The best supercar ever from Ferrari, but still with plenty of character.
The Ferrari 488 GTB is the best Ferrari supercar ever made. Well, so long as being the fastest and most dynamically capable is your assessment criteria, but is that all there is to a Ferrari?
Owning a Ferrari is something very special. It is an experience unlike no other, a dream that for a select few becomes a reality. For that reason though, when dreams become real life, there is a certain level of expectation those buyers hold. A Ferrari must make you feel alive, it must brighten the darkest days and no matter where you go, it must be good looking enough to be noticed. Perhaps most importantly though, it must also sound the part.
If you were now expecting me to say the turbocharged Ferrari 488 doesn’t tick all those boxes, you’d be wrong. Sort of. Being behind the wheel of Ferrari’s latest supercar is an experience akin to being in charge of an extremely fast roller coaster. At any given moment, in almost any gear, it can scare the absolute bejesus out of you.
You can find yourself in a Ferrari 488 from $469,988 (plus on-road costs), though our test car had an additional $124,000 worth of options (listed below).
Gone is the much loved naturally-aspirated 4.5-litre V8 of the 458 and in comes a twin turbocharged 3.9-litre V8. Despite the loss in capacity, the new engine makes a staggering 492kW (up 73kW) and 760Nm (up 220Nm). That means it will do 0-100km/h in three seconds flat, as quick as the 458 Speciale and 0.4 seconds faster than the 458 Italia.
But while those figures are impressive, it’s the 0-200km/h performance that really tells the new story, now clocked at just 8.3 seconds (2.1 seconds faster than the 458 italia). What that means in the real world is immediate and uncompromising torque that slams you so hard into the back of the seat that you get a little queasy.
Perhaps the main issue with the Ferrari 488 is its classification as a supercar, because in reality it’s closer to a hypercar in how it behaves. Lamborghini has nothing that truly compares to the 488’s sheer ferocity and unless you’re willing to go for a McLaren 650S or Porsche 911 Turbo S, you won’t find anything that matches its performance, and certainly nothing exists that matches its Ferrari-ness with its other credentials.
In many ways, the 488’s closest competitor is actually the 458 Speciale, which you can no longer buy new. Both in and out the two cars are actually similar in appearance and it’s obvious that Marenello has unashamedly based the 488 on its predecessor, which is ideal considering how good it was.
What is so different between the two generations of Ferraris, though, is how they drive. While the 458 is a build up of RPMs to redline that leads to a glorious former-era Formula One exhaust note, delightfully deafening in tunnels, the 488 is more of a high pitch hiss mixed with an inner cabin drone that can get a little irritating. From the outside though, it sounds insane.
It’s impossible, even for the brightest minds at Ferrari, to match the sound and characteristics of a naturally aspirated engine with a smaller capacity block and a set of turbochargers. The benefits of the new system are undeniable in terms of performance and no doubt they are a mandatory requirement for manufacturers to meet ever-stringent CO2 emission requirements, but we are talking about supercars here, not a Prius. Such are the times and once you get used to the new note, it becomes the norm.
Jump inside, turn it on and there’s an immediate sense of urgency to the 488. It’s not the type of car you want to drive slowly, given the choice. The optional ‘Goldrake Carbon Fibre racing’ seats on our car were, as you’d expect, not super comfortable but certainly ideal for the type of car that this is.
There’s a semi reasonable amount of storage in the Ferrari (for a supercar) and certainly with the front boot, you can carry a small soft suitcase for a night or two away, or stash a few grocery bags if you must. We didn’t try the stereo, as there was no need.
To give you an idea of what buying a Ferrari means, there is no comfort mode, only Wet, Sport or Race. Sport is where you will likely spend the majority of your time, but Race mode is where you will have the most fun.
To get going you simply pull the right hand paddleshifter towards you and the 488 is engaged. Despite what you may think, this, like other modern Ferraris, is not as scary as it looks to drive day in day out. Visibility is good enough, it doesn’t scrape the front end around town (despite our test car not having the optional lift kit) and even parking is not an issue. Sure, you probably wouldn’t take it to Coles, but not because it's incapable.
Really though, the 488 only becomes a handful when you start having a proper go. Around the beautifully windy roads of Mt Nebo and Glorious here in Brisbane, the 488 is the embodiment of a true driver’s car. It harks back to the days of previous-generation supercars that demanded absolute attention from their pilots.
The F1 gearbox is merciless and unrealistically good. At speed it changes gears with an enormous amount of drama, you can’t help but smile as you go for an up or a downshift and listen to the consequences.
The 488 is by far the fastest supercar we’ve driven point to point on a tight bit of road, and it’s also the most challenging. It is a constant battle of willpower and trust. The Ferrari is unbelievably fast, much faster than you think is possible, yet, its limits are difficult to find, but when you do happen to find them, expect an immediate change of underwear.
It can be pushed so hard and so fast that any little error could have dire consequences. It’s unforgiving, but that’s why we love it so. At speed it’s jittery and often feels nervous in the rear end, as if holding a tamed lion that is looking for its first opportunity at revenge. It dares you on, and on, it begs you to go faster even when you should know better. Yet you simple obey, for it knows best.
In the rain, which we had plenty of during our time with the car, the 488 is a hoot. Even in wet mode it skates around and steps out at any given moment and if you want to feel 100 per cent alive, there’s absolutely nothing quite like it. This is in stark contrast to its more affordable and naturally-aspirated AWD V10 Lamborghini Huracan competitor, which is much easier to drive fast, but a hell of a lot less fun.
That’s perhaps the best way to think of the Ferrari 488. Fun. In its absolute purest form. There’s nothing quite like being so close to the edge of grip at all times while looking so good in the process.
It would be a lie if we said the Ferrari didn’t scare us at times, because it absolutely did – it’s the sort of car you would drive fast once a week and then put away to mentally recover – but it would also be untrue to say we didn’t enjoy every single minute of it.
- Exterior Colour - Special Paint (Rosso Corsa Metallic) $ 22,000
- Calipers – Black $ 2700
- Titanium Sports Exhausts $ 4080
- Scuderia Ferrari Shields $ 3000
- Carbon-fibre front spoiler $ 13,950
- Carbon-fibre Rear Air Ducts $ 6800
- 20-inch chrome painted forged rims $ 10,500
- Carbon-fibre engine compartment $ 13,242
- Goldrake Carbon Fibre racing seat $ 15,000
- Carbon-fibre Driver's Zone $ 13,950
- Carbon-fibre tunnel bridge $ 5000
- Colour upon request for leather lower dashboard – Red $ 2100
- Cavallino stitched in headrest – Rosso $ 2100
- Stitching – Reverse Stitching (Red & Black) $ 1250
- Rear Parking camera $ 4990
- Extracampionario – Reverse Stitching, Central seat stripe in Red $ 3260