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Yes yes we know, the Italia isn’t exactly new. But with the release of the new 458 Speciale we thought it would be a good idea to refresh our memories with the “standard” car before we get our hands on the new model, and yes we can’t wait either!

So here it is, the Ferrari 458 Italia, what some people call, Ferrari’s finest hour.
Before you open the door you really do have to admire the beauty of this car, its rugged elegant simplicity is stunning and functional. Front fins deform at high speed pushing air under the car towards the rear diffuser to give you more downforce, the headlights are sharp and aggressive, and those three central exhaust pipes pay sexy homage to the legendary F40.
You then step in and are immediately enveloped by this race inspired design. Put your hands on the steering wheel and you can feel the Formula 1 heritage through the mixture of leather and brushed metal or carbon fiber. Just looking at the array of buttons on the steering wheel makes you feel like you’re sitting in Fernando Alonso’s F1 car.

First thing you notice is the big red Engine Start button, it’s placed on the steering wheel the way it’s always been since the F430, and what a place to put it. Then you see all the other bits and bobs on the wheel, I know reviewers all over the world have complained from the steering wheel being too complicated and unconventional, but just get used to it for a few days and I promise you it will become second nature. Everything is within the reach of your thumb and the rest of your hand is free for the wheel and paddle shifters. It’s strange at first but anyone who owns and runs a 458 will tell you that it really does work.
You’ve a got a nice big tachometer in the middle with a tempting red line at 9, and screens on either side. Ignore what Jeremy Clarkson said about them, you can have Navigation and the Speedometer at the same time. The media system takes some time to learn but it’s easy, and for petrol heads the VDC system is quite fun to play around with. The central console is perfect for iPhone users as it fits perfectly there, and it’s very easy to get comfortable in your seat.

Starting procedure... Turn the key, put your foot on the brake and hit the red button to launch that sonorous 4.5-liter naturally aspirated V8. Nothing beats the sound of a naturally aspirated engine, and Ferrari got it so right with this one! Pull the right paddle to put it into drive and you’re off.
The throttle pedal is so light and responsive, just flexing your big toe will shoot you up another 20 kph. First impressions of the car are that it’s quite easy to drive at slow speeds and honestly very comfortable for a supercar. It soaks up bumps well especially if you have it in “Bumpy Road” mode (which also happens to be a button on the steering wheel). It doesn’t compare to the lush suspension of the Mclaren MP4-12C but it’s still pretty good. Keep in mind we’re driving the car in Jeddah so it should be a fair test with all its bumps and potholes. The steering is light and easy and the driving position is pretty much perfect. After driving the car around the Prince Sultan Street region and Tahlia, I took the car out into King Abdulaziz Road to flex its muscles a little bit, and wow! Put the car into full manual, switch the chunky Manettino to Race, and just give it what you got and you shall be rewarded! You hear the most beautiful sound as you accelerate and watch that big yellow tachometer climb up the revs, the acceleration is immense and gear changes are literally lightning fast! Ferrari aren’t exaggerating when they say that the shift time is immeasurable, it’s really that immediate. Many people complain that the shifts aren’t as brutal as other supercars and it lacks some drama, but honestly why would you want your neck snapped in a car that you could end up using almost everyday? And honestly if you truly floor it and take it up to its 9000 rev limiter before shifting then it does give you a kick, however not the same sledge hammer blow to the head that the Aventador gives. Now going fast is all well and good and sounds great, but when you slow down, that’s when you realize that all you want to do is pull the left paddle as many times as you can and wish you had more gears to go down. The downshift on the 458 sounds like bliss and we honestly can’t get enough of it, I’ve been accelerating just to decelerate again over and over.
What a car this is, it’ll do 0-100 kph in just 3.4 seconds and you have no doubt about that! The launch control is as easy as pressing a button (because it is), and you can launch it all day long because of the double clutch gearbox.

After the fun and straight-line speed, we stopped at a café for a late lunch so that we could see people’s reactions to the car. Before even locking the door I noticed at least 4 cars slowing down on the main road to look, and everyone sitting outside staring… Celebrity status increased! We sat next to the window to continue monitoring the attention and it was honestly shocking. I expected people to stare but I mean, it’s no Zonda so I didn’t think it would cause the commotion it did. People were parking their cars just to get out and take pictures, some sat and stared for a good few minutes before walking off, it’s like owning the Mona Lisa and leaving it out on the street. I personally find it one of the most beautiful cars on the road but I didn’t expect this many people to feel the same way.

After a short break we were off to Obhur to see how relaxing it is to drive for long distances, and surprise surprise, it was very. Cruising along you just pop it into 7th or leave it in auto, Manettino in Sport which is the car’s “normal mode”, and keep the damper on soft. It’s a very comfortable cruiser, it keeps the revs below 3000 and you don’t even hear the engine. Again the Mclaren is a much better car for this and can honestly be used every single day, but the 458 was not bad at all.
Where the car really shined though was on the way back, because we hit some serious traffic. Now most supercars are a bit jerky and twitchy on the throttle during heavy traffic, but because of Ferrari’s dual clutch gearbox it was as smooth as pouring cream into your coffee.

The next day I woke up at 5 am to make sure the roads are all to myself, because what I’m doing today is taking the car for what it’s best for, some nice twisty roads! I get in the car and fall in love again with the smell of that luscious Italian leather, there’s no car on the market that smells as good as a Ferrari. The cabin, although beautiful, might seem a bit boring and minimalistic to some people. There’s no central screen, and the controls take some getting used to. This car is very driver focused and pays no attention to the passenger at all, I’m guessing Ferrari want them to just be happy they get to ride as a passenger in the car. But honestly to me the car has to be fully spec’d out with the carbon fiber interior; otherwise it just looks a little bit boring. Anyways, the hell with that! Let’s drive.

The engine note fully woke me up as I headed towards some of my favorite driving roads in Jeddah. I kept the Manettino in Race mode and unleashed all 562 horsepower! The steering feels light and accurate, the throttle is immediate, and the engine note is perfect. I just wish I had a track to push this car to its limits. The paddles are nice and long so you can reach them mid-corner, and you can’t help but drive with the biggest smile on your face. There’s nothing like looking in your rear view mirror and seeing the glorious engine sitting there. This is the 458’s territory, this is where its kicks the butts of the 12C, Aventador, etc… It evokes all kinds of emotions through the pedals and steering wheel, with every upshift you surge forward confidently into the next corner and with every downshift you feel vibrations down your spine. It truly is the most fun car I have ever driven and probably for a good while, we’ll just have to see what the Speciale is like, God knows how they’ve improved the car. All I can say is, if it’s much better than this, then I’ll be at the showroom for one the next day.

After a few days of living with the 458, I can safely say that it’s a great car to own in Saudi Arabia. It’s easy to drive, easy to park, and easy to live with. Yes it’s not as comfortable and easy as a Mclaren 12C or Porsche 911, and it’s not as brutish as an Aventador, but it is the best of them all to drive and the most involving. There’s just something about it that no matter how many reviews you read or watch, you wont understand until you drive it. It’s an incredible feat of engineering and a beautiful car to behold. It’s stunning inside and out, and after each drive you just want to look through that glass engine cover and just say “thank you”. The drive, the steering, the throttle, the ceramic brakes, the position, it’s all perfect. The 458 Italia, I’ll have two please!










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