Ferrari 488 GTB

New twin-turbo V8 defines Maranello’s 458 successor

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

WITHOUT the aid of computers and clever Ferrari engineers, the 488 GTB would be almost undriveable, almost undriveable, it’s that powerful.

Point it up a stunning Italian mountain pass of short straights and hairpins linked by beautiful, flowing esses, accelerate in any gear and you can’t help but notice the frantic flashing of the stability control icon. The light in a sumo’s fridge would be less busy.

We’re talking about a new turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 that shrinks 597cc compared to the much-loved 458’s awesome 4.5- litre, yet makes 68kW more for a truly humbling output of 493kW and some 760Nm.

The 488 GTB clearly struggles to get all this power down, yet the computers do a brilliant job of forcing it to do your bidding, while the new SSC2 (Side Slip Control 2) system constantly adapts the dampers to maximise the contact patch on the road.

Remarkably, this computrickery doesn’t make the 488 feel digital to drive like a Nissan GT-R.

Instead, it feels entirely natural, even comfortable, to do things, and speeds, that you’ve never tried in other cars. There were parts of our drive up the Futa Pass, not far from Maranello, where I felt faster than I ever have, and possibly more invigorated, too.

The steering is better than in the slightly too light 458. The way it can turn even bumpy roads into manageable race tracks is incredible, and it simply never seems to bottom out, as its predecessor did.

FIRSTDRIVES

SPECS

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Ferrari 488 GTB 3902cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo 493kW @ 8000rpm 760Nm @ 3000rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1475kg 3.0sec (claimed) 11.4L/100km (EU) $469,888 December

The engineers have clearly invested a lot of effort minimising turbo lag, a condition Ferrari would not tolerate

The only bad news is that it doesn’t sound like its predecessor.

Ferrari boldly claims that the 488 GTB has retained the “sharp and loud, unmistakeable sound” the company is famous for. But there’s only so much you can do with turbos, and you have to put up with their whoosh and whistle. The 488 still has a proper growl and bark down low, but the screaming, symphonic top-end howl that made Ferraris unique is no longer, which in turn makes the 458 a little more collectible.

The engineers have clearly invested a lot of effort minimising turbo lag, a condition Ferrari would not tolerate.

Their goal was to give the 488 the same bottom-end reaction time for 2000rpm full torque delivery as its naturally aspirated predecessor, and they got within a tenth at 0.8sec. Ferrari claims turbo rivals Porsche and McLaren take around two seconds.

A low-density titanium-alloy turbine wheel for faster wind-up speeds and a new ‘abradable seal’, to minimise the gap between the compressor wheel and housing, help the twin-scroll turbos’ efficiency. Plus a few tricks from F1? “I have to answer yes, but I cannot tell you what,” 488 engine expert Nicola Pini chuckles.

The result is an astonishing powerplant that combines traditional V8 shove with turbo madness, scorching to 200km/h in 8.3sec, after dismissing 100km/h in three seconds flat.

That 200km/h time, is not only a mind-bending 2.1sec quicker than the 458, it’s 0.3 faster than Lamborghini’s new Aventador Superveloce with its atmo V12.

It’s the kind of power that snaps new corners at you while you’re still laughing over how much you enjoyed the last one.

Fortunately the new braking package has been lifted straight from the even more ridiculous La Ferrari, so it’s well up to the task of sapping the speeds you’re capable of between bends.

There will be those who argue that something has been lost in such a pursuit of speed, pointing to the fact that the 488 is not as pretty as the 458.

The styling changes have been made for a reason. Those big air intakes on its flanks, for example, are necessary to shove air into the intercoolers and hungrier radiators.

Aerodynamics was a big focus, and the result is a noticeable ground effect at the front axle and an increase in vertical load of a whopping 50 percent over the old car. Even the door handles, which look a bit like a dog’s tongue and feel only slightly more pleasant, aid airflow.

Around Fiorano, with the manettino in Race and the traction light taking a well-earned rest, the aero package helps the 488 feel like a race car with rego. But it’s on the road that this new Ferrari really excels, making the implausible possible and providing an unforgettable driving experience.

Considering its performance and the demand to own one, Ferrari could charge anything for the 488. But someone decided that millionaires deserve a break and cut the price to just $469,888, a $55,529 saving on the 458.

Sure, $470K is still a fair wedge, but considering how much all that software must have cost to develop in F1, it’s a bargain.

PLUS & MINUS

Not quite as sexy to look at, nor as stunning to listen to Performance; handling; braking; acceleration; classy interior; heritage

01 ACTIVE AERO

Active flaps at the rear switch between adding downforce and reducing drag.

02 LOOK AGAIN

It might not look much different to the 458, yet the 488 is almost entirely new. The roof is the only external panel carried over.

03 TRACK BURNER

The 488 laps Ferrari’s Fiorano track faster than the legendary Enzo, and two seconds quicker than the 458.

Hearts racing

WHILE lapping Fiorano in the 488 GTB, we were attached to an ‘emotional monitor’ used by Ferrari’s F1 team, which measured how our breathing, heart rate and G-forces compared to a professional driver, recorded earlier in the same car.

Comparing our graphs later was like looking at the Alps next to some sand dunes.

My heart rate spiked at 115bpm before sitting at around 90, compared to a resting rate of 70.

The Ferrari driver’s rate never even blipped above 80bpm, but as the good doctor running the tests noted: “For him, whether he’s sitting on the couch watching TV or driving the car, it’s the same thing, he feels the same level of stress.”

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