It wasn't that long ago that Formula 1 cars made around 700PS, yet this two seater coupe delivers 720PS (529kW) from its 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8, achieving 211mph, 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds and 0-124mph in 7.8 seconds… So long as you fit the optional carbon-fibre wheels.
Your 200 grand (though most buyers specify over £43,000 of extras), then, buys the 488 Pista's engine, with changes to the intake plenum and the software to make it less roidy on the road. The Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox gets similar softening to reduce what Ferrari engineers call the 'gunshot' changes of the 488 Pista.
Revised suspension software delivers softer damping, but the same spring rates. It can all be altered of course, along with the electronic differential, and the traction and stability controls, at the touch of the steering wheel-mounted Manettino (switch). There are five settings, namely Wet, Sport, Race, CT Off, and ESC Off (stability off). Notwithstanding the 10kg saved by the carbon-fibre wheels, the other 30kg weight saving over the 488 GTB is down to lighter components in the engine and cooling system, as well as a lithium-ion main battery.
Major changes to the exhaust system and manifold are claimed to give the engine freer breathing and a better sounding top end, but it still drones like a set of bagpipes when started. We drove from Maranello down into the mountains and along the old Futa Pass towards Florence. On cracked, subsided pavement the F8 tracks straight and true, its wheel travel coping with pretty big bumps and sleeping policemen, with those 20-inch Michelin tyres gripping tenaciously.
To describe it as fast is heinous understatement. Find a quiet piece of road, drop down a couple of gears and you'll wonder you haven't pushed two fingers into the plug socket. Even with artificial management the torque curve is more like a spirit level and that removes one of the delights of driving a high-revving engine – you could be any gear and it'll still pull like a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off. The acceleration is searing and your vision and reactions struggle to keep pace. On a public road this amount of performance verges on the feasible and safe, and driving becomes an exercise in self-control and responsibility. The gearbox accesses all that power with ease and refinement except at very low speeds where the clutch control can be a bit wobbly.
The carbon-ceramic brakes have never been great in this range of Ferraris and they've done a lot of work to improve them for the F8, with a shorter stroke for the pedal and more power for the vacuum servo. "It needs more effort,” says de Simone. "It's the biggest thing we ask of our customers."
On the track, they're powerful stoppers and don't fade as the 458's did, but around town the retardation is erratic and non-linear so it's easy to have your passenger nodding as you slow from walking pace.
Of course it feels stupefying around Ferrari's test track at Fiorano. Look at where you want to go, turn the wheel, ease the throttle and you go there at inconceivable speeds. The softer damping means there's more yaw at the rear which actually gives more feedback if not more track speed. In CT Off mode that tail can be pitched into a series of highly entertaining and electronically managed slides, but I preferred Race mode where the handling felt less lairy and tail happy and the car more accurate and precise.
De Simone explains that the main results of the changes on the F8 are the new-found agility, a result of softening the algorithms for the magnetorheological fluid in the dampers. “You can jump from one car to the other very naturally,” he says. “There’s a progression, a flow.”
Actually there is, and while you'd always want a more charismatic note out of the engine (and better body detailing) this is as good a mid-engined Ferrari as the legislators will allow you.