Ferrari Answers Its Critics – 458 Speciale

Ferrari 458 Speciale | Ferrari Answers Its Critics – 458 Speciale

Written byAdam Tonkin | Images byDean Hales

Since 1947 the Ferrari name has evoked a passion within us all. A designation for all things sleek and mechanical, a term used to describe a famous Italian supercar brand and a name used by people that don’t even like cars!

The mere mention of the word ‘Ferrari’, conjures up thoughts of luxury, speed and pure power although Enzo Anselmo Ferrari had always envisioned more.

In 1971 Enzo Ferrari handed over the road car division to Luca di Montezemolo, a name that you may recognise as the current President of Ferrari S.p.A.

With Enzo Ferrari’s passing in 1988, the last supercar to have his blessing was the legendary F40, a true supercar in every sense of the word.

Today, Enzo’s legacy continues to live on as the company grows in stature, spurred on by competitors desperate desire to emulate Ferrari’s success.

Since the F360, management at the Italian manufacturer have developed a superior model to end each series of supercar.

First came the F360 Stradale Challenge, a stripped out race car with all the Ferrari trimmings, then at the 2007 Frankfurt Motorshow Ferrari raised the performance bar with the F430 Scuderia. The topless Spider version, the 16M arrived a year later.

Since then a great deal of time has passed although with time comes improved technology. Just like the two models before, the next generation would have to set a new benchmark for speed, power, aerodynamics and agility and use every conceivable piece of Ferrari technology to do so.

Ferrari did just that, they toiled away and realistically stopped at nothing to develop the next cohort, the Ferrari 458 Speciale.

The Speciale offers owners a unique blend of light-weight carbon fibre, NASA like technology and raw power that propels the new supercar tantalisingly close to the sacred hypercar sub three second barrier.

Engine and Transmission

The Speciale is truly a different thoroughbred when compared to the standard 458 Italia. Ferrari has successfully increased the compression ratio of the naturally aspirated 4.5 Litre flat-plane crank V8 engine revs to 9000 RPM and develop an extra 26kW to 445kW (597HP) which falls just shy of the perfect 100kW per engine litre.

Torque remains unchanged at 540NM although it is now more noticeable across the entire rev range.

The Speciale produces a symphony orchestra of sounds that can literally be heard from miles away. From the high pitch wale to the low base mechanical weering, the titanium sport pipes ensure that every minute detail can be heard in its true form, a Ferrari master stroke!

Sound and vibration seem to be optimised at 3,100 RPM in fourth gear with the supercar ostensibly becoming self-aware by vibrating along to the tune of its own engine. I doubt this is standard or on any option list.

The 7-Speed F1 Dual Clutch transmission ensures that every gear change happens within an instant. Flappy paddle shift inputs are met with instantaneous gear changes that are brutal in their application especially in ‘RACE’ mode above 7000 RPM. Each pull of the up paddle will see the roadside blur and the horizon rush towards you.

The automatic gearbox functionality is a gigantic leap forward from the unit found in the F430 Scuderia. Clunky and uncomfortable gear change responses are all but a distant memory with the new system acting more like a genuine automatic transmission that is seamless it its application regardless of the driving conditions.

Supercars and the mere mention of fuel economy should never be spoken in the same sentence, well until now. With an 86 litre tank, the Speciale surprised me with its frugal ability to sip away at its energy reserve especially in the city and on the open road.

However, turn the Manettino dial to ‘RACE’ and any fuel saving gains are rapidly evaporated by diminishing returns.

Image Location | Yering Station, Yering Victoria Australia

Exterior Styling

The Speciale is a bold statement of dominance and race car like refinement. From the moment you gaze upon the Speciale, its detail will enthral you. Beauty and distinctive style aside, the Speciale also looks astonishingly powerful.

Its flamboyant exterior only tells half the story of its unadulterated refinement;

• Carbon fibre side nolders
• Carbon fibre rear diffuser
• Titanium sports exhaust
• Carbon fibre front air intakes
• Carbon fibre front spoiler and aerodynamics fins
• 20” forged rims painted in matte black with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres
• Massive 298MM Carbon Composite Brake Rotors with colour coded calipers
• Nero Stellato painted lines that look more like war paint than racing stripes.

Some may call this options list sensory overload although there is not one piece of equipment on the Speciale that shouldn’t be there.

The Ferrari Styling Centre worked closely with Pininfarina to develop the Speciale’s active aerodynamics system. A highly choreographed ballet of synchronised front and rear flap movements designed to reduce drag while maximising down force and overall stability. Rear suspension has also been raised slightly to improve handling.

To assist with the extra power and improved aerodynamics, the Speciale has been put on a strict diet to remove all superfluous materials and function to trim away 90 kilos of unrequired weight. Kerb weight is now 1395kg.

The weight loss over the standard 458 Italia is certainly noticeable especially under heavy braking and change of direction. Turn in feels slightly lighter although pin point accurate.

Ferrari has never been known for doing anything in halves and the Speciale is testament to that!

Interior Styling

The interior space is sparse yet functional. The cockpit is as bare as Ferrari deemed necessary, they have removed just about everything that makes the 458 Italia so luxurious although it is all in the aid of going fast and improves the Speciale’s power to weight ratio to 2.13kg/cv.

Climb into driver’s race seat and you are encased in a cocoon of carbon fibre and exposed aluminium. At 6ft 1” with the seat as low and as far back as possible I felt at home, although if I had to find head room to wear a helmet that may be of real concern.

With everything removed from the carpet to sound deadening materials, you can literally hear the inner workings of the Speciale whilst feeling every painted line and change of road surface under you.
At highway speeds, wind and road noise intensify while the sound of tiny rocks hitting the inner guards becomes quite unnerving.

The commotion created by the mechanical beast that resides just behind can be summed up in one word, music.

Mounted in the centre console are three buttons moulded in carbon fibre pods that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bang & Olufsen studio. ‘Auto’, ‘Reverse’ and the ‘Launch’ button which stands out like a beacon waiting to be pushed.

Gone too are the indicator and wiper stalks with their functionality being integrated into the steering wheel. Within five minutes of driving with the new steering wheel, it was like I never knew any different.
The boot unlike most supercars is ample.

With the ability to fit a case for a weekend away, five bags of groceries and the tailor-made car cover it is anything but small. Inside the cabin is another story, the glove box has been removed and in its place, elastic netting holds your wallet and other valuables.

Vehicle Systems

A selection of settings on the Manettino will insure all the necessary safety nets are fully on, part off or fully off. A sodden Melbourne during my review never saw the Speciale use CST off or the LAUNCH feature although WET, SPORT and RACE modes all received a thorough work out.

For around town and spirited drives in the hills, the SPORT mode setting on the Manettino is where most owners will live comfortably. The safety systems are about two thirds on and still provide the Speciale with plenty of character when required.

Due to an overwhelming amount of precipitation in Melbourne during my review, I was unable to truly test the Speciale’s launch ability.

Although arriving at 100Km/h in 3.0 seconds and stopping in 31 metres with the massive 398MM front and 360MM rear carbon composite brake rotors to assist did seem appealing although I wisely decided with the prevailing weather conditions to leave such challenge for another occasion.

Light throttle inputs in the rain even with ‘WET’ mode selected on the Manettino, should be done with great care and finesse as there is no reset button if things go horribly wrong.

The Magnetorheological suspension upgrade is noticeably firmer than the 458 Italia especially in and out of fast corners in ‘RACE’ mode. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres offer plenty of grip and provide good feedback although they can be quickly overwhelmed with standing water on hot mix bitchem surfaces.

Side Slip Control (SSC) is ingenious by design, using algorithms to monitoring rear wheel slip against oversteer inputs.

Within milliseconds, SSC will determine if you are using the right amount of steering correction to control the slide. SSC will then instruct the E-Diff to lock and optimise torque distribution between the rear wheels. F1-Trac and ESC are subsequently sitting on the sidelines in a constant state of awareness.

Due to the Speciale’s race bred nature, heat is not your enemy but your best friend. Constant temperature in the tyres, brakes, engine and transmission are all required to ensure that the failsafe systems are working at their peak. Select ‘RACE’ mode when everything is cold and either enjoy the ride or bear the consequences, it’s that simple.

Vehicle Details

Year, Make, Model

Australian Pricing

2014 | Ferrari 458 SpecialeA$550,000 – BASE (MSRP)


Fuel Type

4.5Litre V8 Engine – Naturally Aspirated

Petrol 98 RON


445 kW


597 HP

Maximum Torque

540 NM

Fuel Consumption

11.8L/100 | 16.9L/100 (MyDrive Tested)

0 – 100 / 60

0 – 200 / 120




7 Speed F1 + Reverse

Fuel Tank Size

86 Litres


1395 (Kerb Weight)

Safety Rating


7 Year Complimentary Service

Roadside Assist


Ferrari 458 Speciale Options List MSRP

  • Racing Stripes – Nero Stellato $19,000
  • Calipers – (Yellow) $2,700
  • 20” Forged Dark Painted Rims (Matte Nero) $4,500
  • Front and Rear Parking Sensors $5,700
  • Carbon Fibre Front Spoiler and Aerodynamic Fins $7,060
  • Carbon Fibre Engine Covers $13,242
  • Carbon Fibre Rear Diffuser and Rear Flaps $15,480
  • Carbon Fibre Front Bumper Air Intakes $4080
  • Titanium Sport Exhaust $4080
  • Radio Navigation System + Bluetooth $815
  • Integrated Audio System $5430
  • Extracompionario – Headliner in Black 3D Fabric $1360

Key Competitors

• McLaren > 650S
• Lamborghini > Huracán

In response to the Speciale, McLaren has developed the 650 S and Lamborghini have re-entered the fray with the new the Huracán, the first of many manifestations. Competitors will continue to push the limits of power and physics with potent and capable supercars that continue to niggle at Ferrari’s success.

With the power struggle only set to continue, Ferrari engineers will now be on a mission to re-work their naturally aspirated power strategy in favour of forced induction as they have with the California T.

Final Thought

Supercars like the Speciale are similar to superheros, attention grabbing, powerful, and just a little bit out there, although this is one superhero that won’t need to be unmasked!

The Speciale is everything you’ve ever dreamt about in a supercar, the flashy style, the pizzazz and the scintillating performance to match.

Could it be too sedate? Not in your wildest dreams. Ferrari isn’t known for doing things by halves and the Speciale is testament to that.

A supercar with brutal power and mind altering performance that’s available as soon as you depress the big red START button.

Three days with the Speciale never seemed enough and sadly it wasn’t.

Will this be the last incarnation of the 458? Not by a long shot especially with turbo power on the way. The Speciale could very well be the entrée of things to come!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Yering Station, the staff  and their wonderful hospitalityVictoria’s first vineyard, Yering Station, is located in the ‘heart’ of the Yarra Valley only one hours drive from Melbourne.

Explore & experience Yering, click >

Feedback and Links

Feedback or questions on this article, please use the comment field, or click for contact details.

For details on Ferrari Australia and the 458 Speciale, click >

For details on Ferrari, click >

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