It’s quite a confounding feeling really; your driving position is set, your hands are gliding up and down that sports leather steering wheel and then there are a few moments to just breathe, take it all in and explore the opulence of the cabin.
I'm referring, of course, to those few moments prior to hitting the road in a pretty special car. In this case, a Ferrari F8 Tributo.
It is a rarity but every now and again these golden opportunities come across our desk, and this one was worth clearing the schedule for as it is not every day you get to drive a Ferrari through the beautiful roads of Melbourne's Yarra Valley.
For me, being behind the wheel of this supercar means more than just procuring bragging rights as I have been a fan of this illustrious brand since my childhood, thanks in part to F1. So it is fair to say, this was one experience to literally write home about.
The F8 Tributo replaces the 488 GTB as Ferrari’s ‘entry-level’ mid-engined supercar. The name is a homage to the past 40 years of the most powerful V8 engine in Ferrari history.
For the F8, Maranello put performance and handling at the forefront, making this Ferrari seriously powerful. The Tributo delivers 530kW of power at 8000rpm and 770Nm of torque at 3250rpm (38kW more than the 488 GTB). What's more, Ferrari has managed to make the Tributo noisier than its predecessor, up to eight more decibels to be precise.
|Engine||3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8|
|Power||530kW at 8000rpm|
|Torque||770Nm at 3250rpm|
|Fuel Consumption Combined (Litres)||12.2|
|Transmission||seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox|
|0 -100 km/h||2.9 seconds|
So how have Ferrari improved so much on the already impressive 488? First of all, the Tributo weighs less than the 488 GTB by a whole 40 kilograms, with the main portion of this mass deducted from the power unit (18kg) and the remainder distributed elsewhere throughout the vehicle.
The Tributo has also improved its aerodynamic efficiency by 10 per cent over the 488 thanks solely to an increase in downforce. All of that comes from specific features around the car including the S duct at the front, air-vents above the headlamps, the air intakes on the side, the blown carbon fibre rear-wing and the rear-diffuser which contain three adaptive flaps.
While I have been lucky enough to drive a few Ferraris in my time, that doesn’t take away from a little bit of nervousness of driving a car that’s not mine and more importantly, driving a car that’s not mine and that costs the same as a small house. Speaking of which, The F8 Tributo starts at $484,888 plus on-road costs and battles against the Lamborghini Huracan which starts at $429,000 and the McLaren 720S which will set you back $499,000 plus on roads.
Back in the moment, I try and put the subject matter of price aside and focus on the task at hand - the drive!
The sense of anticipation is palpable, and I push the steering-wheel-mounted start button. The engine spins quickly and fires.
There's a loud, excited howl followed by the purring beat of the 3.9-litre twin-turbo engine idling away. Whether it was me or the car making the loudest noise remains to be seen, but whatever the case, even starting the F8 is quite the experience.
The car's transmission defaults to an automatic shift setting, so I quickly turn that off. Why bother with 'auto mode' when you have a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission at your fingertips.
I tap the right hand paddle shift. Click, first gear engaged, foot on the accelerator. Note to self – ease yourself into it....
But I don't have much choice in the matter. This prancing horse doesn't want to prance, it wants to run wild!
Heart pumping. Adrenalin racing. Speed building. Woah! Into second, third.....yikes! What a beast!
From the get-go this car impresses you with near-instant response. Keeping in mind, all 770Nm arrive at just 3250rpm.
Out on the meandering country roads, where there is a chance to really open it up, any speed or any gear the Ferrari has the same unrelenting power delivery. And turbo lag? Well it's non-existent.
This is due, in part, to its smart Variable Boost Management System which the Pista and 488 GTB also inherited. A system which ensures acceleration is smooth and progressive and gives it the ability to deliver 6 per cent higher longitudinal acceleration than its predecessor.
In other words, this technology adjusts the way in which torque is delivered to suit the gear selected, optimising fuel consumption and enabling immediate throttle response.
More simply though, no matter what gear, the roar from that mighty engine will continue to startle you – in a good way.
Even when down-shifting you are treated to those exhaust crackles and pops that you so badly yearn for from a supercar.
To improve the driving experience Ferrari evolved the side slip control system. This basically improves the driver's control on the limit and promotes more of an engaging involvement.
This could explain why handling is super precise. The Tributo tackles corners perfectly. Just aim and point and this beast will take you right where you want to go, no fuss. Steering is light and it has composure into each and every turn. Most of all, it makes you feel confident in all conditions.
Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to be faced with various road conditions on this trip, which lets face it, is what you want on a road test. The drive through the hills was magnifico – the twists and turns, the fast straights, wide open wides, no other noises to contend within the country, just the ability to drive and enjoy the sights of the lush cabin and sound of the engine roaring behind you.
Ride control is impressive from such a performance-oriented car too. The adaptive dampers were able to manage a range of surfaces, and never made the car feel uncomfortable.
Driving through town, where the car is equally at home, it was fair to say we turned a few heads. I wonder if I passed as an actual Ferrari owner?
One thing I quite enjoyed that I'd never experienced before was being able to turn my head and have the engine in clear view – a nice make-good for not having the option of rear seats. On the downside, it takes time to get used to the lexan rear window with slats cut into it. In fact, it's this feature which makes visibility rather poor. Thankfully, this doesn't manage to take away from its enjoyability and insane drivability.
Even on the final run back home I was constantly astonished by just how quickly the F8 builds speed. It's thrilling but if anything, there are times where you have to manage your speed to ensure you aren't going to get yourself into trouble. It's easy to jump from 40km/h to 100km/h in the blink of an eye, and that's without putting Ferrari's claimed 0 to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds sprint to the test.
Well, to the test with a stopwatch at least. From behind the wheel it feels every bit as quick!
While I spent my afternoon drive in sport mode and engaging paddle shifters, there are other modes including wet and race.
I like to take in the heavenly sounds of the engine on drives like this so I didn't test out the sound system but when it comes to the interior, like all Ferraris, it was comfortable and stylish.
Inside, it's simple. They've done just enough to make it sporty and sophisticated with a mixture of high-quality textures such as leather, aluminium and carbon fibre.
While less is more in the way of design, this isn't always the case when looking at features. As you can expect from these luxury brands their standard list is lacking so expect to fork out extra for added necessities such as Apple Car Play/Android Auto. Something like this in a Ferrari will cost thousands!.
It might be part of the experience of owning, or more accurately 'buying' a Ferrari, but it does all start to add up.
However, I wont let price take away from the fact that Maranello has created a marvellous machine. I can understand why people describe the 2021 Ferrari F8 Tributo as being designed to excel on the road. This car is the epitome of poise, performance and design excellence.
It was also the perfect way for the brand to farewell the celebrated mid-rear V8 engine and look forward to the future of hybridisation.
It's the all-rounder in that it's quick, compliant, super fun, comfortable and it's a supercar that I could easily drive day in, day out.