The 458 Spider, which launches in September 2011, is the world’s first mid-rear engined berlinetta with a fully-retractable hard-top. It is fitted with a patented aluminium folding roof allowing open air motoring when the sun shines – and the weatherproofing and security of a fixed-head coupé when it doesn’t.
Taking just 14 seconds to be raised or lowered it is claimed to be 25 kg lighter than a traditional folding soft-top, although the need for extra chassis reinforcement to compensate for the missing roof, mean that the Spider weighs 1,430kg – 50kg more than the coupé.
The extra weight has blunted the performance of the Spider compared to the coupé, but only moderately and most owners will struggle to notice the difference. The 4.5 litre V8 engine, named the 2011 International Engine of the Year, develops 570 hp (425 kW) and 398 lbs/ft (540 Nm) of torque, and still propels the drop-top to a top speed of 198 mph (320 km/h), down just 4 mph (6.4 km/h) on the coupé.
Acceleration is also slightly affected, with the 62 mph (100 km/h) sprint being reached in 3.4 seconds. Fuel consumption is claimed to be up to 24 mpg (11.8 l/100 km) and emissions are just 275 g CO2/km.
The driver can also enjoy a dual-clutch F1 paddle-shift gearbox, F1-Trac traction control and anti-lock braking, allowing that power to be enjoyed responsibly in what is widely claimed to be the most impressive sports car in its class, with most preferring it to competitors such as the McLaren MP4-12C, Lamborghini Gallardo, or Aston Martin DB9.
Both driver and passenger will enjoy the engine noise, which has been tuned to provide the best possible soundtrack with the roof lowered. If they would rather talk, Ferrari claim that the adjustable wind-stop allows conversation at speeds as high as 125 mph (200 km/h).