What is it?
Ferrari’s 488 GTB, the 458 Italia’s replacement, is here in right-hand-drive format at last. The last time we encountered it, it was taking first-place honours as Britain’s Best Driver’s Car of 2015; a feat it managed despite having its steering wheel jauntily angled to the port side.
Now, after what seems like forever (Ferrari has managed to launch the Spider in the meantime), the DVLA-approved, UK-registered coupe has finally landed.
Read our Ferrari 488 Spider review here
The 488 is Ferrari’s mid-engine heartbeat: more expensive than the soft-top, soft-bellied California, and a little cheaper than the V12-powered FF or F12. Broadly speaking, it gets the same twin-turbocharged V8 engine as the Cali-T, albeit with uprated internals, a longer stroke, and more power. Quite a bit more in fact, developing 661bhp at a higher 8000rpm limit.
Its rear-drive chassis is based on the 458, although it too has been substantially overhauled. The steering rack and dampers are from the Speciale, and it gets a new generation of that model’s innovative Side Slip Control. The brakes, meanwhile, are from the LaFerrari.
The 488 GTB is the manufacturer’s first series production car to get active aerodynamics, and there’s a revised version of Ferrari’s spectacular seven-speed dual clutch gearbox as standard.
Prices start at £183,964 in the UK, where cruise control, rear parking sensors, the USB port, and the anti-theft satellite tracker are thrown in as standard.
Nevertheless, as with anything else in its class, that price won’t feature on the bottom of many order forms. Our press car, thanks in part to plenty of additional carbon fibre, a £7k paintjob and £5k “Goldrake” seats, has a pricetag of £248,860.
What’s it like?
Even with the steering wheel mounted over the correct footwell, the 488 requires a few minutes of recalibration. Not because it is hugely fast (although it absolutely is) but because the Speciale rack is exceptionally quick and the suspension ostensibly very busy. Drive the car back to back with pretty much anything else on a particularly rumpled B road, and the palpable dynamic chatter through the seatbacks and steering column can make it seem coltish and a little anxious.
This first impression though can be discounted, because by the time you’ve got used to the fingertip sensitivity of the 488’s arcade-game steering, the car is so far under your skin it’s almost intravenous. The starting point is its change of direction, which is absolutely electric – and not just because the overtly snappy helm decrees it, but because the chassis is spellbindingly brilliant at channeling all the incisiveness onto the deck. Crucially, this occurs not with the thick-necked, grip-obsessed stability of its rivals, but with a progressive intuition that gauges body roll, weight transfer and rate of response to near perfection.
Little surprise then that this aptitude requires some acclimatisation, given how forthrightly it shuns the usual tacked-down sterility. The 488 doesn’t want to tear up the tarmac, it wants flit and float supplely over it, tethered by sympathetic tuning, a clever diff, and low mass. While there’s much to admire in the front end’s scalpel-bladed certainty or the yaw-happy lateral grip, it’s actually the suspension’s talent for turning a tickle of your wrists into a split-second dip of its wing that really exhilarates. It does this by using half a degree of lean to tap you into the car’s cornering attitude as assuredly as the left pedal elaborates on the brakes.
You could quantify the net result as simply more speed carried, but really it’s deep joy in the sensation of driving fast, which on all but the worst English roads piles up in the cabin fervently. That’s before we even get to the fizzing, gravel-toned V8. Last year, closer to living memory of its predecessor, we rated it very highly without necessarily raving. Now, with forced induction well on its way down the far slope of its multi-cylinder tipping point, the 488’s motor easily ranks as one of the best turbocharged engines you can buy. It’s not just the vast landslide of escalating torque that pops up just about everywhere. Nor even the unhesitating way it delivers it. It’s the meaningful retention of that essential flat-plane crank character, and Ferrari’s unswerving perseverance with where exactly the redline ought to be, that inches it toward serious renown.
Should I buy one?
Emphatically, yes. While there are supercars which ride a little more comfortably or steer a little more consistently, none drive with the sheer vitality of the 488. True, the interior feels a tad low rent in places compared to rivals from McLaren or Porsche, and the car is arguably less sensational from every angle than its predecessor (or even its predecessor’s predecessor), but the new chassis and powertrain are fused to magnificent effect. The late correct placement of the steering wheel then merely confirms last year’s findings: the 488 is the act to beat.
Ferrari 488 GTB 3.9 T
Location Wales; On sale Now; Price £183,964; Engine V8, 3902cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 661bhp at 6200-8000rpm; Torque 561lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1475kg; Top speed 205mph; 0-62mph 3.0sec; Economy 24.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 260g/km, 37%
What is it?