488 GTS

 

 

Got an extended loan of this beautiful 488 spider the other day. A few days of driving tells you so much more than a short test drive, highly recommend it. From the get go I really loved the general feel of the 488. It obviously has that classic Ferrari V8 mid-engined form factor; low forward seating position, a nice wide and flat "four corner" stance, beautifully sharp and immediate turn-in with a lightness and agility that is a bit of a novelty after the big battleship that is the F12.

The 488 has very plush but taught damping. It feels a lot more mainstream and liquid than the F12 in this respect. The gearchanges are also a touch faster than an F12's and with a little more kickback too. In a bend the V8 car is beautifully settled, light and floaty with a delicious sensation of perfectly equal weighting front to rear. The chassis on this car is just divine. For the first few hours I had the roof up and the cabin is a decent size and a really appealing overall wide shape too. As you'd expect, the car attracts so much positive attention and has an enormous amount of presence.

 

 

Onto the motor then, the car's biggest bone of contention. Accelerating in the 488 is probably as undramatic as the F12 is sheer lunacy but there is no doubting the actual potency and low end punch of the blown V8 and in a straight line I gather it's about as fast as the V12 (although subjectively feels significantly slower). The slug of thrust after each upshift is quite something and the 488 moves very very rapidly but just in a very drama free, efficient manner. Unlike the F12 the power never threatens to overwhelm the entire experience, this is a supremely well mannered and contained car, always light on it's toes, agile and ready to thrust forward. Giving the driver so much security and confidence and generous with its compliance, it's outright point to point road abilty must place it firmly amongst the fastest cars in the world.

Onto the engine noise then which is pretty good in the main and I was probably pleasantly suprised in this respect as I had such low expectations. Ok so it's no 458 sound and does not scream at the top end and it's nowhere even near the orchestral music of the F12 but as turbocharging goes I think they have done a pretty good job with a nice deep growling bellow, certainly preferable to the Mclaren lump and the 991 Turbo for my money. No, my biggest gripe with the engine is the fact that the power drops off over the last 500 revs or so and the powerband is also too short lived. Another 500-1000 rpm or so and linear power all the way to the line would have been vastly preferable.

 

 

Negative number 2 for me reveals itself when you fold the roof back. Over bumps and lumpy roads there is just too much twist in the chassis for my liking. Others may be less sensitive to this of course but for me it's a dealbreaker. No problem though because this is 100% solvable by opting for the coupe instead which not only looks better to my eyes but has a better on road persona and is also a lot cheaper. Also bear in mind that the 488 windscreen is big and wraps around you and up beyond your upper eyeline so you never really feel that connected to the outside world like a convertible of old in any case. It's more like a targa experience truth be told so moving to the coupe is no great shakes. The noise though is admittedly far far louder with the Spider, especially if you also lower the small bulkhead window behind you.

 

 

With a few hours under my belt it was very apparent that the 488 is a very easy car to drive and get on with. It's beautiful to be in and so stress free to pilot. The ride and chassis is very unfussy and unperturbed by imperfect roads, she just seems to glide around everywhere in the most adept way. If you take your hands off the wheel on the motorway the thing almost drives itself, staying slotted into an imaginary rollercoaster groove that always seems to be there underneath. A few mates had warned me that the 488 was a bit too much like a giant Golf R and in a sense I know exactly where they were coming from. Halfway through my day I started to worry that the 488 is maybe perhaps a little too ordinary or too "good" and accomplished and that once the novelty wears off, perhaps you would get bored with it fairly quickly.

 

 

The second day with the car though was really useful because it allowed me to understand that this is exactly the 488's strength. It is just so well realised and put together. Everything just works beautifully and it's obvious when driving it that Ferrari have been perfecting this formula for many many decades now. Of course it's not a Speciale or an F12 or a Pista or a Huracan Performante and if you want one of those cars then go and get one instead. The 488 is the everyday daily supercar, completely untaxing and just so so useable. Once I settled this definition in my mind I realised that I had really fallen for it. I also got an inkling that in the mountains or on a trackday, like many of these present day ultra capable cars, it will unleash a new level of fun once you start fiddling around at the fringes of it's limits.

How to offset the slight threat of ordinaryness even further ? Spec a really top special interior, drive it in extremis whenever you have the opportunity and maybe fit an uprated exhaust as well. I would personally love one and I reckon it would be a superb fuss free partner to the F12.

 

 

So for my mind the 488 is a superb car, amongst the very best. That's my take. But for perspective it's nowhere near an F12 in my book but then I put the F12 above the Speciale and pretty much everything I have ever driven including all the Porsche GT cars. The F12 is dramatic, mechanical, interactive, demanding, scary and just a bonkers, mad bad car .... more car than any human being should ever really possess. A few other heavy hitters of course have more power than the F12 now but none deploy it so insanely. When you are on it, if the 488 is like a finely bred Derby winner then the F12 is like being on the back of T-Rex, after he's just dropped acid.

The irony also is that the 488 is actually a much better GT car than the F12. It's easier to steer and pilot with no cajoling and management of the chassis or power delivery required. It's suspension is more compliant and smoother and it is perfectly happy cruising at 70mph for hours on end. The F12 on the other hand is gnarly, harder damped and sprung, granular, mechanical, extremely wayward and "colourful" under load and will not suffer fools or tolerate lazy driving. The F12's throttle is extremely jumpy, the steering a little dead around the centre and the whole car is always begging you to take it by the scruff of the neck and give it hell. In point of fact the only way I find the F12 to be a semi-convincing GT is if you are on the Autobahn at a steady 130mph or higher. The 488 is so much more at home with steady state than the 12. Perhaps that's maybe why some people don't get the F12. You need to get to know it well, drive it hard and really explore it depths. It revels and shines in being the fully crazy beast it really is or else it just frustrates. It's a ten tenths car.

 

 


The Jackals Racetrack http://www.jackals-forge.com/lotus 1998 Richard Morris