Fer­rari 488 GTB

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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”

WORDS: SAM PHILIP / PIC­TURES: JOHN WY­CHER­LEY

See that hole be­low the badge? That’s the exit for the blown di­fuser

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