AT A GLANCE

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige -

It starts at a neat $550,000 plus on-road costs (in­clud­ing about $163,000 in luxury car tax alone). And that’s be­fore you’ve made it to the op­tions list.

Rac­ing stripes for the roof, bonnet and boot: $19,000 (that’s more than the cost of an en­tire Toy­ota Yaris); front and rear park­ing sen­sors: a cool $5700, or more than one-third the price of a $14,990 Honda Jazz, Aus­tralia’s cheap­est car with a rear-view cam­era. And yet the $5700 doesn’t in­clude a rearview cam­era!

The Fer­rari’s cam­era is part of an “in­te­grated au­dio sys­tem” that costs $5430. So you pay to have the ra­dio re­moved (to save weight) and then you pay to put it back in. Ge­nius. Car­bon-fibre cov­ers for the en­gine (which don’t make it go any faster but look nicer) are $13,242.

The pretty car­bon-fibre treat­ment in the rear bumper is an eye wa­ter­ing $15,480.

Just a few hun­dred dol­lars more will buy you the afore­men­tioned Toy­ota Yaris or, as of this month, a runout model Hyundai i20 with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and some change for a year’s sup­ply of cof­fee. Or fuel.

Per­haps the real ge­nius is get­ting Fer­rari cus­tomers to pay a pre­mium for a fancy ex­haust.

Pre­sum­ably the way a Fer­rari sounds is one of the key sell­ing points of the car. But if you want it to sound like a Fer­rari, that’s an ex­tra $4080 for pipes made from ti­ta­nium, thanks very much.

The cheap­est op­tion is rather sur­pris­ing: Blue­tooth is only $815. That’s an in­sane amount for Blue­tooth. You can get a kit from Su­perCheap Auto for less than $200.

The list goes on (would you like wheels with that? $4500, ker-ching) but you get the idea.

On the road, armed with the knowl­edge of just how much dam­age I could cause, I ner­vously slip be­hind the wheel.

Even sea­soned car hacks get a flut­ter in the stom­ach when handed the keys to a Fer­rari. It can be masked as ex­cite­ment, but re­ally you’re won­der­ing if you’ll be able to re­turn it in the same pris­tine con­di­tion.

Which is why, de­spite this Fer­rari’s agility and speed, if I was in a race with a Toy­ota Yaris right now the Yaris would win, be­cause it would al­ready be out of the car park.

I spent five min­utes go­ing nowhere, just ad­just­ing the mir­rors, the seat and learn­ing what all the but­tons do.

Then I had to play with the dash. And I don’t mean the in­stru­ments. Ad­mir­ing the stitched suede ma­te­rial on the dash I found it com­pul­sory to rub my fingers across the grain, and then make it neat again. It prob­a­bly looked like I was pat­ting the car. I was.

The air vents look like minia­ture Opera House sails. They were lit­tle works of art.

The Fer­rari 458 Spe­ciale was de­light­ing the senses and I hadn’t even moved it an inch. It was time to stop de­lay­ing the in­evitable and take the plunge into Syd­ney traf­fic. In peak hour.

If this car got dam­aged it would not nec­es­sar­ily be through any fault of mine; the car is so low other driv­ers of­ten don’t see you in the ad­ja­cent lane. Even if it is bright yel­low.

Pulling up at the lights, I’m star­ing at other cars right in their wheel nuts. No won­der SUVs have a sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity.

For­tu­nately, I even­tu­ally got clear of the city and found open road. It oc­curred to me that I took for granted just how easy the 458 was to drive in traf­fic.

Su­per-sportscars of years gone by would have ei­ther over­heated, or splut­tered between gears. The Fer­rari 458 Spe­ciale, de­spite its sport­ing in­tent and race-track fo­cus, was as tame to drive as a Volk­swa­gen Golf.

The other rev­e­la­tion is that the Fer­rari 458 Spe­ciale did not break my back or hurt my bones. Track-fo­cused road cars are sup­posed to jar over the slight­est crack or bump.

So what hap­pens when you on an open road? Pre­dictable as this may sound, it’s su­perb.

The steer­ing has the ac­cu­racy of a go-kart, the grip from the tyres feels like you’re driv­ing on Vel­cro and the brakes are so pow­er­ful they hurt your eyes and your chest if you ap­ply them hard enough.

The ac­cel­er­a­tion to 100km/h is be­yond com­pre­hen­sion. It reaches the speed limit in less time than it takes to read this sen­tence. Just three seconds.

Al­though I did not try to prove it, Fer­rari fig­ures show it can reach 200km/h in 9 seconds, the same time it takes a Toy­ota Corolla to reach half that speed. It ac­cel­er­ates and re­sponds so quickly, it is bor­der­ing on be­ing too quick for your brain to com­pre­hend.

Driv­ing is always about plan­ning ahead, so by the time

FER­RARI 458 SPE­CIALE PRICE $550,000 plus on-road costs AS TESTED $633,447 ($83,447 in op­tions) EN­GINE 4.5-litre V8 POWER 445kW and 540Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 7-speed F1 dual clutch auto THIRST 11.8L/100km WEIGHT 1290kg (90kg less than stan­dard model) 0 TO 100KM/H 3.0 seconds (0.4 seconds faster than stan­dard) TOP SPEED 325km/h plus you’ve hit 100km/h it’s time to kill the speed, and it feels like walk­ing pace af­ter the roller­coaster rush you’ve just felt.

But the best feel­ing ? Hand­ing it back in the same con­di­tion as when I picked it up. Having started out won­der­ing why two dozen or so Aus­tralians will pay a pre­mium for a light­weight Fer­rari with a bit more power and a lot less stan­dard equip­ment, I re­alised it’s a rel­a­tive bar­gain. Here’s hop­ing Power­ball jackpots an­other week.

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