Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ferrari 458 Italia

It's only been a few weeks since we last spotted the newest Ferrari supercar roaming the streets of Europe. But today, Maranello has quelled a growing storm of speculation by releasing initial details and images of its all-new Prancing Horse -- the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Set to make its world debut at next month's Frankfurt motor show, the 458 Italia (that's "Italy" in English) is intended to pay tribute to the country in which it was born, according to Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo. It is a land he describes as being synonymous with "excellence, creativity, and quality" -- all characteristics he believes his company's newest model embodies.

One look at its exterior and you'll get a gist of what di Montezemolo is talking about. The Pininfarina-penned design is executed in hand-laid aluminum and carbon-fiber panels underpinned by the latest in Ferrari's F1-derived aluminum chassis technology for weight minimization.

Up front and at the rear, improved aerodynamic features like a sealed undertray, diffuser, and what the brand calls "aeroelastic winglets" at its nose, all culminate to create a more stable, precise, and sleeker super sports car, according to Ferrari. At roughly 124 mph (200 km/h), the car produces 309 pounds of downforce, according to the automaker's engineers.

The 458 Italia looks ultramodern and much sleeker than its two immediate predecessors, the F360 and F430. Still, the car is a clear evolution on the same swoopy-fendered Pininfarina styling premise that began with the Dino 206GT of the late 1960s. There are plenty of Enzo cues too -- especially toward the rear clip -- and the long, slim headlamps appear to be directly inspired by the Enzo-based Pininfarina Ferrari P4/5. Offset above the headlights are vents crafted to cool the giant available carbon ceramic binders; Yes, there are plenty of new touches here too.

It's indeed a compact design compared with other exotics in the segment, but the 458 Italia grows ever slightly in length (178.2 inches. versus 177.6) and width (76.3 inches versus 75.7) compared with the outgoing F430. Height remains at a short 47.8 inches. Its wheelbase is extended by nearly two inches (104.3 inches from 102.4) and its dry weight is upped to 3042 pounds with forged wheels and carbon-fiber racing seats onboard (expect a curb weight of at least 3250 pounds) compared with the 430's 2974. As the tenet goes, muscle weighs more than fat, and per Ferrari's specs, the 458 Italia has been a definitive body-builder during the R&D process.

Set low in the mid-gut of this Prancing Horse is a more muscular direct-injected 4.5L V-8 producing 562 horsepower at a screaming 9000 rpm and an associated 398 pound-feet of torque at 6000 revs. Engineers improved upon the 430's 4.3-liter unit by incorporating a racing-like low piston compression height combined with the usual flat-plane crankshaft.

In total, it's a substantial 79-horse and 55-pound-foot improvement over the F430 (483/343) and impressively, the motor drinks less fuel to the tune of 17 mpg U.S. (converted from EU combined cycle) and emits less harmful gases from its tri-tipped exhaust (320 g/km of CO2 versus 345 g/km). Its longitudinal positioning also helps greatly in achieving a 42-percent front/58-percent rear weight distribution, which should prove ideal for the mid-engine car.

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