The readers of Automobile Magazine might think that we editors get to drive Ferraris frequently, but that is not the case. True, I've been to Maranello more than once, and I've driven more than one Ferrari on Ferrari's famous Fiorano test track. In fact, I attended the media launch for the 458 Italia back in November 2009 and stayed at a hotel that was across a roundabout from the Ferrari factory. [Here's what I had to say back then] However, we have plenty of editors and staffers who have never been to Maranello, among them copy editor Rusty Blackwell, who solemnly informed me that, in his entire six-year tenure at Automobile Magazine, we'd never had a Ferrari in the office test fleet. Thankfully, Ferrari North America Public Relations Manager Matteo Sardi sent a 458 Italia test car our way for four brief but brilliant days in mid-July. We made the most of it because this was a Very Big Deal here at 120 E. Liberty Street.
West coast editor Jason Cammisa, who has spent more time driving various Ferraris in recent years than anyone else on staff, just so happened to be in town when the Ferrari arrived, and he started off the week by giving motor gopher and University of Michigan undergrad Rich Otto a hair-raising ride through the streets of Ann Arbor that young Mr. Otto will not soon forget. Miraculously, this power-sliding escapade through an office park escaped the attention of the Ann Arbor police.
For my part, I drove the 458 Italia briefly around Ann Arbor, principally to show it off to a few friends, among them my running buddy Jim Zamberlan, who likes all things Italian even though he owns two German cars. He was duly impressed by the way the Italia looked at his curb, by its succulent interior, and of course by the sound of the engine. It's frustrating, though, to trundle through crowded city streets in a car like the Ferrari 458, which begs for the open road and the racetrack. So, a couple nights after the Ferrari arrived, I drove over to GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, with road test editor Chris Nelson. We joined associate editor Eric Tingwall, who had come over in the Ferrari.
Having already driven the 458 for a few laps at Fiorano, I was already aware that it's a fine, fine track machine, but I forgot just how fine it is. It's not just the power, which is massive. It's not just the dual-clutch seven-speed transmission, which is one of the few paddle-shift gearboxes that I actually enjoy operating. It's not just the tremendous carbon-ceramic brakes, and it's not just the incredibly precise steering. Because, you know, there are lots of fancy sports cars and supercars that have many of these elements. But Ferrari brings all these attributes together with such finesse, and you really have to drive it on a track to expose its ultimate capabilities. Not that I was driving it anywhere near its ultimate limits, because I'm not that good a driver. The 458, though, will make you feel like a great driver whether you're at 6/10ths, or 7/10ths, or 9/10ths. And if you have the balls and the skill to take it to 10/10ths, you'll feel like a hero.
Now, I just need to drive the new McLaren MP4-12C and see if it makes me feel the same way.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
This was only my third time behind the wheel of a Ferrari, the last time being in April of 2005 when I drove a 612 Scaglietti for our test of twelve twelve-cylinder cars. Driving that Scaglietti, though, simply doesn't compare with driving this 458 Italia. The sound it makes as you run up through the gears, the instant-on throttle, and the razor-sharp steering, all combine to make driving this Ferrari a truly unique experience.
We happened to have a friend visiting from Sweden on the evening I drove the Ferrari, and he was more than happy to go for a ride as we explored the almost deserted two-lanes that run through farm country in the southern reaches of Washtenaw County. (He drives a taxi in Stockholm, so he was happy to be a passenger for a change.) With the car in race mode, acceleration to 60 mph and beyond took mere seconds, and the sounds coming from the exhaust were heavenly. After we got back, my neighbor pulled up to get a closer look at the Ferrari, so of course I had to give him a ride, too. (Purely for unselfish reasons.)
I've been reading about this Ferrari for almost two years now, but there's nothing like getting behind the wheel and experiencing it first-hand. Words can hardly do it justice. Suffice it to say that, even if it takes six years before I drive another Ferrari, I won't be disappointed.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor