There’s noth­ing quite like the rush of a tur­bocharged su­per­car. Fer­rari’s F40 and 488 are sep­a­rated by al­most 30 years and their char­ac­ters couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent, yet the way they de­liver their power is equally in­tox­i­cat­ing


We needed an­other ex­cuse to carry a story on the F40 so we

brought along the 488 GTB

4500rpm in third gear.

With the cast al­loy throt­tle pedal pinned to its stop, this is the mo­ment when the F40 grabs you by the lapels and re­minds you why it’s still the boss of boost. If it’s been a while since you’ve driven one, or if you haven’t driven one be­fore, you’ll have spent the con­sid­er­able time it takes for the tacho nee­dle to creep round the first half of the dial won­der­ing whether the fear­some rep­u­ta­tion is jus­ti­fied. Big mis­take.

When the boost does ar­rive, it’s not switch­like. It’s more im­pres­sive than that. Where once there was calm, those IHI tur­bos de­liver fury and wheel­spin in an over­whelm­ing wave of torque that twists the tar­mac out from un­der the rear Pirellis like a bi­tu­men rug. The ini­tial ef­fect is at once ex­plo­sive, ex­hil­a­rat­ing, eye-widen­ing and but­tock-clench­ing, and it continues to grow in in­ten­sity un­til you run out of revs or, more likely, nerve.

The first time it hap­pens you feel like you’ve swal­lowed your tongue, then the flood of adrenalin hits and you hoot, and I mean hoot, with giddy, manic laugh­ter un­til your ribs hurt. Then, just as surely as night fol­lows day, you re­lax your death grip of the steer­ing wheel, wipe one sweaty palm and then the other on your jeans, put both hands back on the wheel and im­me­di­ately steel your­self to re­peat the process. Wel­come to your ad­dic­tion to that strong­est of Class A au­to­mo­tive drugs.

Fer­rari’s first re­la­tion­ship with tur­bocharg­ing was much more than a flir­ta­tion. From fire-spit­ting F1 cars to 208 tax-dodger, glo­ri­ous 288 GTO and leg­endary F40, forced in­duc­tion was an all-con­sum­ing quest through the meat of the ’80s, even if the main­stream pro­duc­tion models didn’t re­flect this. That it’s the F40 that fused it­self into turbo folk­lore as firmly as a melted pis­ton is no sur­prise. It was con­ceived at the height of an era in­tox­i­cated by tur­bocharg­ing’s steroidal ef­fects. It looked like no Fer­rari be­fore it and it went like no Fer­rari be­fore it. Or since, as we’re in the process of re­mind­ing our­selves...

Once the boost has kicked in, one thing you come to terms with very swiftly is that 471bhp has never felt so fierce. Okay, so there’s a good chance Fer­rari’s claimed power fig­ures were

The F40 de­liv­ers a sin­gu­lar and sear­ingly hon­est driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

a lit­tle shy of the mark. True also that a well­sorted F40 has never felt fit­ter than it does to­day, but still the bald fig­ures are less than star­tling in 2016. Don’t be fooled. For starters there’s 578Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Then there’s the fact an F40 weighs just 1100kg. When it comes to fast cars, fun and physics are one and the same. A fact un­der­lined by a sub­4sec 0-100kmph time and a 0-200kmph time of 7.8sec, and this in the days be­fore launch con­trol and pad­dleshift gear­boxes.

But even this does lit­tle to cap­ture the essence of what it is to feel the ac­cel­er­a­tive force of a fully lit F40, for the process of be­ing punched to­wards the hori­zon is as much de­fined by the lulls of off-boost lag as they are on-boost bal­lis­tics. Like a great or­a­tor, the F40 is a mas­ter of the dra­matic pause. The wait for those tur­bine wheels to spool-up might cost pre­cious time against the clock, but the an­tic­i­pa­tion that comes with build­ing boost pres­sure is a win­ner every time.

On- or off-boost, the brit­tle, cammy zing of the 2.9-litre V8 is an­gry and in­dus­trial. Busy, no-non­sense and no-frills, this is a Fer­rari from the days when the Old Man still had a hand in how things were done. There’s more than a pinch of Enzo’s cur­mud­geonly ar­ro­gance in its un­flinch­ing com­mit­ment to the hard­est of hard­core per­for­mance.

If you’re not pre­pared to work at ex­tract­ing that per­for­mance, don’t bother strap­ping your­self in. If you’re not feel­ing on your met­tle, don’t em­bar­rass your­self by pro­vok­ing it. And if you are, be ready, for the ques­tions come thick and fast. Are you se­ri­ous? Do you have the skill and sen­si­tiv­ity? Can you sum­mon courage yet re­tain suf­fi­cient clar­ity of thought? And, per­haps most cru­cially, do you have the aware­ness and self-con­trol to know when you’ve pushed your luck far enough? An­swer ‘yes’ to all of those and it will still be a wild ride, but one that’s in­tense and in­tox­i­cat­ing. I think you can guess what’s likely to hap­pen if you’re found want­ing.

That’s why the F40 still stacks up, de­spite be­ing pro­foundly flawed. The ride is ter­ri­ble, the brakes ad­e­quate at best, the driv­ing po­si­tion kinked and con­torted, the bal­ance of torque and trac­tion tipped al­most sui­ci­dally in favour of the for­mer, and the power de­liv­ery feels like you’re con­trol­ling the throt­tle via satel­lite. And yet it’s pre­cisely be­cause you

have to make al­lowances and, ul­ti­mately, suc­cess­fully pit your­self against the ma­chine in or­der to form a bond with it that the F40 de­liv­ers such a sin­gu­lar and sear­ingly hon­est driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

By con­trast it’s the flaw­less­ness of the 488 that blows your mind. We tend to cel­e­brate cars that are a chal­lenge, but the way the 488 does what it does is gen­uinely breath­tak­ing. It’s a fully rounded, three-di­men­sional car. Com­fort­able and civilised, re­fined, smooth, beau­ti­fully built and one of the eas­i­est and most in­tu­itive su­per­cars to sim­ply get in and drive. An oc­ca­sion with­out the or­deal.

Of course that en­sures it’ll never gar­ner the hero sta­tus of the F40, nor should it, for the 488 was never in­tended to be the wild child of the fam­ily. Just don’t let that trick you into think­ing the 488 is in any way soft. Yes, it has pli­ancy to go with the pin-sharp re­sponses, and yes, you can press the but­ton marked ‘A’ and let the car change gear it­self. You can let the E-diff and sta­bil­ity con­trol nanny you in ‘Wet’ mode so you barely feel the tail shimmy, even as you squeeze into the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8’s huge re­serves of torque while the tyres are still cold. Your sur­round­ings and the sound­track might be a lot more ex­otic, but, in terms of driv­ing ef­fort, a 488 is as tax­ing as an Audi A3 when run­ning in its mildest set­tings.

Work your way through the manet­tino’s five modes and you grad­u­ally peel back the lay­ers of the 488’s abil­ity, up­ping the tempo with each click. Such is the seam­less­ness with which each and every crit­i­cal dy­namic el­e­ment of the car ups its game that you’re treated to a build­ing feel­ing of ur­gency, im­me­di­acy and ag­gres­sion. There are no rough edges, things just get sharper, harder, stee­l­ier. Ev­ery­thing is in har­mony, with no one el­e­ment dom­i­nat­ing. The gear­box is ex­cep­tional, the brakes firm and as pro­gres­sive at low speed as they are em­phatic at high speed. The steer­ing re­sponse and damp­ing both share the same tight con­trol and clar­ity, the chassis mir­ror­ing this with ex­cep­tional agility and an abun­dance of grip to lean on.

Imag­ine the F40’s power de­liv­ery with all the gaps filled in and that’s the 488. It’s there un­der your right foot at all times, ready to re­spond to the small­est in­crease in pedal pres­sure. That’s not to say it’s on a hair-trig­ger but, where the F40 has yawn­ing mo­ments of turbo lag fol­lowed by the im­pres­sion eight sticks of Sem­tex have just gone off in the com­bus­tion cham­bers, the 488 re­sponds with a solid wall of shove ac­com­pa­nied by a deep, pur­pose­ful en­gine note over­laid with the muf­fled hiss of the tur­bos force-feed­ing the cylin­ders.

Such is the mus­cu­lar­ity of the mo­tor, you can give the throt­tle a mod­est squeeze in 5th, and, were it not for the gear in­di­ca­tor, you’d swear the car was in 3rd. If there’s a down­side, it’s the fact you can make out­ra­geous progress with­out need­ing to do much in the way of pad­dle­flap­ping, but, un­like in the F40, should you wish to work up and down the gears you can do so in­stantly. At which point you en­ter a realm

When boost comes on, it

feels like some­one’s lit eight sticks of Sem­tex in the F40’s cylin­ders

of in­creas­ingly head-spin­ning ac­cel­er­a­tion, the F40’s dra­matic pause ex­changed for a de­ranged at­tack on the mid­dle dis­tance. It’s never less than breath­tak­ing and some­times a lit­tle un­set­tling as lon­gi­tu­di­nal g-force gath­ers you up and holds you in your seat.

As you work your way into the more ex­treme manet­tino modes, the 488 gives you in­creas­ingly vivid re­minders that although it can be there to help you, it also gives you the op­tion to take con­trol. If you do, it pays to heed the warn­ings, for cars of this po­tency are not to be messed with. Such in­stant torque makes mas­sive de­mands on the tyres and, with­out the dis­creet flat­tery of the supremely judged sta­bil­ity con­trol, you can light up the 488’s rears on part throt­tle. Be­ing a turbo, more revs equal more boost, which if you’re not care­ful leads to even more wheel­spin.

April show­ers and an F40 are a fear­some com­bi­na­tion, but turn the driver aids off in the 488 and you’re con­sumed by the ex­act same clammy heart-in-mouth feel­ing, know­ing every in­put you make to throt­tle and steer­ing is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal. Of course, the big dif­fer­ence be­tween the F40 and 488 is you don’t have a choice in the F40, but it’s a vivid re­minder that big boost and damp roads are as spiky a com­bi­na­tion as they ever were. It’s also a head-scram­bling demon­stra­tion of how, thanks to ad­vances in elec­tron­ics, the 488 spans the ex­tremes of day-to-day docil­ity and day-of-days fe­roc­ity.

The F40 is an icon with good rea­son. Tricky, de­mand­ing and at times down­right scary, it feels like a car built by en­gi­neers claw­ing their way up a pre­cip­i­tous learn­ing curve. Too com­mit­ted to head back down into the com­fort zone of nat­u­ral as­pi­ra­tion, but too far from the sum­mit to clearly see their ob­jec­tive. That the cru­dity and vi­o­lence of the F40’s de­liv­ery was and re­mains the essence of its appeal is as ir­ra­tional as it is re­as­sur­ing.

In many re­spects you couldn’t find a more dif­fer­ent car than the 488. So clearly the work of a team of en­gi­neers at the top of their game, it feels like they em­barked on their jour­ney armed with all the an­swers when the F40 de­vel­op­ment team hadn’t even been fur­nished with all the ques­tions. Of course the two cars set out to achieve very dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives, but some­how that makes the 488 even more freak­ish. A car so user-friendly lit­er­ally any­one could drive it safely in its mildest mode, yet one that will make your palms sweat and your heart pound in time-hon­oured tur­bocharged fash­ion.L

Imag­ine the F40’s power de­liv­ery with all the gaps filled in and that’s the 488

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