Mercedes-Benz is doing its best to steal the Frankfurt Motor Show with its gullwing SLS AMG, but Ferrari is putting up a serious fight with its newly unveiled 458 Italia -- the replacement for its outgoing F430.
The Italian marque is certainly putting its faith in this one. As if adding its homeland to the car's name wasn't bold enough, the Prancing Horse has also drafted in its tame F1 legend, Michael Schumacher, for advice.
Judging by looks alone, we're inclined to say the pint-sized German has got it right. The snake-like front end sports an almost maniacal grin, with while its curvy, drag-optimised silhouette gives the impression that it's almost certainly quicker than your average Ford Mondeo.
Most of its speed is down to a brand-new 4.5-litre V8, which Ferrari reckons is both powerful and efficient. Working alongside the car's double-clutch, flappy-paddle gearbox, it'll hurl the Italia from 0-60mph in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 202mph. More impressively, perhaps, it'll allow all this while spewing just 307g/km of carbon dioxide. By comparison, the Ferrari F430 belched out 420g/km. Sure, the Italia will still kill the planet, but it'll make it a long, drawn-out affair, and for that we should be grateful.
The 458 Italia sports a range of technological advancements we've previously not encountered. Schumacher has somehow convinced Ferrari it should replace the control stalks on the steering column with buttons at the centre of the steering wheel. Indicators, full beam, flash and windscreen wiper functions are all accessed in this fashion in order to provide "maximum vehicle control at all times". We're not convinced. Call us old-fashioned, but reaching a finger for old-school indicator stalks is hardly the height of recklessness.
Cabin tech seems well-catered for. A pod of buttons on the dash incorporates controls for the stereo, Bluetooth phone connections, satellite navigation and the rear parking camera, all of which are shown on the car's colour TFT display. Ferrari doesn't usually bother with iPod connectivity (the 599 was the first to incorporate this feature as standard) so music fans will have to make do with the soundtrack from the howling V8.
We're expecting the 458 Italia to arrive in early 2010 with a price tag somewhere in the region of £170,000. We're off to root around the back of the sofa for spare change. Check our photo gallery for some press pics pictures and additional details.
From some angles, the 458 Italia looks rather like a snake.
Despite the lack of a rear wing, the car generates in excess of 360kg of downforce at its 202mph top speed. The triple exhaust pipe design is a smart touch too.