488 PISTA v GT2 RS



Two of the finest fast cars ever, bat­tle it out with one left stand­ing as the vic­tor


PER­FEC­TION IS, by na­ture and by say­ing, aw­fully hard to achieve. And yet the Euro­pean sum­mer sun is shin­ing, the Ital­ian roads above the home of Fer­rari are twisty and it’s our duty to put two su­per­cars of the mo­ment through their paces. Per­fec­tion is rel­a­tive, but for any­one with a hint of car nut inside them, the fight be­tween Weissach and Maranello in this lo­ca­tion is about as good as it gets. This is an ex­tremely rare op­por­tu­nity, and we in­tend to make the most of it.

The re­al­ity is that there’s no way to split the $645,400 Porsche 911 GT2 RS and the $645,000 Fer­rari 488 Pista other than to bring them to­gether in a head-to-head bat­tle. Com­par­ing re­spec­tive spec sheets alone is, ul­ti­mately, fu­tile. On pa­per the Fer­rari ap­pears to have the ad­van­tage with a dry weight of 1280kg and 530kW to play with. The Ger­man is a more portly 1470kg (wet) and is pro­pelled by 515kW. How­ever, you al­ready know that isn’t the en­tire story...

Given the Pista is sup­posed to weigh 90kg less than the 488 GTB, we can only as­sume that once filled and taxed the Fer­rari is more like 1450kg. That closes the par­tic­u­lar gap to the point of be­ing non-ex­is­tant. And that’s be­fore con­sid­er­ing what we know about Porsche horses be­ing ‘strong’. So, all told, we’re prob­a­bly look­ing at a level play­ing field to start with.

Don’t look to the re­spec­tive gear­boxes, ei­ther, to split them apart. Un­like, for ex­am­ple, As­ton Martin where the trans­mis­sions don’t trans­mit 100 per cent of the en­gine per­for­mance, the ’boxes fit­ted to the Pista and GT2 RS are es­sen­tially fault­less. Okay, maybe the Ital­ian’s setup is slightly smarter with an Auto mode that’s bor­der­ing on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. But oth­er­wise they are sim­ply equally as good as each other. It’s an eye for an eye.

A host of other bar­baric cliches could be bandied ’round to de­scribe the all-nighters and hair pulling the re­spec­tive en­gi­neers would have gone through to get their cars to cor­ner this flat and with this much en­gage­ment. Rear-wheel steer­ing and Porsche Torque Vec­tor­ing( P TV) Plus for the GT2RS fights Fer­rari’s Dy­namic En­hancer (FDE, ex­plained p24) and the lat­est it­er­a­tion of the E-Diff in the Pista. In the ESP stakes, Weissach packs Ac­tive PASM vs FRS SCM-E out of Maranello. And so on, and so forth.

How­ever, be­fore we find our­selves de­vel­op­ing an acrony­min­duced headache, let’s stick to the essen­tials. Both are kit­ted­out with the best of the best in terms of elec­tronic hard­ware and soft­ware. Mostly the sys­tems are com­pletely dis­creet, but al­ways cast­ing a benev­o­lent eye over pro­ceed­ings.

The same ap­plies to the brak­ing. Car­bon ceram­ics are stan­dard, with six-pis­ton front calipers for both. Get to the nitty gritty and the Porsche has a slight ad­van­tage thanks to 410mm front discs com­pared to the Pista’s slightly more ef­fete 398mm din­ner plates. But then, the feel is ar­guably marginally nicer in the Fer­rari... And don’t go look­ing to the per­for­mance fig­ures to split the dif­fer­ence, ei­ther. Just 0.05sec (Porsche leads at 2.8sec) sep­a­rates the pair to 100km/h and both top

out at 340km/h. How­ever, the Pista reaches 200km/h 0.7sec quicker than the GT2 RS.

Get­ting bogged down in the facts and fig­ures of th­ese two can be easy to do and all con­sum­ing. There re­ally is noth­ing left to do but get be­hind the wheel and make seat-of-thep­ants judge­ments us­ing eyes, ears, feet and hands. It’s a tough gig, but some­one has to do it.

I must con­fess to hav­ing a very soft spot for all the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated GT3s and GT3 RSs. The rea­son for not­ing this is the fact that I wasn’t im­me­di­ately at­tracted to the wheel of the GT2 RS un­til that is, I found my­self be­hind it. Call me crazy, but that’s an hon­est as­sess­ment. Af­ter only a very short dis­tance it’s clear that whilst this car has a strato­spheric po­ten­tial for per­for­mance, which shouldn’t be a sur­prise, the way it com­mu­ni­cates most cer­tainly is.

Through the first cor­ner, a tight-ish left han­der, the GT2 RS dives into the apex and sticks there as if held in place by a prop for­ward. The next right-hand hair­pin is proper race­car stuff as it keeps its head down to­wards the exit of the bend and then takes off again down the straight like a whirl­wind.

With the Sport but­ton se­lected there’s noth­ing ‘flat’ about the ex­haust note, ei­ther. Okay, it’s not quite the same as 9000rpm in the GT3, but the big-cal­i­bre-can­non lev­els of back­fir­ing on the down changes make up for any au­ral dis­ap­point­ments you might oth­er­wise have. Cer­tainly, this pow­er­train gives noth­ing away to a McLaren 720S – quite the op­po­site, ac­tu­ally.

You can’t help but want to keep driv­ing the GT2 RS. Keep drink­ing it in un­til well af­ter your thirst has been quenched. You want to keep driv­ing un­til the aux­il­iary cool­ing tank (which spritzes the in­ter­cool­ers with dem­iner­alised wa­ter when nec­es­sary) is drained, too. But as you’d ex­pect of a Porsche it just soaks up the pun­ish­ment and keeps de­liv­er­ing de­spite the heat­wave con­di­tions that are caus­ing the driver to wilt and the tar­mac to melt. This gran­ite-es­que fit­ness for pur­pose and re­li­a­bil­ity is be­gin­ning to sound like an overused, throw­away line, but we re­ally should re­mind our­selves of what an in­cred­i­ble feat this re­ally is – es­pe­cially when it is not a given at this price point with some com­peti­tors...

On the back roads that lead to­wards Sa­mone, Italy, wrig­gling and whirling like a boa con­stric­tor with a food al­lergy, the GT2 RS bides its time be­hind a semi-ar­tic­u­lated truck. It’s a quick look down the side, in­di­cate and then go. No need to change down, the flat-six’s 750Nm (from just 2500rpm) will hap­pily bury your shoul­ders into the back­rest. It forces you to pre­pare to jump on the brakes be­fore the next, rapidly ap­proach­ing, cor­ner if you want any hope of get­ting through it still point­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Put sim­ply, the GT2 RS is a beast, a mon­grel of a thing need­ing to be tamed. You need to have a base knowl­edge of how to get the best out of it to al­low the fastest 911 to shine. There’s noth­ing wrong with the en­gine, it’s just that the speeds it can gen­er­ate with such ease re­quire you, the driver, to main­tain a cool head at all times. The sounds com­ing from the en­gine are in­ter­est­ing, too. As we’ve es­tab­lished, it doesn’t


pos­sess the stri­dent wail of the GT3 unit. How­ever, the bass notes the tur­bocharged en­gine pro­duce are just as vis­ceral and per­haps more omi­nous sound­ing.

The han­dling is quite some­thing, too, with a com­plete and ut­ter lack of un­der­steer in the dry and when driven prop­erly. This means you can for­get about the chas­sis and con­cen­trate on your lines and dos­ing out the power to match (es­pe­cially in the lower gears). Do this and you’ll soon be trans­fixed by the feel­ing of rid­ing an in­ex­haustible and huge wave as the Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2s bite into the tar­mac.

The only black marks are per­haps the steer­ing, which could be a tad more di­rect, and a brake pedal feel that has a slight whiff of spongi­ness about it. For ev­ery­thing else, how­ever, the GT2 RS of­fers an al­most per­fect bal­ance be­tween per­for­mance, use­abil­ity and plea­sure. A very fine vin­tage in­deed. But that begs the ques­tion, can the Pista do bet­ter?

Start­ing the Pista’s V8 has noth­ing in com­mon with the ca­coph­ony pro­duced by the 360 Chal­lenge, or even 458. The tur­bos muf­fle all the high notes from the crank’s first turns all the way to the red­line. It does feel silly to be nos­tal­gic about acous­tics so re­cent; we’re not talk­ing about the click-clack of an open gear­box from the last cen­tury, af­ter all. But let’s not get stuck in the past, be­cause there’s plenty of good that’s come from the more re­cent tech­nol­ogy. It’s not like the en­gine is lack­ing in char­ac­ter and cer­tainly the level of per­for­mance it of­fers ban­ishes all the rose-tinted thoughts of days long gone.

The key to the Pista is to ban­ish the idea that it’s merely a tuned 488 with a duckbill and some jazzy stick­ers. Think that at your own peril, be­cause the re­al­ity is that it’s far, far from be­ing a sim­ple case of the men in red turn­ing up the boost. To un­der­stand just how spe­cific the car is you need to scratch un­der the top coat of var­nish, start­ing with the bon­net and the front wings made of car­bon fi­bre (and bor­rowed from a 488 Chal­lenge race­car, no less).

Then there are the In­conel ex­haust man­i­folds, light­weight crank and fly­wheel, ti­ta­nium con­rods and roller-bear­ing tur­bos with dy­namic rev sen­sors to im­prove spool times. In use the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Pista and the 488 is marked with a much re­duced in­er­tia when revs change – ei­ther when ris­ing or fall­ing. And then there’s the sud­den, last-gasp, ex­tra boost of power thrillingly hid­den at the very top of the rev range. Crikey, this is an en­gine in fine health. It al­most feels like the 3.9-litre is spin­ning on its own axis out of pure joy whilst the gear­box keeps pour­ing more oil onto the fire with each new ra­tio.

The sheer power and vi­vac­ity com­bined with me­chan­i­cal light­ness makes you won­der how this can pos­si­bly hold up over time. But let’s not worry about that now, the Pista keeps rock­et­ing off, seem­ingly go­ing stronger and harder each time. Okay, so there isn’t quite the top-end drama you’d get with an atmo 458 Speciale, but the sheer force with which this en­gine shoves you along eas­ily makes up for any miss­ing ‘charm’. The Pista’s blood is still boil­ing... and that’s the main thing.

Com­pared the GT2 RS flat-six, the Fer­rari V8 feels like a more rounded en­gine and quicker on the draw. Same goes for the gear­box whose modes are more in­tu­itive than the Porsche’s. At low speeds the Pista is just as user-friendly as the GT2 RS, how­ever, as the pace in­creases the Ital­ian just gets sharper and sharper. The brak­ing also feels far more nat­u­ral. And the same ap­plies to the steer­ing, which feels less as­sisted.

Over a long series of cor­ners lead­ing to Sa­mone, it’s like night and day. To il­lus­trate sim­ply, the Porsche has steer­ing



that could be de­scribed as be­ing from a ‘nor­mal car’, whereas the Fer­rari feels like you’re rac­ing a go-kart. Gone, too, is the men­tion of un­der­steer. If the GT2 RS can oc­ca­sion­ally pro­vide re­minder hints of a whiff of plough­ing on, the Pista sim­ply wouldn’t know how to be­gin to ex­plain what it is. Just how they’ve man­aged this is quite an in­com­pre­hen­si­ble feat.

As for the FDE, when com­bined with the sta­bil­ity con­trol and dy­namic ac­tive sus­pen­sion, it cer­tainly, if im­per­cep­ti­bly, helps boost all sys­tems. It works by gen­tly ap­ply­ing the inside calipers to make the car pivot more keenly into cor­ners. No rear-steer like on the Porsche here, but the re­sult ends up be­ing the same. And in the purest tra­di­tion of Fer­rari, the elec­tron­ics are quasi-in­vis­i­ble. The 488’s re­ac­tions are pre­dictable and in­tu­itive, which sum­marises what the Pista does so well. Not only does it push the per­for­mance bound­aries, but it also al­lows the driver to get closer to them at the same time.

While I have to con­clude that as much as I’ve had my cage thor­oughly rat­tled by the GT2 RS, the Pista wins here. I sim­ply pre­fer the steer­ing in the Pista, which I feel is less as­sisted and there­fore more appropriate in this sit­u­a­tion. The Fer­rari is sharper, finer and more com­mu­nica­tive than the GT2 RS. It may be yet an­other cliche, but the Fer­rari can match ev­ery­thing the Porsche has to of­fer, but with more feel­ing and more emo­tion.

When two of the great­est sportscar brands go head to head in terms of phi­los­o­phy and char­ac­ter­is­tics, the de­bate goes far be­yond the tan­gi­ble. Never have power, ef­fec­tive­ness and sin­gle-minded per­for­mance been avail­able in such use­able pack­ages. Pick­ing a winner comes down to finer de­tails and per­sonal pref­er­ences. The re­al­ity is, both on the spec sheet and out on the open road, the GT2 RS and the Pista are mas­ter­pieces get­ting dan­ger­ously close to per­fec­tion.

MAIN While the $645,000 488 Pista is $400 cheaper than the 911 GT2 RS, you can tick hugely ex­pen­sive op­tions for both

TOP LEFT Given 0-100km/h hap­pens in 2.8sec and 200km/h is reached in 8.3sec, the GT2 RS is fit­ted with mas­sive car­bon-ce­ramic brakes

ABOVE LEFT Light­weight car­bon fi­bre can be found ev­ery­where while the ‘frunk’ houses NACA ducts to chan­nel cool­ing to the brakes

ABOVE The race­car-es­que car­bon fi­bre rear wing isn’t just there for show as it cre­ates a max­i­mum of 450kg down­force at 340km/h

TOP LEFT If you de­cide to opt into the Tai­lor Made de­part­ment you can spec a roll cage and car­bon-fi­bre wheels made in Aus­tralia!

TOP RIGHT The re­vised 488 GTB en­gine in the Pista (530kW/770Nm) is the most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion V8 Fer­rari has put into pro­duc­tion

ABOVE Down­force is up 20 per cent thanks to aero up­grades and tap­ping into the knowl­edge gained from the 488 GTE race­car

MAIN While ‘Pista’ means track, both the Fer­rari and Porsche are un­ques­tion­ably race­cars for the road. And you’ll be very happy with ei­ther

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