Ferrari 488 GTB
OK, so it’s a Ferrari with a turbo. Get over it, it’s the future, so sign up or shut up
A new Ferrari has entered the stable. It has 661bhp ,560 lbft of torque and, shhh, a turbo...
Asmall company from northern Italy recently chose to turbocharge one of its sports cars, a decision of potential interest to the few thousand people annually with £180,000 to spend on an impractical, fast two-seat coupe.
There were several good reasons why this small company from northern Italy made this decision. The newly turbocharged sports car makes far more power and torque than its naturally aspirated predecessor, helping it to go considerably quicker both in a straight line and around a track. It will do this while burning a bit less fuel and emitting a bit less carbon dioxide.
You would think, therefore, that the decision of this small company from northern Italy to turbocharge one of its sports cars would be viewed as a) blindingly obvious, uncontroversial, and b) pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme. Ford ftting a new indicator stalk to the Fiesta would have a greater cumulative impact on the driving world.
Problem is, the small company from northern Italy is Ferrari, and the sports car is the 488 GTB, successor to the 458 Italia and Speciale. Which means the decision to turbocharge has had the sort of response you’d expect were, say, the Pope to rock up to midnight mass sporting a peroxide mohawk.
There are good reasons for this. Firstly, because to experience – ideally from the driver’s seat, but frankly anywhere within a four-mile radius – a 458 Speciale at full chat, banging of its 9,000rpm limit, was one of the modern motoring phenomena, an afrmation of the rightness of high-revving, naturally aspirated sports cars. But also because where Ferrari leads, the rest tend to follow. If even Maranello – with its all-but-infnite engineering budget – can’t stem the tide of turbocharging, what hope is there for the cars the rest of us drive? For while turbos may ofer an easy slug of extra power for less fuel, we all know of their fuzzying efect on engine response, how they mute noise and dull throttle. Why have you betrayed us, Ferrari?
Ferrari, fear not, is aware of this sensitivity. Before being permitted to do anything so uncouth as drive the 488, we were subjected to a monster press briefng, in which the Maranello bofns spent many hours and several million PowerPoint slides explaining how they’d engineered a turbo engine with the reactions and feel of a nat-asp V8. Which begs the question: if you can make a turbo engine feel like a non-turbo engine, why make it turbo at all?
Partly it’s about reducing emissions – though Ferrari isn’t bound by the same CO2 targets as mass-market carmakers, it has to be seen to be heading in the right direction. The 488 ofcially returns 260g/km, which is Priuslike by supercar standards. Much more, though, it’s about keeping up in the power wars. With McLaren eyeing 700bhp from its turbo V8, Maranello engineers admit the only way to squeeze more power from the 458’s engine would have been to go bigger (adding weight) or hybrid (adding weight).
So turbos it is, but the 488’s powerplant is very much not that of the 458 with a couple of blowers welded on. It’s a fat-crank, 3.9-litre engine from the same F154 family as the California – but with bespoke turbos, crank, con rods, exhaust… bespoke pretty much everything, in fact.
The results are faintly menacing. The 488 GTB makes 661bhp and, perhaps even more signifcantly, 560lb ft of torque, all available from under 3,000rpm. It’ll ofcially do 0–62mph in 3.0secs, and hit 124mph barely fve seconds later. Surface-to-air missiles have boasted a shabbier set of vital statistics.
But supercars, of course, are about more than mere numbers. As Ferrari’s chief engineer of Bleepy Warning Noises fnally wrapped up the 488 presentation, we escaped into the Maranello hills to see how the new mohawk suited His Holiness. Sweet mother of Stig, the 488 is quick. The frst time I fnd an empty bit of road and depress the throttle, it’s apparent within, ooh, a couple of milliseconds that the 488’s acceleration is a league beyond that of the 458, even beyond the Lambo Huracán, finging you down the road with the shocking, brutal thrust of a fghter jet on take-of. It’s the sort of acceleration that pins you deep in your seat, that causes a string of involuntary expletives to spew forth from your lips.
Approaching a tight right-hander, I glance down at the dash to check what gear I’m in. A couple of microseconds later, I return my eyes to the road and discover with interest that I am a) going 40mph quicker than expected, b) 100 metres closer to the apex than expected and c) have liberated an entire, longforgotten subfolder of frenzied swearing from deep within my subconscious. This much is clear: if someone has an of in a 488, it’s not going to be small.
The software of the 458’s seven-speed dual-clutch ’box has been revised for faster shifts, adding to a surge of torque that is relentless, the power arriving in a continuous deluge with barely a blink between gears. So remorseless is the thrust that I kept battering into the 488’s limiter, expecting the rush never to run out. The throttle response is all but instantaneous, the power linear, even and massive.
Fast, then, but does the 488’s engine feel like a Ferrari V8? It doesn’t feel like an old Ferrari V8, that’s for sure. The turbo engine certainly doesn’t gain and lose revs with the massless snap of the old naturally aspirated V8, which would drop from 8,000rpm to idle so quickly you wondered how the rev-counter needle could keep up. Despite Ferrari claiming the 488 boasts the fastest reactions of any turbo engine, there’s no doubting the new V8 is just a mite less frenetic in its response than the 458. Not slow, mind, and addictive in its own way. It’s a
“SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILES HAVE A SHABBIER SET OF VITAL STATISTICS”
See that hole below the badge? That’s the exit for the blown difuser