A gift Pranc­ing Horse

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige -

in­takes to the mus­cu­lar haunches wrapped around fat rear tyres.

It’s a more chis­elled look than its pre­de­ces­sor, the 458, with bon­net creases and sharp edges on the clas­sic flow­ing Fer­rari flanks.

In­side, the lay­out is fa­mil­iar to Fer­rari fans, with red leather, car­bon-fi­bre high­lights, a red starter but­ton, gear-change pad­dles, a tog­gle-switch to se­lect drive set­tings and even a se­ries of red lights to warn of the ap­proach­ing rev limit. The F1style, flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel wrapped in leather and car­bon-fi­bre makes you feel a lit­tle like Se­bastien Vet­tel.

The leather em­bossed and stitched sport seats grip tightly, sup­port snugly and have to be man­u­ally ad­justed — a sur­prise on a circa-$470,000 sports car.

It all looks — and smells — as a supercar cock­pit should al­though it’s no mas­ter­piece of er­gonomics. The push-but­ton in­di­ca­tors in lieu of the nor­mal stalk aren’t in­tu­itive and the push-but­ton selec­tor for re­verse takes some get­ting used to.

The in­stru­ment panel still has the big, bold-as-brass cen­tre tacho with a dig­i­tal gear se­lec­tion read­out. It is now flanked by two screens that house all the trip com­puter, sat­nav and in­fo­tain­ment read­outs. It all works well and looks suit­ably up­mar­ket.

But per­haps the most im­pres­sive bit of eye candy is re­flected in the rear view mir­ror.

When you’re stopped at the traf­fic lights, you can gaze long­ingly through the glass cover at the glo­ri­ous tur­bocharged V8 mounted just be­hind your back­side.

The out­puts of this new-age twin turbo are as­ton­ish­ing: 492kW of power and 760Nm of torque. Com­pare that to the 458’s out­puts of 425kW/540Nm and you get an idea of the leap for­ward in per­for­mance this car rep­re­sents. But that’s only part of the story — peak torque now ar­rives with ex­actly half as many revs on board, 3000rpm in­stead of 6000rpm. That means the en­gine doesn’t so much wind up as whack you in the back when you stomp on the throt­tle.

It’s also given the Fer­rari en­gine a bilin­gual char­ac­ter — at high revs it still has that Ital­ian supercar shriek but now, cour­tesy of that turbo, it sounds like one of those mar­ble­gar­gling Ger­man sports sedans at low revs.

That means tun­nels are your friend in a big city. The sound of that ex­haust note bounc­ing off the walls is a joy, al­though you al­most have to stick to first gear to stay un­der the speed limit.

You’ll reach 100km/h in 3.0 sec­onds flat and if you keep the ac­cel­er­a­tor pressed to the floor it will take just 18.9 sec­onds to cover a kilo­me­tre from a stand­ing start, at which point you’re prob­a­bly do­ing about 330km/h.

That makes do­ing a road test on the Fer­rari in Aus­tralia a tad prob­lem­atic. The dis­trib­u­tor’s gen­eros­ity wisely doesn’t ex­tend to fang­ing the 488 at a track and the limit for our test is 400km, so a blast on the Top End’s open speed limit roads is out of the ques­tion.

Keen to avoid a whop­ping fine and ca­reer-lim­it­ing sus­pen­sion, we de­cide to see what thrills the 488 could de­liver at le­gal speeds.

We aren’t dis­ap­pointed. In the mad three-se­cond rush to the speed limit, we’re amazed at the car’s drive off the line and the light­ning-quick gear shifts. When the first cor­ner ar­rives, we marvel at the sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion of the steer­ing and the limpet-like grip — it feels as though your in­sides will give way be­fore the 488’s rear tyres.

It’s an in­sane ex­pe­ri­ence and if you’re not care­ful, the 488 will make you lose your mind a lit­tle. At 100km/h it’s barely out of a can­ter and you find your­self des­per­ately want­ing to find out how it feels in a gal­lop.

In the end the re­turn to the sub­ur­ban crawl is a re­lief and a crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment. The traf­fic means there’s no choice but to sit back and soak up the smell of Ital­ian leather, the ad­mir­ing glances of fel­low mo­torists and the ride, which is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able for such a fo­cused sports car. A whirl­wind ro­mance but I’d gladly pop the ques­tion if I had the cash.

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