Ferrari's 458 has extensively restyled, given a turbocharged V8 with more power and loads more torque and a new name. Meet the Ferrari 488 GTB, the Ferrari that makes a 458 Italia look slow...
WHAT IS IT?
While the looks of the 2015 Ferrari 488 are not entirely different, it's actually an almost entirely new car, with 85 percent of its parts changed from the 458, and the roof the only external panel retained. The engine has shrunk slightly in size but grown vastly in power and new aero innovations, combined with some superior software, are claimed to make it handle better than ever. It is overwhelmingly, however, a Ferrari built for speed.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Because as much as the improvements are clear to see on paper, and on the stopwatch, we want to know if anything has been lost in the switch to turbocharging. Lamborghini is sticking to naturally-aspirated engines and claims that it simply can’t be bettered, but the 488 GTB makes those claims look a littleless convincing. When it comes to the very important super-car sound, however, Lambo might have a point.
In theory, the 488 GTB goes head to head with the Lamborghini Huracan and McLaren 650S, but in terms of performance the Ferrari is a step ahead of both, as it should be, being the newest car. In that telling 0 to 200km/h sprint, however, the 488 manages to destroy the Huracan, and it also feels like a more involving road car than both its competitors. The roar of the Lambo's atmo V10, however, may drown out any argument over which is better.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
It is hard to describe just how absurdly fast the 488 GTB is, but the fact that it makes a 458 Italia feel like yesterday’s news gives you some kind of reference point. It's a big, hairy leap forward for super-car performance. On the down side, it's nowhere near as perfectly pretty as the car it replaces and, no matter how much Ferrari says nothing has been lost in terms of exhaust note, they're wrong. The 488 doesn’t sound bad − even the turbo whooshes are nice − it just doesn’t sound as good as the naturally-aspirated 458 did. Would we have one, though? Absolutely.
PLUS: Staggering acceleration, mountains of torque, great steering, brilliant road holding and handling, a new benchmark for super cars.
MINUS: You’ll have to wait two years for one, it doesn’t sound like a Ferrari should, exterior styling less attractive than a 458.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
FERRARIS are a lot like house prices in Sydney. Not because they’re expensive − or not just that − but because we keep thinking they can’t get any more insane, yet we're always wrong.
Ten years ago, the F430 was blowing our minds, hitting 100km/h in 3.7 seconds and 200km/h in 12.2, but it was usurped, nay smashed, by the more beautiful, more brutal 458 Italia, which cut those times to 3.4 and 10.4 seconds.
The 458 had surely extracted as much grunt from a V8 engine as was plausible, with an epic 419kW and 540Nm. Any further improvements would be of the incremental kind, we thought.
Incredibly, though, the power gains of the new 488 GTB are simply mental, thanks to the fitting of some serious turbocharging technology, which has seen a leap of almost 100 horsepower over a car that was already deeply intimidating.
The first mid-engined V8 turbo extracts a shocking 493kW and a walloping 760Nm from its 3.9-litre engine (which shrinks some 600cc from the 458).
The cost of all this should, history suggests, be turbo lag, but Ferrari, in typical style, simply refused to accept the idea of its car being blighted by such a thing, and you only need look at its performance times to see that it is not slow to get all that power down; 0 to 100km/h now takes three seconds flat, which is impressive, but it's the incredible zero to 200km/h time of 8.3 seconds that really shows how all that torque is being harnessed.
That's 0.3 of a second faster than Lamborghini's brand new, naturally-aspirated V12 Aventador Superveloce, a car that theoretically sits a class above on the super-car league table, and a whopping 1.6 seconds quicker than its theoretical competitor, Lamborghini's V10-powered Huracan.
It's the kind of performance that mounts a serious case for turbocharging (although Ferrari admits that engine response time at 2000rpm is now 0.8 seconds, at 2000rpm, compared to 0.7 in a 458, but still well-ahead of “our turbo competitors − McLaren, Porsche etc”, which it says are closer to 2.0 seconds).
But is it a sound argument? Well, no, because despite the engineers repeatedly promising us that they’d tuned the car to deliver the “sharp and loud, unmistakable Ferrari sound,” it takes less than two minutes in the 488 to realise that the screaming, operatic exhaust-asm that has defined the brand − and the 458 in particular − is gone.
The bottom-end burble and the mid-range growl are still there, with a few sucking, gasping but not unpleasant turbo sounds now overlaid, but the high-end, high-pitched magic is no longer.
Many will consider it a small price to pay, however, for a car that can lap Ferrari's Fiorano track faster than the legendary Enzo, and two seconds quicker than a 458.
When it comes to speed, the 488 will have few equals, and not just in outright terms. Look at the comparative torque curves on a graph and you can see that the new car simply squashes the old one, all across the rev range, with its extra 220Nm.
Longitudinal acceleration is up 25 percent in every gear, and when you drive it on the road you barely ever have the need, or the opportunity, for full throttle, because there is just so much back-slapping, cheek-distorting acceleration available, right off idle.
What's even more fun than straight-line squirt, of course, is latitudinal speed, or the way a car corners, and it is here that the 488 GTB has made an even more impressive leap.
While the new car has swapped some of the 458’s beautiful, curvaceous and even perfect lines for a more savage, sculpted look, with huge air intakes carved out behind the doors, it’s all been done for a reason.
Partly it’s the need for air into the intercooler − and the 20 percent larger radiators − but a lot of those lines, like the scoops out of the bonnet and the F1 style double splitter at the front, are all about aerodynamics. The 488 GTB even gets active flaps at the rear, to switch between adding downforce and reducing drag.
The overall result is the kind of ground effect at the front axle that sucks race cars to the road, and an increase in vertical load on the car of 50 percent over the 458 Italia.
On a track, in particular, you feel shoved into the tarmac and thus able to be as savage as you like with the throttle.
It's on the road, though, where most people will drive their 488s, that the car's brilliant SSC2 (Side Slip Control 2) blows you away. This Formula One-honed system not only helps with turn-in, but detects slip and adjusts the dampers, front and rear, instantaneously to give you the maximum contact patch with the road. It can also counteract understeer and oversteer by softening up or firming the front or rear as required.
When you first drive the 488, it feels track hard and firm on the road − and through the hard but supportive seats − and your fear is that it will bounce and rebound over rough roads like a Lotus, but its dampers are so clever that it smoothes out bumpy, broken bitumen in a way that would blow the mind of even Porsche engineers.
Combine all this new and improved Ferrari genius and you've got a car that's more agile, more stable and has even more ferocious acceleration out of bends. Once your brain adapts to the speed, it's freakishly easy to drive fast, even on the challenging mountain roads above the car’s home in Maranello.
Even the steering is better than the 458's, with more feel and feedback. As usual, Ferrari fans are lining up to buy the latest thing before even driving it, with a two-year waiting list for the 488 GTB in Australia before the price has even been announced.
The 458 was a $525,000 base-price car, not that anyone ever bought one without a few options. Ferrari says the price has risen elsewhere by around three per cent, so you can expect to pay about $13,000 more for the new one. For that much more speed, and finesse, it’s a bit of a bargain.
And still cheaper than a house in Sydney.
Model: Ferrari 488 GTB
Engine: 3902cc, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo V8
Power: 493kW @ 8000rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Dry Weight: 1370kg
Fuel Economy: 11.4L/100km
Price: $538,000 (est)
On sale: Q4 2015