Adelaide welcomes the Ferrari 488 GTB

488GTB (14)What you’re looking at here is arguably the most significant Ferrari to be launched in the last twenty-five years – the 488 GTB. It’s the next generation of mid-engined V8 super sports car from Ferrari, the latest progeny of the wildly popular, eminently marketable and unbroken line that began with the 308 back in 1973.

488GTB (26)On face value it looks like a simple evolution of the 458 Italia, in fact, Ferrari would be quite happy to keep you thinking this. But what makes the 488 so significant in the history of Ferrari is just how radically different in concept it is to the 458 Italia, and how incredibly hard Ferrari have worked to hide this. That model will be written into the prancing horse annals as the last of the screaming, naturally aspirated V8 powered cars that Ferrari has become so famous for. The 488, for better or worse, will forever be known as the first of the turbocharged cars.

488GTB (10)That’s not strictly true, mind you. The 208 GTS turbo was the first turbocharged Ferrari road car in 1982, designed only to wheeze some life back into a de-bored two litre V8 engine fitted only to reduce a Ferrari driver’s tax burden (how very Italian). The rudimentary technology was next used to screw out the biggest possible power figures from the F40 in 1989, regardless of how much of a bastard child it made the car (also very Italian). Aspiration was a dirty word until the California T in 2014, but it returned as a highly developed modern technology where its aim was more uber-competent grand tourer than anything else. The 488 is the first out-and-out super sports Ferrari to be turbocharged, and the fact that it even exists says more about the world we live in than anything else.

488GTB (24)What I find most exciting about the 488 is how it is effectively Ferrari’s riposte to the nanny state emissions regulations that are killing the old school large capacity V10’s and V12’s that we’ve loved so much since the fifties. If anything, this car embodies the spirit of Formula One more than any Enzo or LaFerrari ever has. Ferrari have clearly studied the book in great detail and have come up with a car that technically satisfies the rules in every way, yet throws a giant middle finger to their spirit.

488GTB (23)I’m almost certain that if you could catch the government lawmakers in a moment of pure honesty, most would admit to dreaming of legislating sports cars and supercars into the dustbin of the past. Yet here, Ferrari have responded to those very laws with a car that is clinically faster and more competent in every single way than almost any Ferrari before it. 493kw (661hp) at 8000rpm, the highest specific output of any Ferrari ever at 126.3kw (169.4hp) per litre and 0-100km/h in 3.0sec is one hell of a way to meet the new environmental regulations.

488GTBThe 488 was released to the Adelaide market with an invite-only preview function at the Art Gallery of South Australia. It almost made me feel guilty walking through the gallery halls on our way to the 488. I’ve hadn’t been here since a university field trip years ago and have been meaning to come back for ages, and then what finally made me return was a damned car. How’s that for culture.

488GTB (2)On our way through the galleries I attempted to find some kind of reference to the mechanical world but this painting was about the closest I could see. I mean, those are gears, right?

488GTB (4)I’m all about the anorak facts, and as it turned out this 488 is the first ever car to be allowed inside the Art Gallery in its 115 year history.

488GTB (6)It’s kind of fitting really, as I would argue that a modern Ferrari is just as significant a contemporary artifact and product of our time and technology as anything else you could hope to put inside these beautiful Victorian walls for future generations to see.

488GTB (12)The downside of all this cultural symbolism is that we really just wanted to start it up and give it a few revs, but apparently that’s kind of frowned upon in an art gallery. That beautiful, all aluminimum, dry sumped, twin turbocharged 3,902cc Ferrari V8 lay dormant, but hopefully we will soon get a chance to experience it in all its fury.

488GTB (30)At a casual glance the styling looks like a simple evolution of the 458, but the shapes here are the next level and as advanced as the mechanical package, if not more so. The 488 apparently produces over 50% more downforce than the 458, and somehow does it with less drag.

488GTB (29)It’s possible to design a beautiful car and it’s possible to design an aerodynamically effective car, but it’s fiendishly difficult to do both. It never fails to amaze me how these stylists are so talented at blending the two spheres of science and art into one cohesive shape. Every little scollop and crease on the 488 serves a purpose; these shapes on the leading edge of the bonnet exit air from the front bumper intakes, lowering air pressure over the front of the car.

488GTB (19)The large side vents reference Ferrari’s of the eighties and nineties and are one of the most controversial aspects of the 488 design. I personally think they are a less-than-ideal compromise, but they are there for a reason and that is to supply the turbochargers and intercoolers with the huge volumes of fresh air they require to produce those 493kw. It’s pretty remarkable that they’ve found a way of incorporating such a huge surface area of vent without completely ruining the side profile. I think it’s a feature we’ll all get used to quite quickly.

488GTB (33)In person I thought the detailing where the engine cover meets the rear was quite neat, however further research revealed that the engine cover and guards feed air into the blown diffuser. We remarked on how cool the exhausts look mounted up so high, but that is purely because the diffuser under the car is so big that there is no space for an exhaust system any lower. It’s a pure case of function over form, no matter how nice that form may be.

488GTB (8)The cockpit continues the 458’s tradition of open airiness, a feeling that is unique and distinctive to the modern Ferrari. Especially from the passenger seat it makes you feel as if you are sitting astride a huge wave of power, that there is nothing before you, just this great motive force from behind.

488GTB (20)The seats tread that fine line between race-car grippiness and elegant usability, and their trim detailing is superb.

488GTB (25)As you would expect, almost every surface is trimmed in wonderfully soft leather and branded appropriately.

488GTB (22)The large analogue tach in trademark Ferrari giallo fly sits directly ahead of the driver…

488GTB (21)… and you have to look really, really hard to find any reference to the turbochargers hanging from the V8.

488GTB (18)If I’m honest, I don’t think the 488 GTB will be a more raw or emotional experience than it’s outgoing benchmark, the 458 Speciale. But then again, I don’t think anything could be. I’ve never ridden in or driven a Speciale but I have held a 430 Scuderia’s throttle flat to 8,000rpm in third gear on the Autostrada outside of Maranello, and that was an almost religious experience for me. I know the new engine in the 488 is said to be the most un-turbocharged engine in terms of character of any turbocharged engine built to date, but currently I struggle to see how it could match a high revving V8 for sheer emotion.

488GTB (17)But we are just at the start of the new turbo era and those I spoke to at the launch who have driven the 488 in Italy say it brings a new dimension to the experience. In a lot of turbocharged engines the spooling noises and associated pops and cracks add to the intensity and urgency; combine that onto a Ferrari V8 that still revs to 8000rpm and you’ve got a pretty special automobile. And that’s before you start to consider the aftermarket tuning opportunities this new turbocharged engine brings.

488GTB (15)The 348 was the first Ferrari to take build quality and reliability seriously, producing a super sports car that didn’t need constant fettling (in Ferrari terms, at least). Every V8 Ferrari since then has simply built on that concept, but the 488 changes the game. As mournful as I am that we might never see another 458 Speciale again, I am equal parts excited to see what the future will bring. And this is the first page of that story.

488GTB (3)Words and photos by Andrew Coles – andrew@anygivenreason.com

Thanks to Ferrari Adelaide for the invite

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