As sure as night follows day, in the Ferrari world Spider follows GTB. Launched in a warehouse arts space in Adelaide the other night, just as the first 488 GTB’s are beginning to hit the streets, was the Ferrari 488 Spider – the fastest roofless Ferrari ever built. Yes, we’ve reached a point in technology where 21 years of development has enabled the mid-range Ferrari convertible to be an overall quicker car than the halo F50 Spider, at a quarter of the price.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having grown up with a slight prejudice against convertible Ferrari’s. Sure, having the top down on a nice day is great and it means you can hear those sonorous engine’s all-the-louder, but why invest in one of the world’s pre-eminent super sports cars and then choose the one that costs more, bends more, weighs more and is slower?
Modern engineering means the gap is fast closing, and we’re reaching the point where the dynamic differences between the coupe and convertible versions of most modern super sports cars are rapidly disappearing. The 488 Spider draws that line ever narrower than before, and I’m sure I’m not the only one fast reconsidering my position on topless Ferrari’s. If the likes of Chris Harris and Henry Catchpole can barely spot the differences back to back, then why not buy the one that makes those early autumn morning drives all the more special? And especially when it returns to that hard-topped track-day weapon at the press of a button.
The 488 Spider utilises the same controversial twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 as the GTB, and it’s fast enough to make your eyes bleed. For practical comparisons it looses almost no performance over its solid-roofed brother despite its extra 50kg – 661hp at 8000rpm is good for a 0-100 time of 3.0sec, 0-200 in 8.7sec and a top speed of 326km/h. For comparison purposes, the 488 Spider has more power than the Ferrari Enzo and is faster in all measures except top speed (355km/h). Where does it end?
The Spider’s chassis utilises a clever assortment of multiple different grades of aluminum magnesium alloys, each selected and engineered for their individual characteristics to ensure driving dynamics are where they should be.
For me the most interesting aspect is in the design and packaging of that folding hardtop, something that has only been possible since the 458 Spider of 2011. Indeed, the 488 largely carries over the folding hardtop system from the 458, but the way it has been integrated is a master of engineering.
It’s a carefully considered design, right down to small details like being able to lower the glass wind deflector when the roof is up for an airy feel. Imagine trying to design and engineer a folding roof that must withstand 320+km/h either up or down, that’s quick and simple to use, is light, meets NVH standards, looks elegant when both up and down, doesn’t completely block access to the engine, doesn’t block airflow to and out of the engine bay and doesn’t ruin the finely tuned aerodynamics of the vehicle. Those are the kinds of engineering endeavors that explain the cost of these types of cars.
Speaking of cost; despite being significantly faster, the 488 Spider has a starting price that’s over $60,000 cheaper than the old 458 Spider. Although whilst it may now be a fair chunk cheaper, that starting price is still a significant $526,888. And that’s before you get stuck into Ferrari’s legendary accessory list, too.
… and tastefully throughout the cockpit, which was beautifully detailed. Anybody experienced in working with carbon would know just how difficult it is to shape into such intricate and complex curves and to achieve such a flawless finish.
Being able to chart the evolution of the model year-on-year was a nice touch. When we arrived the original 308 GTS sat under a red satin sheet, and was revealed as the 488 Spider drove around a corner and into the space in a fury of melodic revs.
It was great to preview the 488 Spider, but I can’t help but wonder what it will sound like in the upper reaches of its rev-range heading through The Gorge. Now that it is equal to the GTB dynamically, the open roads are finally its true home.
Thanks to Ferrari Adelaide and Ferrari Australia for inviting Any Given Reason.
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