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The 458 Italia is Ferrari's latest mid-engined sports car. Officially, it sits below the flagshipin the pecking order, but its drop-dead gorgeous design and ludicrously powerful V8 engine make this £170,000 hypercar every bit as appealing as its big brother.
The 458 Italia is beautiful. It looks like a snake from many angles, thanks to the vertical headlight clusters that look like fangs and black winglets along the front grille that resemble a snake's forked tongue. The car has a short, stubby bonnet and a spacious bubble-like cockpit that, unlike the long, almost phallic Ferrari 599, gives the impression the 458 Italia is coiled and ready to strike.
The rear view has a touch of the serpent about it, too, though the effect isn't as pronounced. Here, the centre-mounted triple exhaust pipe takes pride of place, completing a look we believe is the most aesthetically pleasing in Ferrari's long history.
Sliding in and out of sports cars usually requires the dexterity of a 12-year-old Romanian gymnast, but that's not the case with the 458 Italia. The seats are mounted just inches above the ground but the high roofline provides easy access, so it's well-suited to celebrities who don't want to flash their underwear, or lack thereof, to waiting paparazzi.
The cockpit of a 458 Italia is a comfortable place to hang out. Its high roofline affords plenty of headroom, even if you're pushing the 7-foot mark or you're particularly fond of hats. The fit and finish of the leather seats, doors and rear bulkhead are second to none, too. On the whole, its interior isn't as pretty or as elaborate as that of some supercars (the Pagani Zonda springs to mind), but sitting behind the wheel of the 458 Italia gives you butterflies, and that's before you've even put the key in the ignition.
Ferrari's road-going supercars usually inherit some sort of Formula One technology and the 458 Italia is no exception. Its steering wheel is festooned with buttons (just like those in Formula One cars) and many give access to functions you'd normally control with levers located elsewhere. The indicators, for instance, are located on the face of the steering wheel, along with buttons for controlling the windscreen wipers and headlights.
It's all very clever, but it gets hugely confusing when you're on the move. Turn the steering wheel (quite a common occurrence given that most roads aren't arrow-straight) and all the buttons change relative positions. The left indicator becomes the right, the wipers become the headlights and the engine start button becomes the manettino switch for altering the car's traction control settings.
See no evil, see no evil
While most cars make do with one information and entertainment display, the Ferrari 458 Italia has two 89mm (3.5-inch) screens located on either side of a large rev counter in front of the steering wheel. The one to the right of the rev counter is perhaps the more useful of the two, since it forms the hub of the best sat-nav we've seen in a Ferrari.