The manual-transmission Ferrari 458 is finally here
“Porsches are perfect.” Mammy should know. The Iranian-born mechanic has worked on every everyday and exotic car you can name, from Fords to Ferraris, Rolls to Rovers. When it comes to Porsches, Mammy’s a true believer, a man who puts his right foot where his mouth is. He drives a Carmine Red Porsche Cayman GTS. He knows me, maybe too well. He told me to buy one.
And so, just like that, I was giving serious thought to selling my 2014 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider. As you probably know, the market for red Ferraris is red hot; I could offload my bella machina for the same price I paid and walk away with zero depreciation, zero repair bills, and one major speeding ticket. Yeah, about that ticket …
“Is there an emergency?” Rollingwood’s revenue collector asked, after blinding me with his flashlight.
“Dude, I’m in a red Ferrari,” I pointed out.
“Well, you were driving fast.”
“I don’t think the word ‘fast’ means what you think it means.”
Turns out Officer Speed Trap wasn’t a fan of The Princess Bride or of mouthy Ferrari drivers. I doubt the outcome would have been different if I’d been thrashing the 4.0-liter flat-six evolution of Porsche’s mid-engined hairdresser’s car. No, not the GT4. I’m not saying the “ultimate” Cayman variant is hard-riding but I drove it over a coin and called it (heads). In manual form, you’ll only use fourth gear when humiliating a Cessna. Not to put too fine a point on it, but as a daily driver, the six-speed GT4 makes an excellent track weapon.
“The PDK GTS has seven gears,” Mammy reminded me. “Wider gear ratios. Totally usable.” I love paddle shift—especially when I’m driving I-35 to The Range at Austin in start-stop-start-stop mode. Unfortunately, Save the Manuals recently kidnapped me, starved me, sleep-deprived me, made me watch King of the Mountain 30 times, and love-bombed me (manually). If you live in Texas and see a guy on a street corner with a clipboard and a pen that looks like a stick shift, it’s me.
Which brings me to the main reason I decided not to buy a new Porsche GTS—other than the fact that I can’t (18 month waiting list) and that I don’t exactly appreciate the free-market pricing ($25K premium). I recently wrote an article for Hagerty on EAG USA’s Ferrari F1 to six-speed manual conversion. Now get this. The same sons-of-you-know-whats told me they’re prototyping a 458 six-speed.
The result won’t be the same car with row-your-own capability. Working with a British boffin, EAG remaps the ECU. So the binary on/off switch known as the 458’s gas pedal—its annoying AF Achilles’ heel—will be transformed into a linear thrust provider. This I know because its flashed ECU gen-two six-speed F430 conversion delivers power from the git-go to the OMG. (Note to Arthur: Get new tires.)
Don’t get to thinking that status-seeking has something to do with my decision to stand pat. Many Ferrari owners are insufferable snobs (check for low mileage). I’m not. I stopped caring about status when I started watching adult films, if you know what I mean. Speaking of reproduction, meeting a new friend because you have a fancy car is a good way to wind up in the clinic. Don’t ask me how I know.
Is a Porsche a better car than a Ferrari? Was Ferdinand Porsche’s Tiger Tank better than Italy’s Fiat 3000? I discovered Porsche’s superiority back in the day, when I was a F355 visitor. Not owner, visitor. That car spent almost as many days in the shop as Mammy. When I spied a Porsche 996 C4 in the Ferrari dealer’s inventory, when I caned the Porker around English roundabouts and country lanes, I didn’t waste a femtosecond trading Maranello’s screaming six-speed for the C4’s bellowing engine, unimpeachable corner-carving and comfort.
“I was a Porsche guy for years,” an owner told me. “But Ferraris have soul.” True that. I remembered that the other night blasting down the road from the Montecristo cigar lounge to my condo—a road that’s twistier than my first novel with crests that wouldn’t be out of place on a roller coaster. To say I had fun would be like saying I get a kick out of champagne (mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all). The thing is, the 458 takes some driving. Porsches not so much. Anyone who can’t drive a Porsche quickly is on antidepressants. Anyone who drives a Ferrari fast is either someone with a death wish or … no, that’s it. There’s a part of their mind that says, “Well, there are worse ways to die.”
In the final analysis, my naturally aspirated 458 is this close to a perfect driving experience—minus the throttle response, the cost of insurance, the inevitability of a horrifically expensive repair bill, and a radio that’s almost as complicated as it is tinny. And yes I’ve driven Lambos, Paganis, McLarens, and missiles disguised as motorcycles. While I normally view expensive car mods as a good way to prove that a fool and his money are soon found by the side of the road, I can—yes, can—wait to rectify Ferrari’s decision to Getrag their gearbox. Worst case? I’ll be a sad looking poster child for “Save the Manual.”