De­fine Speed

The Fer­rari 488 Spi­der is all about keep­ing ex­treme su­per­car per­for­mance alive in a greener mo­tor­ing land­scape. Let’s drive

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Ferrari 488 Spider - WORDS BY PAULO RAFAEL SU­BIDO PHOTOGRAPHY BY IGOR MAM­INTA

“You know, some of my clients say that this car is just too fast,”

says Marc Soong, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Au­tostrada Mo­tore, the of­fi­cial dis­trib­u­tor of Fer­rari in the coun­try. I think noth­ing of the state­ment as we un­load the mag­nif­i­cent Fer­rari 488 Spi­der from the flatbed truck and pull the tai­lored-to-fit felt cover off it. Be­cause in the world of su­per­cars, how can some­thing be con­sid­ered ‘too fast’?

The en­tire Top Gear Philip­pines team—12 peo­ple in all, in­clud­ing the video group and our in­tern—is out in full force for this cover shoot, and with good rea­son: It’s the first time we are fea­tur­ing a red-blooded Fer­rari as our cover car. Our play­ground is a pri­vately owned ranch with its own set of tree-lined roads away from the pub­lic. Here, we can let the Pranc­ing Horse loose. And we get two days to do what we want! But be­fore that, Marc has to in­tro­duce all of us to the new­est car in his sta­ble.

Yes, I know Fer­raris are damn quick, but too fast? Re­ally? I was un­der the im­pres­sion his clients want cars that can hit lu­di­crous speeds in world-record times. Su­per­cars be­long in the high­est ech­e­lon of au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer­ing. They are at the peak of all things good in our car-crazy sphere. At this level, no ex­pense is spared. Mad sci­en­tists are tasked to de­liver the high­est horse­power and torque fig­ures, and the cars that take form on their draw­ing boards be­come the desk­top wall­pa­pers of young kids. (Do peo­ple even print posters any­more?)

And if th­ese cars aren’t fast out of the box, I’ve even heard of dudes who strap twin-tur­bos to their V10 Lam­borgh­i­nis, for cry­ing out loud. There are some guys who live for ex­treme per­for­mance.

Any­way, I’m Marc’s first pas­sen­ger as we ma­neu­ver

through some dirt roads and find our way to the as­phalt. The road is clear. He turns the manet­tino dial on the steer­ing wheel to ‘Race’ mode, and be­fore I can even re­act, he pins the go-pedal to the floor.

Now, for those of you who have never ex­pe­ri­enced this kind of ac­cel­er­a­tion be­fore, the feel­ing is very much like the launch of the Full Throt­tle roller coaster in Six Flags Magic Moun­tain. If you haven’t rid­den that, then imag­ine your­self strapped to the nose of a Boe­ing 747 tak­ing off. If you aren’t pre­pared for this kind of sen­sory on­slaught, I swear to the gods of mo­tor oil that the scenery will dis­tort from the brute force of the ac­cel­er­a­tion. You will get tun­nel vi­sion, man.

Be­fore I can even mouth the words “holy shit,” Marc is al­ready on the car­bon-ce­ramic brakes and slow­ing down from well over 180kph. On paper, the 488 Spi­der can go from zero to 100kph in 3sec. The dash from 100kph and be­yond? Those stats tell a dif­fer­ent story all to­gether, and the ver­bal re­ac­tions to them might not be a good idea to print. Let’s just say it’s ridicu­lously fast.

We put a GoPro in the cock­pit and Marc takes the team for taxi rides. All our fa­cial re­ac­tions are im­mor­tal­ized on video. You can see this on our Face­book page, and it’s good for a few laughs. I can’t think of any other car that can make peo­ple re­act this way. You see, from the mo­ment you look at the car in the metal, to when you slip into the su­per-low seats, to when you press the en­gine start but­ton, to when you fi­nally take off—each mo­ment is an event. That’s the mys­tique of the Fer­rari brand. It’s just magic. Even the most jaded mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist will be smit­ten by a Fer­rari. We all are for the en­tire du­ra­tion of the two-day shoot.

The rea­son the 488 is such an im­por­tant car in

Fer­rari’s his­tory is that the en­gine has gone turbo. This is sac­ri­lege for some of the tifosi, who thought there was no way this would ever hap­pen. It is un­think­able for a Fer­rari not to have its spine-tin­gling, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated wail at full-open throt­tle. That sound­track is part of the brand’s sig­na­ture! The last of the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V12 and V8 mod­els are be­ing bought up as col­lec­tor’s items now.

Yes, we will miss those en­gines, but times are chang­ing. Emis­sions stan­dards are tight­en­ing up. Even the great Fer­rari has to adapt. But in­stead of view­ing the 488 as an aber­ra­tion, con­sider that the per­for­mance of the new­gen­er­a­tion en­gines can­not be ig­nored or de­nied. There’s just so much wiz­ardry that goes into en­gi­neer­ing and build­ing the twin-tur­bocharged V8 mo­tor, and the fig­ures are amaz­ing for 3.9 liters of dis­place­ment.

There is zero turbo lag. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is bru­tal and in­stan­ta­neous in any gear and from any­where in the rev range. The best part is that Fer­rari will still con­tinue to man­u­fac­ture cars in this day and age of su­per-strict emis­sions stan­dards. The 488 passes with fly­ing col­ors. It is a huge step in the di­rec­tion to­ward cleaner mo­tor­ing— with­out sac­ri­fic­ing per­for­mance. In fact, the gain over the older nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 is al­ready mas­sive. What we have at our dis­posal is a jaw-drop­ping 660hp and 760Nm.

Marc opens his door, gets out, and mo­tions for me take the driver seat. I’m scared, to be quite hon­est. I’ve driven my share of su­per­cars, but the 488 is a myth­i­cal crea­ture. And af­ter what I have just ex­pe­ri­enced, I’m not sure what to do. I’d be happy to just poo­tle along—the road man­ners of the car are ex­cel­lent, by the way, thanks to the damper set­tings which can be selected for rough roads. But I’m sure Marc won’t ap­prove. So, I de­cide to just let the 488 rip.

Ex­cept it doesn’t go as planned. Com­mit­ted to

floor­ing it, I com­pletely for­get we are still in man­ual mode, and I end up peg­ging the rev lim­iter in first gear! Dyahe, dude. Marc doesn’t mind too much and he switches the trans­mis­sion to Drive for me. Game on! I can’t push the car as hard as he does, be­cause once the speed be­gins to rise, I can’t con­tain my hys­ter­i­cal laugh­ter. The feel­ing of the scenery blast­ing past—and how the tun­nel vi­sion ef­fect hap­pens—is just un­real.

Hav­ing the roof down am­pli­fies the ex­pe­ri­ence as the en­gine and ex­haust notes ring to­ward the heav­ens. The gut­tural tone sounds great. It can be ad­dic­tive, that’s for sure. This car is like hav­ing a thrill ride parked in your garage, ready any time you feel the need, or when the road opens up. I’m pretty sure the 488 is too much car for me and I will get into a lot of trou­ble with some­thing this mon­strous.

But make no mis­take: It’s easy to han­dle. You don’t need to be a pro­fes­sional to take it to your own per­sonal lim­its be­cause there’s a host of trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol pro­grams that have been honed on a For­mula 1 sim­u­la­tor.

Spe­cific gear ra­tios com­bined with vari­able torque man­age­ment de­liver fast shifts. The side slip an­gle con­trol sys­tem (SSC2) de­liv­ers lon­gi­tu­di­nal ac­cel­er­a­tion out of cor­ners (think con­trol­lable power over­steer), while the SCM3 mag­ne­torhe­o­log­i­cal dampers give the driver a bet­ter feel­ing of con­trol or com­fort when re­quired. Fi­nally, a so­phis­ti­cated elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gram pro­vides ABS in­ter­ven­tion in low-grip sit­u­a­tions. If you have the balls, you can turn all th­ese off with a flick of the manet­tino. We don’t even dare.

We end the two-day shoot by park­ing the 488 Spi­der

at the cen­ter of a horse cor­ral. We joke around by hold­ing whips, pre­tend­ing the Fer­rari is a thor­ough­bred that needs to be bro­ken in. Poignant, re­ally, be­cause this car truly is the fastest thing I have ever driven. It does beg the ques­tion: “What’s the next level to this?”

Trust us when we say the mad sci­en­tists in Maranello are prob­a­bly al­ready work­ing on that. Sur­prise us, Fer­rari. We ex­pect noth­ing less from your sto­ried fac­tory.

Raise the nose with a push of a but­ton. We don’t fear humps

There’s car­bon fiber ev­ery­where. This is a cut­ting-edge ride

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