This story really begins back in the beginning of 2019 when I had a call from a dealer telling me that there was going to be a new V8 car at Geneva with the rear of an F40 and the engine from a Pista. Do I want to place a deposit which is refundable until the end of the Swiss motorshow ? Well, “yes” was my answer. I go to Geneva every year and it seemed like the right thing to do. It would make the trip to the motorshow more exciting and I could still get out of jail free if the car wasn’t to my liking.
Geneva was great but to be honest I liked the F8 but didn’t care too much for the spec of both the show cars they took to Switzerland, too old school and classic. In fact on the day the new Huracan Evo had me more excited as a piece of design. The new Ferrari seemed pretty cohesive to me but in a way, just not quite enough. Returning to Blightly I decided to cancel my order and just hold onto my 488. It’s not a car that I had any grumbles about, didn’t need to be any faster in any way and in my spec looked just as good as the new F8 to my eyes.
Toward the end of 2019 I was then invited to the factory to test the F8 on road and track and I decided to make the trip because a part of me hadn’t ruled out the car completely. Come Italy, the design had grown on me a little more and the improvements in the steering feel, engine note, power near the redline were fairly apparent. Not a huge difference I thought though but worthwhile for sure.
Come 2020 and the landscape was very different. I had offloaded the 488 so was ‘Ferrari-less’ and then Covid happened which made many people yearn for ‘feel good purchases’, including me. Suddenly the F8 as a straight buy to get back into F ownership – rather than a contiguous upgrade from a 488 made more sense and as Covid waned in early summer I decided to test the F8 once more at my dealers.
Before I did that though, I had just two more skittles to down. The first was testing a regular 458. With so much good value on the used market I felt like it would be useful to check this option out. Now I’ve driven a Speciale but never a standard 458 would you believe. Let’s just say it was a fairly short-lived drive.
Compared to even a 488, a 458 feels like it’s 10-20 years older. It’s far more jittery, noisy, uncomfortable, skittish and kit-car like. Now this might be fun for a weekend car and if you’re after a more raw and involving machine and I get why people love them but I did those sorts of cars to death for decades and I want something extremely polished and modern that does everything. Just the damping alone would annoy the hell out of me in a 458.
It's a wonder why you see so many "458 vs. 488" topics on the internet. It's honestly like comparing a Leica M film bodied rangefinder with a Nikon DSLR, a Micro Seiki 8000 belt drive turntable with Qobuz streamed through the world's best digital to analogue converter. They are totally different cars from two completely different times.
The other car I wanted to try out was the 812 Superfast. Maybe for this purchase I should now return to the V12 lineage ? My F12 I loved when driven hard in Europe but not so much in everyday UK useage and it was a poor GT to say the least. Could the 812 be more satisfying on ordinary journeys and hence more usable ? Well I had a good hour in one and really gave it the once over. It is a much improved car over the F12 that is far less nervous in the drivetrain and chassis. It turns in a whole lot better, the damping is far better and the car does not have that slightly dead and hard feel to the suspension. There is more feel in the chassis so it is more enjoyable at more regular speeds and the car feels happy to cruise at normal Motorway speeds, something you could never say for its predecessor.
The Superfast has lost something in the process though. That'll be that F12 unhinged craziness ! The 812 doesn’t quite feel like it’s always trying to kill you so you don’t need your A game all the time and it has lost a little magic because of this. But that aside, my real reason for discounting it is that the V8’s are just so much more go-kart like and fun from the moment you get in. The low driving position, the agility, the younger looks. They are just way more enjoyable whether on a mountain pass, a trackday or pottering through the village.
So all roads then, led back to the F8. It’s always remarkable how much more sensitive you are to a car in your home turf. The drive on the damp circuit in Italy in the Tributo had been in ‘wet’ or ‘road’ mode and both that and the road drive had been conducted with someone unfamiliar watching over you. With my own dealer on UK roads the merits of the Tributo were so much more apparent. Not only does the steering have better feedback than the 488 but the chassis generally has a bit more detail through each corner. The way the engine performs is quite different and it now loves to be revved to the hilt, rather than just petering out to the redline quicker than you expect or want in each gear.
Overall the F8 just feels so much less “videogame” than the 488. It is more a exquisite and bespoke driving machine. It just does everything in such a sophisticated, poished and beautiful way.
I have driven and owned some wonderful machines in my time, many of which excel in driver feedback, visceral involvement and in their ability to reward and put driver skill at the cornerstone of their way of being. Many of these of course are some of the famed "best drivers cars ever". But when it comes to the true evolution of the motor car, a statement on the here and now, where we have come to and what now is possible, the F8 Tributo is most certainly the finest car I have ever driven. And not just performance or sports car but car full stop. The brakes, the drivetrain, the damping, chassis, body control, refinement, transmission, roadholding, coherency of handling and balance, raw performance, bandwidth of performance, breadth of ability. It is a truly breathtaking masterpiece, just as the 488 was but now just even more so.
A big of jiggling and my dealer was able to offer me a car for guaranteed December delivery to avoid any post Brexit import tariffs. I was offered a Spider for a very fast September delivery as well and did consider this carefully but bottom line, I am just not a spider type of guy. So late July I placed my order and was locking down spec soon afterwards.
Colour and wheels are for me far more important than anything else and as fan of yellow I have always wanted to spec a car in the amazing but harrowingly expensive Giallo Triplo Strato so although I did consider a red briefly and I think blues work very well on this model, the Triple it had to be. Unlike when I spec’d my F12, I didn’t want to do the whole yellow accents things though. I went for black corners with black calipers and carbon centres.
The rims I found trickier mainly because I wasn’t that much of a fan of the regular F8 wheels. I considered Pista spider rims and I very nearly spec’d the eyewateringly expensive carbon rims but in the end my photoshop work told me that the diamond cut alloy with a bespoke black paint on the insides would be the way to go. I don’t really like mixing rims from a different model either; for me a Ferrari should be the model it truly is throughout with all the signature pieces specific to that model. Note that the pictures you see here do not show the final black satin rims as this has to be done aftermarket in January when I finally pick her up and get the PPF done as well.
On the inside the sports carbon seats were a must for feel and comfort but you must also have the lifter if you choose these because this raises the seat slightly (although you leave the lifter in its lowest position) whereas if you don’t have the lifter then the CF seat is a notch too low. Stitched horses is a must have and then so was the the central Tributo stripe on the seats – as above I always like choosing options which are newfangled and specific to a particular model. Up at the dealers I also discovered that you could go for the full alcantara option on the seats and this is one I chose in a heartbeat.
Premium hifi is a must, I went for the fancy floormats and the overall interior stitching colour was an obvious. Lift I didn’t bother with; there is only one hotel in Portugal we go to that needs it ! The tacho backing I just wanted black rather than the obvious yellow accent and same goes for the seatbelts, just plain old black. From the cars I’d sat in since Geneva I realised that that unlike the F8 and 488 the Tributo interior really doesn’t need a whole load of carbon either. It has one horizontal carbon dash piece as standard and the vents and bridge look good in the no cost option metal finish, so I just spec’d the CF steering wheel with LEDs (which is a must) and I may fit some aftermarket long CF racing gearchange paddles at some point (you have to spec the CF driving zone and dash to be able to choose these from Ferrari).
youtube Handover movie
One of the great things about building your own Ferrari is no matter what homework you do, you always make some fun changes and decisions up at the dealers. I went up that day thinking I had it locked with pretty much a full carbon exterior but after seeing a few F8’s up there that were awaiting delivery, I discovered that the carbon sills, diffuser and splitter don’t really add that much to this car. In fact some pieces just look less black in carbon so probably not as good visually against a bright yellow. So I took off all my carbon exterior options saving £18k or thereabouts and instead ticked the carbon engine bay which is the one area that does improve the looks.
I’m really pleased at how this car turned out. I love that interior and that’s what you’re looking at most of the time. No pictures can even start to convey how special the pearlescent triple layer paint is in the flesh. It is actually quite creamy and pale normally which I love, but then in stronger sunlight it saturates to a more golden hue in specific places. It really is something and of course, being yellow, is my go to favourite colour on a good looking performance car. Three goes now and I’ve still not owned a red Ferrari but I’m sure it will happen one day.