Test drive a nearly new Ferrari, you say? Where do I sign?
Accepting an invitation to test drive a cherry-red Ferrari is not something you'd spend much time thinking about. You say 'yes' before the cup hits the floor. My invitation came courtesy of Charles Hurst in Belfast, who was recently appointed as Ireland's first Ferrari dealer.
As I spy six shimmering Ferraris lined up with keys in the ignition and welcoming hosts guiding us to one, my mind shifts into overdrive. These cars are part of a range of Ferrari-approved, pre-owned supercars that are now also available from the Belfast car dealer.
As gracefully as I can, I slip behind the wheel of my 2011 458 Italia – a car with a mere 5,000 miles on the clock, but gleaming inside and out.
Under the bonnet, or boot depending on your point of view, sits a V8 powerhouse, generating 570hp and 540Nms. The 458 also weighs virtually nothing, tipping the scales at 1.458kg. As a result, the 458 is stupendously fast, accelerating from 0 to 100kmh in 3.4 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 325kmh.
On the road, the 458 is remarkably composed and balanced. Disappointingly, there is no manual option – instead Ferrari has opted for an F1 seven-speed, dual clutch flappy paddle system. But it is on the open road this system really comes into its own. There is no lag between shifts; power is fed through instantly. The steering is short, sharp but heavy and the traction and torque are phenomenal. The suspension is stiff but never uncomfortable.
Back at Charles Hurst's showrooms we are reassured that pre-owned may mean a lower price tag, but there is no compromise. As a Ferrari-approved marque, over 190 separate checks are conducted on all these cars and all are sold with a 24-month warranty.
So would I buy one? I've always had a soft spot for 360s and think they are one of the best-looking Ferraris ever made; along with the F430, they are also one of the last Ferraris to have a manual option. For me the 458 just felt a bit too controlled, but while I like a little bit more rawness in a car, the option of a nearly new one just made the possibility of owning one a tiny bit more attainable.
It's hard to find a flaw with the Ferrari 458 Italia. The stunning looks, rapturous V8 sound and breathtaking performance put it up there with the poster cars of a generation.
The steering is poised and full of feedback, while the ride is firm but comfortable.
But it is also equally at home as a daily car. It is incredibly easy to drive and there's better-than-expected visibility. You'll even find a 230-litre luggage compartment under the car's front bonnet – the 458 truly is an all-rounder of the highest quality. The one downfall is that Ferrari only sells the 458 Italia with a semi-automatic gearbox, so purists may detest the lack of a manual option, but this shouldn't detract from a stunning overall driving experience. There is another problem for the salesman trying to shift the Ferrari 458 Italia.
It comes in a similarly attractive shape and boasts hot performance, with the added benefit of being a convertible. But it is still good news for Ferrari as it is the 458's Spider sibling.
I'm just grateful that my job means that I'm one of the exclusive few who have driven the F599.
If you win the lottery this weekend, buy this car.