Ferrari 488 Spider

Off with its head, so it can blow your mind

BEN BARRY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

WE FEARED we’d hit peak Ferrari with 2013’s 458 Speciale, a swansong for the amazing 4.5-litre atmo V8. We needn’t have worried. The new twin-turbo V8 has lag-free response, a midrange like a 50-metre wave, and a soundtrack F1 fans would kill for.

It’s the world’s best turbo engine – no question. And that noise is even more essential when it comes to the 488 Spider, because you’re exposed to much more of it.

Like 2012’s 458 Spider, the 488 Spider’s two-piece retractable hardtop folds beneath a neat rear deck that doubles as roll-over protection, takes 14 seconds to stow, retains the same mechanism and adds 50kg. This time, though, an uprated pump means it works at up to 45km/h. You have to pull over in Ferrari’s other retractable hardtop, the California T.

Roof down, you can talk to your partner in a pocket of calm while speed and noise swirl around you.

Roof up, levels of refinement are as impressive as the coupe’s. Or have the best of both worlds thanks to the small vertical screen behind the seats. Press a button to lower it and the sound of that V8 floods in. Gruff and growly down low, it builds to a high-pitched wail towards 8000rpm that’d turn Seb and Kimi green with envy.

You could always feel a little more shimmy through the 458 Spider’s structure than with the 458 Italia, and back then Ferrari didn’t have a McLaren 650S Spider to fret over, a rival whose carbon MonoCell doesn’t suffer any loss of rigidity when you remove the roof.

Hence the Spider’s body is beefed up with an additional vertical aluminium panel by the front axle and a horizontal one at the rear.

Ferrari claims a 20 percent increase in torsional stiffness. Feels like a big improvement too. Only on cratered road surfaces – and when driving topless – do little tremors sneak up the steering column; close the roof and they vanish.

Wind the 488 Spider up and it handles just as deftly as the coupe.

Super-quick steering pivots the nose into curves like Tarzan on a vine, the body balances bump absorption with rock-solid control, and all the while you revel in the same playful balance that defined every 458. Tip the steering into a hairpin, squeeze the throttle, feel the E-diff tighten, and you rocket up the road either with tyres on fire or Side-Slip Angle Control managing traction like you’re a pro with the seven-speed dual-clutcher firing up the (longer) ratios like a needle briefly skipping off a record.

Ferrari says Spider and GTB buyers are quite different – Spider owners cover more miles and drive less aggressively – yet the choice says more about them than it does the differences between the cars.

Both models are great drives, it’s just that one immerses you deeper in a mind-blowing experience. vanish

Open for business

THE magnetorheological dampers in the 458 used to be slightly softer in Wet mode compared with the coupe, but after experimenting with various set-ups, Ferrari’s test drivers settled on exactly the same settings for both 488 GTB and Spider. Our car was also fitted with optional sports seats. They look great, but they’re very firm and can become uncomfortable over longer distances. If you’ll use your Spider as often as most owners, be sure to try out the comfort seats, too.

PLUS & MINUS

Sports seats very firm; slight vibration through steering column Performance, handling and ride; design; coupe/cabrio versatility