Is there more to the Speciale than the stripe down the bonnet? Absolutely, it’s more powerful and lighter than its sister – a real laboratory for technical solutions.
Despite the fact that a more special name than ‘Speciale’ could have been thought up, or the fact that there are neither mats nor a glovebox, or that the Herbie style bicoloured stripe doesn’t exactly smack of understatement (it’s optional, luckily) – despite all these terrible shortcomings – the Ferrari 458 Speciale is one hell of a car, and one that catapults the already excellent driving experience of the standard version (if we can call it that) to stratospheric levels.
In spite of closely resembling its sister, the latest product from Maranello comes with so many technical novelties that, after close inspection, the only remaining links with the original model are the V8 engine, the styling, and the mid-rear engined architecture. The intention of the Ferrari engineers, in fact, was not so much to improve a car that was already a benchmark of dynamic refinement, but that of the developing a novel formula for addressing a new clientele. Rich people, in other words – but not rich people who simply want to show off by taking their car out for a cruise, but those want to give vent to their very own racing pretensions by spending their weekends on the track. The Speciale is made for them, and all the modifications have been made accordingly. It’s immediately evident how the Speciale is much more than a simply ‘special’ version of the 458. It’s not merely a matter of added performance, further exalted by the enhancement of the 4.5 litre engine from 570 to 605bhp (making it the car with the highest specific naturally-aspirated power output in history), even if the sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 3 seconds flat leaves no doubt about the much more powerful engine. Marking the difference is, above all, the drivability – which has become even sharper and smoother.
Transforming the driver
Beyond the aerodynamic innovations, the effects of which manifest themselves principally at high speeds (therefore not on a tortuous track like Fiorano, where the first drive took place), the fundamental novelty in terms of dynamics is the introduction of the SSC (Slide Slip Control). It allows an enhanced control over weight distribution. It’s designed to unleash everything the car has to offer onto the track (in fact, it only works with the manettino setting on Race or CT off). By altering the various parameters, like lateral acceleration, yaw angle and speed, and by working with other systems like the E-Diff and the F1-Trac, it allows more-or-less an automatic drift without having to sacrifice a millisecond. And if the driver happens to overdo it, the electronic angels do their usual work, returning the car to its trajectory and killing the throttle when necessary. But if the driver learns to accommodate the rear-end slide by applying a touch of opposite lock at the right time, it squirts out of the curves at warp speed – thus making the perfect lap a mere formality. The only problem is that, once addicted to such ease, one forgets that each bhp of horsepower drags with it a little more than 2kg. Wanting to be extravagant, we disengaged all the electronic nannies and found ourselves with an object far less willing to artificially enhance the driving quality of the human at the wheel. The experiment rapidly came to a crashing end with an ignominious spin-out in front of the Ferrari technicians and testers.
All of this is to say that, regardless of whether the controls are on or off, the Speciale needs a minimum amount of apprenticeship which, once completed, gives the driver the understanding that the professional results are only to be obtained through the use of active systems. For instance, our best time at Fiorano was a half-a-second better than Michael Schumacher’s time in 2008 with the 430 Scuderia during a testing lap done for Quattroruote. So, as you can see the Speciale is one hell of a laboratory for solutions that will be adopted by Ferrari in future.
4,497cc V8 | 605bhp at 9,000rpm | 540Nm at 6,000rpm | Rear-wheel drive | 7-speed Dual-clutch gearbox | Max speed: 325km/h | 0-100km/h: 3.0s | Average consumption: 8.5km/l | Length: 4,571mm, Width: 1,951mm, Height: 1,203mm | Weight: 1,395kgs
Interventions on the V8
HOW TO UNLEASH ALL THE HORSEPOWER
The 135bhp/liter figure was not obtained by remapping the control unit, but by meticulously honing every component. The fluid dynamics of the combustion chamber were revised in order to optimize the intake and exhaust phases; the geometry of the exterior suction duct and the interior of the head with shortening of the trumpets (-10 mm) and a higher permeability on the profile for valve lift (+5%). Also new are the profiles lobes on the camshaft, which further increases the valve lift favouring average pressure reduction on the pumping cycle. Thanks to the redesigning of the extraction systems (filters, airbox and carbon trumpets), and exhaust (made of aluminium), it’s been possible to reduce engine weight by 8kgs. The F1 dual-clutch transmission also adopts a new control logic.
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