While Maranello has held out as the last bastion for the hard-core fans of naturally aspirated engines, its donjons have lowered their guard from time to time, only to raise the flag of performance. The 1984 Ferrari 288 GTO and the F40 have gone down in history as the fastest of their times. At a time when turbocharging is rather the rule than the exception, it is perhaps harder to create a turbo classic but the new Ferrari 488 GTB does show signs of greatness.
There are specks of history sticking on to the 488 like gravel on paint, from a backroad drive. The three letters in the 488 GTB is a throwback at the first mid-rear engine car of Ferrari, the 308 GTB. The moniker stands for Gran Turismo Berlinetta, Ferrari’s name for that particular body style. The 488 emerges at a time when the old 308 is marking its 40th anniversary. Incidentally, the F40 was designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the brand itself!
THE SPECS: 3902 cm3 V8 – 90° Turbo, 661 hp at 8000 rpm Max torque 760 Nm at 3000 rpm in VII gear
THE DIMENSIONS: L X W X H 4568 x 1952 x 1213 mm / Dry weight 1370 kg onwards / Weight distribution 46.5% Front – 53.5% Rear
PERFORMANCE: 0-100 km/h 3.0 s, 0 -200 km/h 8.3 s Topspeed > 330 km/h / Fuel economy ((with 98 RON petrol) 11.4 l/100 km (supplied), C02 EMISSIONS 260 g/km (ECE+EUDC combined cycle with HELE system)
THE UPSIDE: Confidence inspiring, Sounds like a Ferrari, Smooth handling
THE FLIPSIDE: The rear side glass needs to be got used to, Minor whims of cabin electronics
The most important change in this car, compared with its predecessor the 458 Italia is the turbo. In fact, the twin-turbo V8 that powers the 488 GTB, 488 Spider and with a slightly different displacement, the California T won the overall International Engine of the Year Award at the Engine Expo 2016. The turbo starts firing up your cylinders of enthusiasm rather early and is available from around 2000 rpms. But what is the fun, asks enthusiasts, in a Ferrari that doesn’t let you crash through the redline?
The technical snag about a turbo is that it is hard to predict the power available at a given time – besides the archetypal ‘turbo lag’ that slows down the take off of a sports car. Ferrari’s answer to this conundrum is a remarkable response time of .8 seconds to your command, and what I call ‘emotionally intelligent computing’. It is how the car manipulates turbo boost to trace a pattern that allows the driver to revel in the rev! So in the Ferrari 488 GTB, the peak power of 661 bhp isn’t available to you till you have attained nirevana at 8000 rpm and the maximum torque of 760 Nm too is handed out only in the 7th gear, just as you fly past the 3000 mark.
Probably as important as the introduction of a turbo charger is the achievement of 50% more downforce. Reverse lift is Ferrari’s instrument of negotiation to pin down the concept of this turbo-charged Fezza on fastidious fans. Aerodynamics is the raison d’être of every curve and every line of the new Ferrari, yet it is nowhere as obvious as in the scallops on its sides, divided by a splitter.
The scallop brings back the 308 GTB era. While downforce worked wonders on the capability of both cars, the difference between them is so dramatic that it defines ‘then and now’, categorically. Today’s Fezza gets to 200 kmph in the same time as the Ferrai 308 flew past the 100 kmph mark – 8.3 seconds!
The twin turbo charged output of 661 hp is delivered with amazing smoothness and exceptional control – no fuss, no rush. Electronic intervention is both high and minimal in the 488 GTB. High it is; minimal is how you are made to feel. The electronic differential, the torque vectoring management and the second generation of Side-Slip Control, all work alongside your skill to push that corner harder. If you happen to be on track and wish to have fun and keep the car too, you may leave all controls in place – the 488 would still be loads of fun!
Now, if the accuracy around curves is something to be expected, the ease with which you seem to be doing it will amaze you! A reflection in the rear well can be a bit distracting till you get used to it. And if ever you come across any obstinacy from electronics, just stop and switch it back on. All is well that revs well.
Watch the Ferrari 488 GTB review on ONE MINUTE DRIVE
Outside, the scallops make a catchy comeback and the body styling looks more modern as well as intricate. Some might feel the 458 was more handsomely sculpted in its stance. The rear is strikingly similar to the predecessor even as the round lights have been tucked away and a widely separated dual exhaust takes the place of a centrally mounted trio.
The 488 comes at a time when the sensibilities of automobile design lean towards a tad more complexity than necessary, but this stunning Ferrari at least got aerodynamics to blame! Inside as well, the breathtaking styling continues: what is not leather is carbon fibre!
Cabin and Controls
In my 488 test car, a red Ferrari built from the glowing dust of legends, all the intricacies are reserved for the aerodynamics, valve timings and the like. The buttons and switches in the cabin follows a layout that is easy and matter of fact, except the arcane horn, familiar only to returning fans.
Everything about this car is driver-oriented, starting with the steering wheel, which follows the style of the F1 cars. All that you need is on this wheel, so that you don’t need to take your eyes and fingers off your task, when you are doing 330 kmph! Like the radio buttons, just in case you would bother with a less exotic sound track than the exhaust notes, and a rotary switch that serves the driving modes – Wet, Sport and Race – as well as traction control and electronic stability control. You can control this Ferrari between your fingers – I am of course talking about the paddle shifts.
While I nuzzled into a Recaro seat, normal sports seats are also available. The seating style is the closest one can sit to the track while having a lard of cushion between the tarmac and the butt. Yes, the suspensions are hard but not hard enough to hurt! Those who can get into the driver’s seat will still enjoy it. As for the passenger, he or she can simply sit deep and dry, and enjoy the ride!
The Essential Ferrari 488 GTB
Ferrari has delivered much more than tons of torque and turbo-charged ease of rearing up. It has (what did you expect!) delivered pure pleasure yet again. But the puritan can choose to agree or disagree. Here is why.
The .8 second (8/10) response time of the turbo is only .2 seconds (2/10 sec) more than that of the naturally aspirated engine. Sounds like a negligible price to pay for an early boost and compliant efficiency, till the time you think of it as a 33.33% increase in response time. Something’s got to give I guess. But in the case of the Ferrari 488 GTB, it gives more than it takes away.