The new 458 Speciale Aperta is the most hardcore V8 roadster that Ferrari has ever produced. In essence, Ferrari takes the 458 Spider and treats it to the same track-focussed upgrades that transform 458 Italia coupe into 458 Speciale. It then adds an A; it’s a reduction of Aperta, Italian for open. Performance goes up from the Italia and Spider’s 562bhp to 597bhp, and just 499 are to be built.
What are the changes on the Ferrari Speciale Aperta versus the regular 458 Spider?
It’s essentially the same logic as 458 Italia versus Speciale coupe. You’ll notice the bodywork first: the more aggressive front bumper, the vented bonnet, the new sideskirts with their aerodynamic fins, the larger rear spoiler. There’s also new dual exhausts to replace the triple-exhaust triangle – they’re mounted higher up to make way for the vast new rear diffuser that swoops up from the underbody.
All the body mods are functional. Of particular interest are the active aerodynamics: the flaps either side of the Prancing Horse in the front bumper push open beyond 106 mph, reducing airflow to the radiator and therefore reducing drag; meanwhile, the horizontal flap below them pushes open at 138mph – it feels noticeably stickier to open by hand – channelling air under the Speciale A and increasing downforce.
Inside you’ll see lightweight sports seats with their centres trimmed in technical fabric and bordered by grippy Alcantara. Alcantara also adorns the dashboard, centre console, and even the sides of the footwell. A track-focussed car’s interior wouldn’t be complete without lashings of carbonfibre, and the Speciale doesn’t disappoint: the door cards, some dash trim and foot plates that replace the carpets are all made from the stuff, helping to slash weight.
Finally, remember your man/handbag: even the glovebox bites the dust to save weight. Click here to watch our Ferrari 458 Speciale coupe vs Porsche 911 GT3 video review.
What’s new under the 458 Aperta’s skin?
As with the Speciale coupe, the mid-mounted V8 retains its 4.5-litre displacement, but it’s 8kg lighter thanks to carbonfibre induction plenums and a lighter exhaust with 25% less back pressure. It’s also heavily re-worked with 10mm shorter inlet tracts, higher-lift cams, pistons coated in an F1-derived low-friction finish, a compression ratio ramped up to 14:1 from the Italia’s 12.53:1, and optimised ignition and injection.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also now even faster – and no-one ever called it sluggish – with Ferrari claiming upshifts are performed 20% faster, and downshifts 44% faster. You’ll also find uprated suspension, a new generation of carbon-ceramic brakes shared with LaFerrari hypercar, and the latest Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2s – a new tread design is said to drastically increase wet-weather performance. It does too: we drove the car during a torrential rainstorm, and the way they bite through standing water puts the old Cups – as previously featured on the 997-era 911 GT3 – to shame, though other tyres do still do a better job of clearing water.
Finally, there’s Side Slip Angle control, a kind of hyper-optimised stability control Sport mode. It probably works well on the track, but I still find it too intrusive on the road.
What’s it like to drive the Ferrari Aperta?
It’s still sensational, if noticeably shaded by the Speciale when it comes to the ten-tenths stuff. The chassis doesn’t have quite the same telepathic precision, and you can definitely feel the structure flexing more on less than perfectly smooth roads. To be expected, really.
Yet this is all a matter of degree, because the Speciale is so extraordinarily sharp, and its open-top sibling is still one of the most intoxicating driving experiences out there. The steering is incredibly quick-witted, responsive, and more feelsome than the regular 458, the body control excellent, and the chassis balance continues to delight: the front end bites into corners with real vigour, leaving you to play with the throttle and make the rear end dance to your tune. You feel completely connected to this car in a way that really pumps up your confidence.
Five years on – and with those mods to increase power and response still further – the V8 still feels mind-blowing. It’s tractable down low, but takes a little gulp of air at around 2400rpm and just fires to 9000rpm with so little inertia that it’s shocking. Tight gear spacing and those even faster shifts only intensify the experience. Mad to think, but even the 430 Scuderia shifts were staggeringly quick back in 2007, and still the progress keeps coming.
If anything, the Aperta’s suspension feels softer than the Speciale coupe but it still manages to feel hard-wired into the surface while parrying bumps, and it’s exhaust is less bombastic than both the Speciale coupes I’ve previously driven – no Speciale sounds as good as an Italia, alas, but the less harsh note suits this car.
And when you’re not haring about? Well, you must be stopped to raise or lower the roof, but it takes just 14 seconds to do either, does so with a quieter grace than its predecessor – the fabric-roofed 16M – has almost no impact on the 458’s stunning looks when closed (though it obscures the engine bay), and is mostly very refined – though wind noise was more pronounced above 90mph than expected in our car.
The Speciale A, might not be quite as focussed as the coupe, but it’s probably perfectly judged. There’s no better Ferrari V8 roadster to drive, and it comes close to the excitement of the coupe, but dials down some of that car’s excesses, including the sometimes tiresome exhaust noise. But drop the roof and give it some welly and the sound is glorious.
It’s also worth noting that, for a car with such serious intent, sitting in its interior never feels like a compromise, with comfort sacrificed or road noise increased. Even if you never use more than five tenths of the Speciale A’s performance capability, I don’t think you’d regret buying it over the regular Ferrari 458 Spider.
Alas, you may have to do just that, what with all 499 of these cars now being sold.
Watch our video twin test of the hard-top Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 911 GT3 here: