I got the opportunity to drive the Speciale this week, the black and gold car that you guys have seen come around on these pages a couple of times.
First off, I think she looks pretty darn Speciale in black. I ordered my Italia in black because I think that this colour shows off the aggression in the lines, but of course the Speciale looks even more agressive. The wider stance at the back is particularly yummy. I also like the fact that you see the little fins less, as I think they detract from the lovely lines. The reworking of the rear is very succesful. I'm not so enamoured with the intakes in the bonnet, though, and of course there is a lot less space in the boot (for me, as I take the 458 on holidays throughout Europe, a consideration). Overall, a fantastic looking car!!
Inside, I must say that I absolutely love the looks. This car has lightgrey alcantara, and that looks absolutely wonderful with the carbon fibre and aluminium floors. But whoever thought of the "knee pad" thing at the place the cubby hole used to be, was an idiot. It just looks naff. One thing to notice: the way the speakers are mounted on the carbon fibre in the doors is really cheap looking. A friend of mine ordered his Speciale without speakers for this reason.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to find any decent roads in the vicinity of Amsterdam that test the Speciale in any sort of way. This is a real shame as I found that the Speciale is a real evolution
of the Italia, not a revolution
. The extra power is noticeable but not overwhelming. The salesman warned me of the more aggressive clutch, but to be frank I have not even noticed a difference. It was just very comfortable being behind the wheel - feels like home, just a more clinical home than I have myself. Fewer carpets, less soundproofing. The latter is really noticeable. Quite annoying tyre noise, even from 50km/h. Some people reading this will wonder why one should care, but if you do 1000km on a day to drive South to Italy, it is something that you notice.
OK, enough with the boring stuff. Time to fire her up!
200m after I drove her off the lot, there was a speed check. Good thing I was stuck behind a truck at the time....
Drove her into the woods near Utrecht to scare some feathers of pigeons, and that is immediately a large part of the appeal compared to the Italia. The sound above 7,000 rpm is amazing. There is a real aggressive edge to it, I was not expecting that. She's a bit less smooth than the Italia, more Joe Cocker than Robbie Williams. A real improvement is the way the exhaust flaps open. Much more gradual than the Italia, which means you don't have an annoying LOUD-soft-LOUD-soft like my car if you drive around 60 - 70km/h around suburbs. I didn't really detect any difference in the way it opens in the various manettino
modes, just that opens earlier on RACE and CT-OFF.
Pedal to the metal. Well, everything you've imagined certainly holds true - an amazing bomb on wheels. But if you're an experienced Italia owner, it doesn't blow you away. You revel in the extra power, but to be frank I had expected my senses to be bombarded more. The Italia is, at full cry, a very impressive machine and it turns out to be hard to top that. So what you get is the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the extra edge that really fits the 458 very well. I was just expecting, well, a bit more
. I think that shows that a 458 Italia owner is just a very spoilt brat.
In terms of the gearbox, I was expecting more rawness. There is a hint of it there, and you notice the beefier clutch, but to be honest it is like the fruity tones in a good dry Sauvignon Blanc. You notice it only if you're not drinking the wine. So just get on with it and drive the darn thing.
As said, the roads in central Holland are hopeless so in an hour's test drive there was no chance of testing the road holding. That, to me, will be the real seperator between the Italia and the Speciale. I would LOVE to drive this car at Spa, and see how she compares to my own baby. This also highlights that owning a car like this where I live is frustrating. It is with the Italia as well, I tend to go on holiday abroad with it or take it to the track to really enjoy what she can do.
Time to turn back to the dealership and try and find a couple of places for last bursts of full throttle. My god, she is impressive. It is strange that you hardly have time to think, but you still have time enough to note the differences with the Italia. The accelleration is ferocious, the noise glorious, and she just feels so lovely on the road. She is a bit lower, though, and you need to take more care on the speedbumps.
Handing the key back over, I thought: what an amazing machine. A brilliant man-toy for the man-cave, to take some moments for yourself with where all you do is enjoy this technological marvel on a great road or track. It doesn't make the Italia obsolete. For me it just shows that the Italia is much more versatile, and if you want to go on holiday with it, it is the better choice.
I've saved the best for last. The price. To me, she is around 30,000 euros cheaper than I expected. So much carbon fibre that I "had to" order with my Italia, driving the price up, is standard on this car. Less choice with the rims, as well (nice rims BTW), and the fantastic race seats as standard. To get my 458 Italia's spec, I would be significantly cheaper off, but have more horses and more noise. Seems a pretty good deal to me!!
Thanks to my dealer Kroymans to let me have this car for myself for an hour, it was memorable.
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