Ferrari 488GTB Review of Supercar Performances
It has been one year since the Ferrari 488GTB came on the market and one long, painful, terrible, teeth-gnashing, gut-churning year that we have been longing for it. Yes, others on staff have driven them; higher-ranking, better-looking, better-connected staff members have piloted 488s in both GTB coupe and spyder configurations and you have read their insightful analysese here over that year. But not all of us had driven it yet, and therein lie the aching, longing, pitiful agony.
“Oh, did you want to drive it?”
This was our friend at Ferrari asking, and how exactly are you supposed to respond to that without sounding like an obsessed, restraining-ordered, strait-jacket-wearing, maniac nutjob?
“Oh, yes, sure, mmm hmmm, uh huh, ya, of course, OK, that’d be fine, thank you…”
Did that sound all right? Would you lend a Ferrari to someone who sounded like that? Well, they did. And not just once, but twice. The first was in Monterey, where Ferraris and all kinds of other fabulous cars were everywhere, crowded onto the street like Odyssey and Sienna minivans in the dropoff area of a Montessori school (Maria Montessori was Italian, btw). We went to a place called Casa Ferrari, a former gas station/art gallery that Ferrari leased (by agreeing to paint it, or something like that; maybe there was more involved). Regardless, it was a hangout for the people who actually own Ferraris, not just whack-jobs like us who like them. There were beautiful people: The men wore scarves, seersucker suits and straw fedoras, the ladies had heels that looked like very thin, very tall pier pilings. There was pasta and air-dried ham. But who could eat at a time like this?
The svelte exterior of the 488GTB produces 715 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. We never got it that fast. At least we don’t think we did.
We went south and took our chances.
The first thing you notice about the 488GTB is that it is a very comfortable daily driver. Yes, you could own this and drive it to work and to Whole Foods every day and not hate yourself for doing so (though you might hate paying that much for groceries at Whole Foods). Press the “A” on the center console to put the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission into automatic and the shifts come gently and at very low revs. In this mode it is as easy to drive in traffic as a Camry, albeit a Camry with very subtle throttle blips. “vvvROOOoom, vvvvROOOooom, vvvROOOoom,” it says as you slow to a stop.
Visibility is also good, by supercar standards. You can see out in more directions than in some competitors. The rear corners are a little crowded, but there are triangular windows back there that make vision usable.
Plodding along behind the thousands of convertible rental Ford Mustangs and their German farhrer we were comfortable, if a little antsy. Patience is a virtue, however, and soon enough a workable number had pulled over to take selfies at cliff’s edge, and off we wailed. Hit the “A” button again to take the seven-speed F1 dual-clutch automatic out of automatic mode, pull on that left paddle shifter and good lawd a’ mercy this car can accelerate. It gets 660 peak hp at 8,000 rpm from its 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8, and all that power has only 3,362 pounds to move about. The result was whompin’ good acceleration that we daresay would have rivaled even that of the best rental Mustang. Ferrari lists 2.9 seconds for 0-60 mph, and we do not doubt that one bit.
But the 488 can also move out from a rolling start, as we had there on Highway 1. Stab the gas and you even get a slight spin from the rear driven wheels before the mighty GTB hooks up and off you take. When the car came out last year the chief engineer said the difference in lag between the naturally aspirated 458 Italia and the twin-turbo 488GTB was 0.06 second — six hundredths of a second. We can live with that. Whatever it is, we never felt any discernable turbo lag during the time we had the car. So knock that concern off your list if you’re cross-shopping 488s.
For a remarkable half-mile or so traffic kept to the turnouts and thus into the curves we dove, hard on the throttle, hard on the brakes, hard on the SSM-E magnetorheological shocks. It got us thinking about a competitor we have been driving a lot of recently: the McLaren 650S. In corners the McLaren is more visceral, with feel that comes more directly into your hands and into your seat, yet the Ferrari probably has the same or almost the same cornering limits, achieved in a slightly — only slightly — more civilized manner. The 488’s steering response, while being just the right amount of comfy, seems to come before you even turn the wheel, while you’re just thinking about turning it but haven’t done so yet, as if it is anticipating your next move. And then when you turn it, it’s already drawing the car through the corner in the same way Luigi at Casa Della Tires said, “No, you do not know what you want, Luigi know what you want.” And indeed Luigi was right, and through the corner you zwip. Another competitor would be the Porsche 911 Turbo S. Some say the Porsche does it all best, but we haven’t been in a 911 Turbo S in a while, so we couldn’t say this time. If you had to stack the three of them all up Goldilocks-style, maybe you’d say the McLaren is the best-handling, the Porsche is the most comfortable and the Ferrari is just right. All three of them are superb and you’d be happy with any of them. It’s not a problem for which you’d get any help from the UN High Commission on Sports Car Handling Dilemmas.
Then there’s that power, OMG. And the torque — 560 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm — double OMG. Step on the throttle anywhere from 3,000 rpm up and you will find yourself rocketing somewhere into the middle of next week. A long, straight, drag strip-type blast of road in the 488 is downright thrilling. It’s not scary because you understand all the engineering that went into this thing and you know it’s going to get you there, the same way you know a rollercoaster is probably not going to fly off the tracks, but you still allow yourself to be thrilled by the pore-puckering experience.
The twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 makes 660 hp at 8,000 rpm.
So a couple weeks later we got this same 488GTB in Beverly Hills for three days. That’s 72 hours if you’re counting. Lawd.
Our first drive was on Mulholland, which might have been emptier in the 1950s when it got its reputation as a great driving road, but which now is just crowded and bumpy. At least in the Beverly Hills part. In a couple spots we were able to go through some curves, and the 488 felt promising. Then we fulfilled that promise the next day on our favorite mid-week mountain road. A few hours of driving and we had all the systems operating: the E-Diff torque-shifting differential, which is faster in this application than in the 458; the SSM-E shocks that reduce roll angle by 12 percent compared to the 458; the SSC2 side-slip control that allows just the right amount of drift depending on how it thinks you’re driving; and even the larger carbon-ceramic brakes. All of these combine to make the 488 just that much better than the 458. At the new car’s intro in Fiorano, they said it laps that storied track two seconds faster. The thing we found out was that it does it safely and stably. We kept on through the hills, hammer down, 488 sucking up the turns, never faltering. The grip is unreal. The only time we got any perspective was on the rare occasions we came upon another car: They came out of the far corners like fixed objects, they were so slow, like a fighter jet finding a Cessna. We didn’t flash the high beams or turn on the turn signal or even follow very close at all when we came upon another car, but everyone got the hell out of our way.
That little piece of carbon-fiber air duct costs $4,219 a pair, one on each side. No wonder our as-tested price was $353,838.
But it might not be out of yours. Which to buy of the three we think are in this class? They’re all very, very good, and you would have as much fun on a good road in any of them. But as our late, great friend and colleague Denise McCluggage once said, “There are no two words that go so well together as ‘My’ and ‘Ferrari.'”