Motoring scribes are often accused of living the good life. This is a truism, for the most part, because we get the chance to drive vehicles that others will either get their hands on much later, or only dream of driving. Every once in a while, though, this charmed life becomes even more special. That’s when you open up your email and find an invitation to go and test one of the most sought after cars in the world – the latest steed from Ferrari.
I was thus back in Maranello, Italy (home to Ferrari) to drive the brand new 488 GTB. I had the chance to test the car on both road and track, and I can tell you one thing straight away – there is a reason these cars and their makers evoke the reverence they do. The 488 GTB is a fabulous machine – period. Read on to find out why.
WHAT IS IT?
The 488 GTB is a mid-rear engined sports car. The 488 is from the engine’s unitary displacement (a naming convention Ferrari had abandoned but has now returned to), while GTB stands for Gran Turismo Berlinetta – which essentially means a touring car that is performance personified but can also take you over long distances. At the heart of this car is Ferrari’s latest and most performance-oriented engine ever (yes, they said so themselves). Like nearly 75 per cent of all Ferraris sold, this one is also available in red, and to make it extra special, there’s a new red on offer. Rosso Corsa Met is like the Rosso Corsa you’ve seen on most Ferrari cars, but it has a special metallic hue added in so that it appears a bit brighter in direct sunlight. It certainly worked for me!
WHY IS IT A BIG DEAL?
Er… it’s a Ferrari. The car is a significant model in Ferrari’s history, because while this marks the 40thyear that Ferrari is making a mid-rear engined car, it’s the first time that the engine is turbocharged. This is a big shift, and a deliberate one for Ferrari, and it has meant reducing displacement and yet adding power and torque, in heaps. What you get is a 3.9-litre engine with two twin-scroll turbos, that help it achieve a mad 670 bhp of maximum power and generate a whopping 76 kgm of peak torque.
The 488’s predecessor was the 458 Italia, which had a 4.5-litre engine that made 570 bhp and 54 kgm of torque. While it looks somewhat like the 458, it does have new styling elements that help increase aerodynamics, like the new door handles. Crucially, this car now has 50 per cent increased downforce compared to the 458 – yes, 50 per cent. It manages that by adding an aero pillar in the front bumper, which diverts air both longitudinally and horizontally. It is aided by the Formula One inspired double spoiler, which carries most of the air below the car. A new underbody that has vortex generators built in then channels that air, so as to almost suck the car to the ground.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Like all Ferraris, the expectation is to be wowed, to be exhilarated and also surprised. The good news is that the 488 GTB doesn’t disappoint on any of these fronts. It has a very forgiving chassis, yet one that lets you really push it – and push it hard. It can go from standstill to 100 kilometres an hour in 3 seconds flat, which is seriously fast. The car’s gearbox is a revised version of its predecessor’s 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which is also very quick, and now has specific ratios to deal with the massive torque. Variable torque management delivers more and more torque up through the gearbox, and gearing is overall a lot taller than the 458’s. The car is extremely precise, and the steering has just the right amount of feedback to keep you interested. On the track, you get a sense of its raw power, but it is on the open road – especially winding mountain roads – where you realise just how much control the chassis has. Handling is nothing short of sensational, in the way the car turns into corners and allows you to make quick yet graceful manoeuvres.
SHOULD YOU CARE?
By the very nature of things, being a Ferrari is a guarantee of prowess. You know that the engineers would have done their best to deliver a car that outperforms the last one, and to thus keep you smiling. But with the last few cars, we have also seen an ease of use and a confidence-instilling character that means Ferraris are now for everyone – everyone with fat wallets, of course. The 488 GTB is a welcome addition to that stable. It is quick, it is precise and despite ditching a naturally aspirated engine for a turbocharged one, it sounds bloody fantastic. It offers a superlative blend of performance and luxury, and maintains the thrill of driving a Ferrari. If you can afford it, get one. If you do, let me know. I promise to be a very good friend.