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HCOTY Nominee: 2013 Ferrari 458
The Pinnacle of Italian Natural Aspiration

Patrick Hoffstetter December 18, 2015 Hooniversal Car of the Year 2 Comments

Now, before I get started, yes, this is a supercar, yes, it is very expensive, but I would be lying if I said anything else was the most amazing car I drove this year. The new Miata was good, but this, the last naturally aspirated V8 Ferrari? Nothing can beat it, and since it has left us this year, we should celebrate it, and give it the credit that it rightfully has earned. 

Patrick, of course the 458 is your favorite car of the year, you might say. It’s a boring choice, you might accuse. You’re right of course. The 458 has one so many accolades and praises in it’s six years of production, and not once has someone come away from it saying “Ah that’s alright I guess.” It’s as if Ferrari knew when they were going into it that they had to knock this one out of the park. Why is that? This was there last chance to get an amazing naturally aspirated powertrain in a beautiful mid-engined setup. The 488 that has replaced it may harken back to the F40, but the 458 stands on it’s own as the shining example of Ferrari natural aspiration. This car will be looked back on for generations as a masterpiece of Italian engineering.

I never loved Ferrari’s. Never. When I got heavy into cars, the 458 was coming out, and it was the first Ferrari that even looked semi interesting to me. I saw Jeremey Clarkson sliding it, hooning it, and how fast it went around the test track, but then, the car never stuck with me. When I first played Forza 4, and saw it on the box, and in game as a beautiful car with a beautiful face, but I still preferred using the weirder cars, like the 12C and LFA.

Fast forward a few years, when I got my first ride in a Ferrari, a 43o Scuderia, and had an amazing time just listening to the engine behind my head wail on a cold rainy day. That set the spark for a love of the Italian marque, but still, the 458 seemed like a poser car. A car someone bought just because it was the newest thing they could get. The 430 with it’s stick seemed like the real drivers car, and the V12 that was found in the 599 and F12 just made such a lovely racket that it was impossible not to fall in love with.

Fast forward to early this year. The 458 Speciale is tearing up the news, and seems to be an ultimate version of a car that already had a massive amount of love. Seeing it take awards away from other cars made me even more interested in the base 458. Was it still impressive even with this next generation of supercars? Was it impressive even against slow but fun sportscars that I have driven and loved? I jumped at the chance to drive the 458 on track.

I’m not religious. I hate when people talk about having religious or near sexual experiences when talking about driving cars. It’s chintzy and overused. But, I find myself digging into feelings I have never expressed about a car before. The Ferrari 458 is a car that is alive. It works with you, it guides you around a circuit at speeds you never even though possible. It’s beautiful seats and interior hold you in close as you navigate it around the tight turns and bendy straights of whatever you choose to tackle with it.

If you saw the video of the inboard cam of my drive, you might notice that my mouth is open for most of it, just agape at what I was experiencing. My instructor told me the line, the braking point, the throttle point, and in other cars, following those instructions can be a real struggle, but the 458 just simply obliged. Turning for a tight corner was easy, the rack moving almost if it was part of your nervous system. The acceleration wasn’t the fastest I have ever experienced, but the car made it seem like it was enjoying it as much as I was. The scream of that V8 revving behind me is something I crave. I need that in my life again. At the end of my last lap I got to open the throttle up to full for the entire straight, and the numbers I saw before my eyes didn’t make sense. I’m used to going fast feeling on the dangerous side. This felt balanced and flawless.

Look at that happy face

The moment that made me feel the most at home, was ironically the one moment I got the car out of shape. Going well over one hundred and braking as late as I dared the rear end got a bit out of shape. The 458 wiggled it’s hips and got right back into line once I corrected and got on the throttle to exit the corner. That was the moment of existential joy that cemented my love for the 458. There is nothing but joy in a 458 on track, and hearing the scream of the car working together to help you go fast. The car is happy going fast, it wants to help you. The car wants you to love it, and it wants to make you feel incredible.

And for those reasons and more, I give to you the chance to give the 458 even more praise as it’s production has ended. Leaving the car to join the history books. I can’t imagine a world in which this car doesn’t become as revered as the F40. It certainly deserves that level of respect and love. Yes it’s a popular mainstream supercar, but that’s not what matters. It is the most important and special car I have driven this year, and I hope you see that it’s worthy of just another award.

  • Rover 1

    Ya hafta love hooniverse.

    Everyone has put in their comments on the 60 euro Polo.

    And this is the first comment days later on the earlier article on a primer grey example of the last non-turbo V8 Ferrari.

    You’d have thought that the colour would have been commented on. It’s nice to see a Ferrari that isn’t mid-life crisis sportscar red.

  • JDSKULL

    I always thought this model looked like a 70’s kit car. Milk white with no stripes or graphics or other color tutone is just boring.

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