Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Styling of the Ferrari 458 Italia

I really admire Chris Harris as a motoring writer. Chris Harris of Autocar (Chris on Camera) and Driver's Republic fame. He talks about actively refusing to comment on a car's aesthetics when he's writing about it because he feels that since looks are subjective, commenting on whether a car is good-looking or not is largely pointless.

I agree with this to a degree but also feel I have to defend the looks of the Ferrari 458 Italia. I like the way it looks and that's because I've spent a bit of time studying it and trying to work out why the designers made some of the decisions they did.

It's easy to see that the creases exist to direct air towards the the opening just ahead of the C-pillar that serves as an engine intake. It's a typical layout for racing cars but the evolution from the intakes of the 360 and 430 to this are ingenious!

The rather unusual triple-exhaust is obviously an homage to the F40 [200mph+, mid-engine, V8 berlinetta] but I've also heard they're functional and form part of an active exhaust system. The middle pipe works all the time and the outer two are only activated at high revs so the 458 can be quiet when quiet when you're pootling and vociferous when you're in 'attack' mode.

I think it helps us form a more sympathetic opinion of a car's aesthetics if we try to understand why each styling detail exists. I personally like the 458's styling because it doesn't seem to incorporate any superfluous details. I'm pretty confident every little crease and curve serves a functional purpose. In fact, I'd go so far as to say, they are all influenced by aerodynamics.

Not surprising then to hear the 458 generates 140kg of downforce at 125mph.

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