but the
Speciale really does make the regular 458 Italia feel like yesterday’s car. It’s so
much faster and more urgent than the standard car when you’re going for it and yet it’s
almost as civilised if you just want to potter about in it and that’s probably it’s greatest
trick of all, being epically quick and exciting but also, I don’t know, just so damn easy
to drive. There’s no fight to be had when driving this car in other words just pure
pleasure. Whatever will they come up with next?

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