Why I bought a Ferrari 458 Speciale

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Alborz Fallah
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PROS
  • The soundtrack
  • Razor sharp handling
  • You can't help but smile driving it
CONS
  • Lacks torque
  • Interior was ancient even when new
  • Fit and finish is very Fiat

Growing up, I never liked Ferrari. The company seemed like one of those private school clubs I was never a part of.

From an outsider’s perspective looking in, as a teenager and in my early 20s, it felt like it was full of privileged folks who never worked a day in their life.

Resentment and jealousy? For sure. Based on any actual reality? Not really.

I think the issue for me was that Lamborghini as a brand resonated far more with my personality. Think of Ferrari as wearing a fine suit to a fancy dinner with wine, and Lamborghini as steak and ribs down the road.

The Italian company has a long history of drama and amazing marketing. Imagine a manufacturer that can say no to customers who want to buy their rather extremely expensive and very profitable cars.

Through the ages, Ferrari has gone from a manufacturer of amazing supercars, to a manufacturer of amazing supercars and an exclusive luxury brand with wait lists, politics for allocation, and an owner base that would make the freemasons jealous. It’s the nightclub with the waiting list outside that’s actually mostly empty inside.

It’s both a lesson in how to market your product and create desirability and exclusivity, but it can all get a little bit too much. It’s quintessentially Italian.

In saying all that, despite all its faults, the Modena-based manufacturer makes some of the best cars in the world and for me, there was always one car that I had dreamt about – the Pagani Zonda… okay wait, wrong story. We’ll get there for that one. There was always one Ferrari that I had dreamt about, the 458 Speciale.

When I drove a Ferrari 488, I immediately knew something was not how it should be. It sounded like a McLaren. Actually, that’s not 100 percent accurate, McLarens don’t sound as good.

Nonetheless, when you add two turbos to a flat-plane crank V8, the sound is very ordinary compared to a higher-revving naturally-aspirated V8.

It’s also why the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series (for which I had an order) with its new flat-plane crank twin-turbo V8 doesn’t sound nearly as good as the regular turbocharged GT R.

Back in the CarAdvice days, we had a yellow 458 Speciale press car through the garage in 2014 and people wouldn’t stop raving on about it. It got a perfect 10/10 rating, one of only four cars to ever earn that while I was there.

It’s the last naturally-aspirated V8 Ferrari… It has a compression ratio of 14:1 – the highest of any naturally-aspirated V8 engine in the world. It revs cleanly to 9000rpm and represents the last of an era before the Greta-types got their way (don’t get upset, it’s a passionate expression) and emission requirements started to rule out additional funds being invested in free-breathing engines.

Nonetheless, so annoying were Ferrari Australia’s management at the time that they wouldn’t let me drive it. So, F-U Ferrari (of old), I decided to just buy one.

How much?

If you bought a Ferrari 458 Speciale new, you could now sell it for more than you paid for it. It’s an appreciating asset you can enjoy.

Prices for the car started in the mid-$500s plus on road new, but realistically, most people paid in the low to mid-$600s with a few options ticked and the usual Ferrari tax that comes with it. Some cars that were very highly specced nudged into the high-$700s and even-$800s.

Reports suggest during its 2014-2015 production run, there were only 2500 Speciales with 499 Aperta variants (Spider) produced. Around or just under 10 per cent of all 458 Speciale and Speciale A models are right-hand drive. In Australia, from all the research and asking around I have done, less than 75 Speciale and Apertas ever got officially delivered.

Thats 75 of a pool of roughly 300 right-hand drive Speciales in the world. Talk about future collectability!

I spent a great deal of time after the sale of CarAdvice in 2016 trying to find the right Speciale. Of course, I wanted a red one with the NART stripe as the original launch colour of the car, but despite waiting a very long time, one never came up for sale.

My yellow car was advertised for $750,000 plus on-road costs at Zagame in Melbourne next to a matte black one for $800,000. That puts the on-road price of the car at around the low-mid $800,000 range. It had just under 7000km on the clock and it looked absolutely spectacular in yellow.

I never thought about owning a yellow Ferrari and sometimes I still have some regrets, but Giallo Modeno with all the black highlights and all the additional carbon that came with my car, looks sensational.

Buying Experience?

It was Melbourne Cup day in 2018 I convinced my wife to… leave the event in Melbourne and come with me to see the car at Zagame. She was not very pleased about missing out on an event she was fully dressed up for, but how do you say no to “Look I am about to spend $750,000 on a car, you want to see it first?”.

We went over and had a look but I didn’t test drive it, as the car was on consignment and my wife was keen to just get back to the event. Either way, it looked practically brand new.

I made an offer to the owner, who had left the car with Zagame for an extended period of time given he lived in Hong Kong – and he rejected it. We negotiated and negotiated, and finally I bought a car that cost more than four times as much as the first house my parents bought in Australia.

I felt sick at the thought of handing over that much money for a car, knowing full well it was more than what it cost new. Nonetheless, you do what gotta do.

One of the more harrowing experiences was going into the bank to transfer the money… to a Hong Kong bank account and the teller trying to explain to me that I am more than likely being scammed.

Have I met this person? Do I know exactly who they are? How do I know they own the car? Registration is not proof of ownership, etc etc… Yeah look, I did it anyway and so far no-one has asked for the car back.

What I have added?

The first owner of the car was a proper Ferrari guy who at one stage had an F50 in the garage, and was big into lightweighting.

Pretty much everything bar the front splitter is carbon. Aperta wheels, 458 Challenge paddles, carbon engine cover, carbon fins, carbon vents, even carbon floor mats at one stage.

Why I bought a Ferrari 458 Speciale

Since owning it, I replaced the air filter with a BMC unit and… hypothetically maybe, maybe not, a Novitec inconel exhaust (it’s stock officer, I promise).

Since putting the potentially real – maybe, maybe not – Novitec exhaust, the fact the car doesn’t have a stereo has been a huge bonus. The noise the thing makes… just, wow. More on that later.

I swapped the tyres from Cup2s to Trofeo Rs and I will be going back to Cup2s for their significantly better wet weather grip.

Why I bought a Ferrari 458 Speciale

Feedback from others?

The difference between owning a Lamborghini and a Ferrari? In the Ferrari people think you were born wealthy, in the Lamborghini they naturally assume you’re a drug dealer. I’m not sure which one is better.

The noise this car makes is truly a cure to any sort of depression for any car enthusiast. It’s just magnificent.

It’s an F1 car in a tunnel and you certainly get a lot of thumbs up from people who appreciate the high-revving 9000RPM scream, but you also get the Karens who would prefer I was driving Paul Maric’s boring Tesla Model 3.

Generally, the Ferrari is received with extreme positivity wherever it goes. Sure, there are always those who hate it for representing something they dislike, but ultimately this is a car that whether you know what it is in terms of its uniqueness, or you don’t, it elicits the same positive emotions.

How it drives?

Ferrari called this car Speciale for a reason. It means special in Italian. It’s the last of an era of naturally-aspirated V8 engines from the Italian brand.

It represents decades of experience in this type of engine. It’s the closing chapter of what we all grew up to love: high-revving, screaming Italian engines.

Having recently driven a Ferrari SF90 (which feels like the Veyron but sounds like a Hoover) I can assure you it’s no longer about speed and 0-100km/h times, although the Speciale is not too slow at 3.0 seconds for the sprint.

It’s about emotion and enjoyment, and nothing is more enjoyable and emotionally pleasing than what comes out the back of this thing as the revs start to build.

But this car is about so much more than its engine. The way it feels behind the wheel, the way it responds to your inputs, the lightness, the agility, the playfulness… it’s hard to match it for feel. Actually, the only car I’ve driven that is close in terms of how it makes you feel, is the Lexus LFA.

Believe you me, I am going to do whatever it takes to buy one of those too.

Perhaps what has made me fall in love with the car is the way it steps out on you and wants to try and kill you at any given moment. Its playfulness is mixed in with a constant slight to suddenly extreme sense of danger. I love it.

I take this thing up for a (respectable 60km/h) drive up Mount Glorious in Brisbane and by the time I am back home I am smiling like a crazed mad man with a slight shake.

Meanwhile, this is actually a strangely civilised supercar to own. With the bumpy road mode turned on, it rides and has better compliance than my Jaguar F-Pace SUV (no lie). Never do I get in and feel uncomfortable.

It’s worlds apart from the Performante sitting next to it in the garage when it comes to comfort.

Overall, my feelings towards the Speciale are those of unrivalled exhilaration. It feeds my soul, it can turn what may feel like a bit of a stressful or poor day into something magical. Its also for that reason I try not to drive it all the time.

It’s an occasion. It’s an experience and it needs to remain special. Because that’s what this car is.

Cabin and tech thoughts?

The cabin and all the Alcantara makes the Ferrari 458 Speciale a nice place to be, but the switchgear and the overall feel is a little old. After all, it’s based on the Ferrari 458 Italia that came out in 2009.

Interestingly though, even the new F8 Tributo is no different, given it shares the same platform.

The big digital speedo is very much needed to keep your licence somewhat intact and I personally love the steering wheel. Despite not looking like a Lamborghini spaceship, the Speciale’s interior does a superb job for its intended purpose.

Have any issues or faults cropped up?

Surprisingly, no. I expected to have caught on fire by now, but fortunately it’s been extremely reliable.

Servicing

The best thing about owning a Ferrari is that it’s free to service for seven years, so I’m yet to pay a dollar in maintenance outside of tyres and other basic consumables.

I extend the warranty every year at around the $5000 mark, which Ferrari offers almost indefinitely. Not sure why, but I imagine anything that goes wrong would cost more than the $5000, so it’s worth doing.

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Ratings
Overall8.9
Show Breakdown
Technology 7
Reliability 9.5
Ride & Handling 10
Price & Features 7
Purchase & Aftercare 9.5
Performance & Economy 9.5
Ownership Experience 10