Since 2001, Ferrari has had to avenge a great defeat.
No, it certainly wasn't in Formula One; that year saw them dominate and take both the Driver's and Constructor's titles. The defeat I'm talking about was when a modified orange Toyota Supra “smoked” a black F355 Spider. Yes, it was fictional, but boy is it very possible.
Something tells me that this new Ferrari won't be so handily beaten.
This is the 488 GTB, the heir to a very proud lineage of V8-powered, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive Ferraris that include the 458 Italia, the F430, the 360 Modena, the F355, the 348, and all the way back to the Dino 308. And like most Ferraris before it, the 488 really is a tour de force of style, performance, and everything else in between but with a boosted twist.
The Ferrari 488 GTB first appeared in late 2015, succeeding the very successful 458 Italia. It's a tough act to follow, especially since the 458 was hailed as one of the finest super sports cars to ever come from Maranello, or from anywhere else for that matter. But despite the very large shoes to fill, I have a feeling the 488 has what it takes and much more.
Whether rightly or wrongly, many of us have perceived Ferraris as cars where function follows form. With the 488, that notion seems to have been turned on its head, and on the altar of aerodynamics no less.
Compared to the 458, the 488 GTB is more subdued with its design details, and I like it that way. I like the matt gray wheels, the stance, the overall look of the car, and those massive Brembo brakes filling up the gap inside the wheels. Yes, it's low, wide, and sharp like a sports car should be, but there's more to it than that. Ferrari have shaped the 488 GTB to channel, slice, and bend the air to its will.
There are no fancy or outlandish aerodynamic devices that you would expect from a fast car, instead, there are clues hidden into the bodywork and details that make it better handle the air. The front air pillar channels air for downforce, the vents on the hood increase downforce, the door handles that channel air to the intakes for the engine or to exit through the vents beside the taillights, and even a duct underneath the rear lip spoiler (called a blown rear spoiler) to generate even more downforce. And those are just the devices that we can see; the rest are hidden underneath the car like vortex generators, the rear diffuser with a wing that deploys at speed, so on and so forth. The 488 really has forged an unholy alliance with the air.
Open the doors on this 488 and you'll see that it comes specced more for grand touring luxury than outright driving performance and excitement. The beige (Italian: cuoio) leather with the diamond stitching is very nice on the eyes. The feel is more gentlemanly, though personally, I'd prefer a predominantly black (or red) with contrasting accents. Being a mid-engined car, there's only room for two inside; there's some space behind the seats for small bags, but that's it. Even the space under the front bonnet is occupied by the optional spare tire.
Everything you need to drive the car is on the steering wheel. The controls for the headlights, the wipers, and the turn indicators are all there, along with the mannetino switch that engages the many driving modes of the 488; we'll play with that later. I actually wish Ferrari put in the option for the redline LED indicators on the top of the steering wheel, but again, this one was specced more to suit someone in a business suit, not a racing suit.
Unlike most cars, the use of the paddle shifters is not optional; you use it to engage and disengage the dual-clutch gearbox even in city driving. There are buttons on the center tunnel to deactivate or activate the automatic mode, along with reverse, and launch control. And to get started, all you have to do is depress the brake pedal and push the red button to fire up that twin-turbo V8 that fills the bottom of your rearview mirror.
Yes, that's correct: this is a twin-turbocharged Ferrari, the first mid-engined one to wear the prancing horse sigil (for you GoT fanatics) since the F40 thirty years ago. Ferrari has finally recognized that there is a great potential in small turbo engines not just for emissions but for outright performance. In 1987, the F40's 2.9-liter twin-turbo intercooler V8 made 478 PS and 577 Nm of torque. In 2017, the 488 GTB's 3.9-liter twin-turbo intercooler V8 makes 670 PS and 760 Nm of torque; a far more powerful example than the turbo engine we drove in the California T HS last year.
As you can imagine, a Ferrari isn't something you'll drive every day on our roads, but I tried anyway during my time with it. Surprisingly, with the suspension set to comfort, the 488 doesn't ride so bad on local roads. Another interesting option on this 488 is the suspension lifter button; press it and the front goes up about 2 inches, enough to give you clearance for most speed bumps or garage ramps. Just for fun, I checked my fuel economy at the pump: on an average speed of 18 km/h in the city, it did 4.9 km/l. Not bad.
You do have to be very selective of your routes though; Ferraris are quite allergic to potholes and ruts and in a very expensive way. I don't even want to know what repairing or replacing one of these wheels or tires would cost if I run over a pothole that's deep or sharp enough. Even the splattering of little pebbles and debris from the road can be annoying, but thankfully, this one comes with a hard film that protects the paintwork.
Just to be honest, we're not here to test how well it does on the daily grind or supermarket runs; we're behind the wheel to see what it can do. On paper, the numbers are incredible, as you can imagine. 100 km/h is done and dusted in just 3.0 seconds. Ferrari says a top speed of 330 km/h is attainable; if only we had an unrestricted road to safely test that on. And interestingly enough, the 488 does a standing quarter-mile in 10.6 seconds. But perhaps the best thing about the 488 is how it puts its very expensive price tag where its mouth is, and for that, we have the mountains to test it on.
The weather wasn't very cooperative, if at all; monsoon season is upon us, and so up in the winding mountain roads east of the metro, I had the mannetino set to Wet. But despite that, the 488 is fast, direct, and incredibly sharp in the corners. 670 horses is a serious number to deal with, so you do have to be very mindful of your throttle pedal work, braking, and how smooth you're steering. Wet is the most conservative of the settings, making it perfect for these conditions as it commands the F1-Trac stability and traction system to act like an over-eager, overbearing nanny. Better to be safe than sorry for a car that has a sticker price (with all these options) that's eight figures long; one that almost starts with 3.
Once the weather did clear, then we had the chance to play with everything else. Each twist to the right on the mannetino unlocks more performance potential from the 488 GTB, relaxes the F1-Trac, and makes far more demands in terms of skill and patience on the driver. For this drive in the drying conditions, I had it in Race. This mode gives you the full 488 experience on the road; CT Off and ESC Off are best left for the circuit.
The acceleration is immediate and quite brutal despite Ferrari's efforts to make it somewhat more linear. Every pull of the paddle shifter results in very quick shifts; you can feel it, as every shift at full throttle nudges you into the seat. The stiff suspension makes it exceptional in the corners, but more than that, it's the way the 488 scrubs speed to set up your cornering that impresses the most.
There is, however, one thing significantly different: the sound. A turbo car sounds very different from a naturally aspirated one, and in no other car is it as evident with Ferrari, especially if you compare the 488 to its predecessor, the 458. The high-pitched, goosebump-inducing wail at high RPMs is long gone, replaced instead by a much deeper, far more guttural growl. Think of it like when Formula One went from the old naturally aspirated motors that rev to 18,000 rpm to today's 1.6-liter V6 hybrid turbos that rev up to 15,000.
As we take a pause to take some photos of the car, it's important to see why the 488 is the key to Ferrari's future. The 488 GTB is a symbol of the change in Ferrari's philosophy, representative of the company embracing modern turbo technology and tomorrow's aerodynamic research, and packaging it with Maranello's heritage and the ultimate in luxury.
Whatever the case, the 488 GTB shows us how far Ferrari has come in the last 30, 15, or even 5 years. And I have a feeling this one won't be so easily smoked, if at all.