Monterey, California — The Hennessey 458 is Texas’s take on Ferrari. Start with a sonorous, elegant engine and make it brash and bombastic — loud enough to sound like you’re strafing small villages and having a rootin’-tootin’ time while doing it. This is a redneck Ferrari, y’all.
Sealy, Texas-based Hennessey Performance had its way with Maranello’s normally aspirated V-8, adding twin turbochargers to increase output from 562 to 738 hp. The upgrade (or, as Ferrari would surely call it, defilement) costs $59,995.
The mid-engine bay was already a tight space, and the turbos, waste gates, heat exchanger, and electric fans are discreetly hidden by handsome carbon-fiber covers. The unit has max boost of 7 psi and will hold 6 psi to the 9000-rpm redline. Torque is up to 532 lb-ft from 398.
The car we tested, a Spider, lacked mufflers, terminating in straight pipes. So you get extra sound. Lots of it. With the top down, it’s a whumping, sucking, blatting, crackling auditory assault. The regular 458’s engine music, which crescendos to a vibrato at higher rpm, is now a raw roar; less classical Verdi and more electro-thumping Deadmau5.
You can treat the gas pedal like a cathedral’s pipe organ, tapping a bellicose tune by holding gears at redline and then crashing into the next gear. Coupled with the attendant speed, it is a hilarious exercise, guaranteed to elicit giggles right up to the point that your ears bleed. The car we drove was Hennessey’s first modded Ferrari, built for a customer in Arizona who apparently likes it that way. Silencers can (and probably should) be added.
Hennessey says 60 mph will come in 2.8 seconds without the use of launch control. From a stop, stomp on the gas pedal and there’s a blip of dead space as the turbos spool — slight but noticeable — and then rubber mashes into asphalt and you’re wildly, madly off.
Fortunately, the extra power is usable even on narrow, winding roads. We found a stretch of traffic-free tarmac, and, abetted by carbon-ceramic brakes, the 458 flew down straights and flicked through the winding bits, losing none of its inherent silkiness. It can catch and lurch slightly around town, but otherwise the extra might comes on in a linear way, so it doesn’t suddenly leap up and shark-bite you. (See 996-chassis Porsche 911 GT2.)
Would you actually want to do this to your carefully sourced and very expensive Italian toy? In two circumstances, we imagine you might. The first is the track, where you could power out of corners in a spectacular fashion. The second is if you’re one of those folks who believe there is no such thing as too much power, ever. (If so, your surname might be Cheney or Kim.)
But the regular 458 Italia’s best traits are its overall tractability and its gorgeous soundtrack. Few things in the automotive world are as lovely as that natural V-8 treble.
- Price: $59,995 (plus at least $240,000 for a Ferrari 458 Italia)
- Engine: 4.5L twin-turbo V-8, 738 hp, 532 lb-ft
- Drive: Rear-wheel