Ferrari 488 Spider – #TBT Review

#ThrowBackThursday to my review of the Ferrari 488 Spider from 2016

This Toupee-tearing Blue Streak has Turbos – but is it a blowhard or the best Fezza yet? See the full review I wrote at the time below.

Originally published on Motoring Middle East website and YouTube channel:

The Ferrari 488 launched last year, is of course the replacement to the 458 Italia. Essentially it’s the same platform with a new body, slightly different interior, updated magna-ride suspension and of course most significantly a new drivetrain.

That includes an even faster 7-speed dual clutch paddleshift transmission, and a new 3.9-litre Twin Turbo V8 – smaller in displacement, but way more powerful than the 458.

How powerful? It produces a staggering 661bhp at its redline of 8000rpm and an extraordinary 561lb ft of torque at 3000rpm. Compared to this the bigger capacity 4.5 V8 in the 458 produced 562bhp and only 398lb ft of torque – wow, bring on those Turbos!

And on this particular car – the 488 Spider (which is 50kg heavier than the coupe due to the hardtop folding roof and extra stiffening to make it 25% more rigid – though it’s still 10kg lighter than the 458 Spider) that equates to 0-100kph in just 3.0 seconds (actually the same as the coupe).

In fact it’ll blast to 200kph in just 8.7seconds – quicker than most ordinary cars can do 100kph. Top speed is around 325kph.

See all the scoops and wings all over this voluptuously contoured body? They equate to 50% more downforce over the 458. The rear is wider due to the extra plumbing needed for the Turbo.

On this car the fully powered roof takes about 14 seconds to go down and you can do it on the move at walking speeds.

Inside it’s typically very driver orientated, with pods on either side of the instrument binnacle to control the two digital displays either side of the massive rev counter. It’s an evocative and pleasing layout.

The cabin is otherwise spartan, the sports bucket seats offer a little manual adjustment, as does the steering column, the rear view mirror has a little old-skool toggle rather than auto-self-dimming and there’s hardly any luggage space at all in the cabin, or indeed anywhere else – a Morgan Roadster has more cargo space and that’s saying something!

The air-con is surprisingly good, even with the top down and the stereo isn’t bad either, and is audible above the din of driving with the roof down once you figure out the speed-volume control I discovered.

That’s you’re lot for AED1,055,000 ($287k). Yep you read that right – over a Million for this baby. Is she worth it?

Heck yeah!

It’s a fantastic drive, and then some. But actually it’s something more than that. It’s the way this car gets under your skin. Much has been written about the sound of the new Turbo engine, and yes it’s low, boomy and guttural compared to the melodic scream we’ve known before, but it still manages to sing a mean medley and thrum its way through to your bones. You feel the intensity when you rev it out to 8000rpm.

And that’s the clever thing. With the turbos, they could have made the V8 a lot lustier and lazier, putting a ton of torque way down within easy access.

But in fact they spread it throughout the rev range and gears making you really have to work the paddles on that 7-speed. Paddles that are fully yielding mated to a box that is far less intrusive or of its own mind than most transmissions you’ll encounter.

Wait for the torque to take hold (it’s only a fraction of a moment) and this thing catapults you at the horizon with shocking intensity and relentlessness. There’s pulverising and face-rearranging performance on tap, and it’s fully put at your beck and call.

Better be circumspect then when it comes to the magic manettino – Sport is your default, Race is your fun mode. Stay focussed though as this thing is lively and that amount of twisting force can even get the super-sticky rubber on this prancer to scrabble for grip and direction.

Hence turn the knob once more only at your own peril, and if you’re planning on engaging the last mode, please ensure all your affairs are in order first!

Around town, this supercar is surprisingly keen and darty, agile even. Let down only by the fact that the now even more bootylicious rear makes the view behind even harder to monitor – and there is some sensation of pulling a lot of mass at your aft.

Nonetheless it’s entertaining, satisfying and most importantly of all, a real event of a car. Head’s turn, little boy’s gawp, selfie sticks rise up. This is a very special thing indeed and it’s got real presence. Even more so in this surprisingly likeable blue – that’s definitely the colour I’d have it in.

On the longer haul, highway speed trips, it devours distance with marked ease and then gobbles up sweepers and curves with supersonic momentum. That’s the slight downside, it’s so good at these that you don’t even feel you’re going that fast, or trying that hard.

Press on even harder – it certainly can – and that’ll be one hell of a smear they’ll have to scoop off the nearest cliff-race should things go tragically awry.

But then bring it to your favourite twisty little road – as I did on the above video – and it steps up like a steed on heat, attacking the corners with lustful glee. The steering is alive and perfectly calibrated giving you oodles of confidence to hurl this thing around. The grip is stupendous, the body control superb and the fun factor is off-the-hook!

Honestly speaking I can’t remember the last time I’ve genuinely enjoyed driving a ‘supercar’ this much. Most have developed a set of extreme competencies so far beyond my skillset that they leaving me either feeling numb and unsatiated, or worst, impotent and imbecilic – a sacrosanct sin!

And yet this Ferrari 488, despite the fact it might have been expected to have been hamstrung by the imposed assisted air blowbacks, has evolved the slightly saintly 458 Italia into something a little wilder, a little more hairier. It manages to maintain supreme levels of ability without patronising the driver.

It does what proper drivers’ cars should do, make you and me feel like heroes behind the wheel. I’d have to say this 488 Spider is not only my new most favourite modern Ferrari, but my number one present day supercar.

Price: AED1,055,000 ($287k)
Engine: 3.9-litre V8, 670bhp @ 8000rpm, 560lb ft @ 3000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 3.0secs, 325kph, 11.4L/100km
Transmission: 7-speed auto, Rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1525kg

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