A toughened up 488 GTB or a softened 488 Pista, the new F8 Tributo is certainly an interesting car as well as being the most powerful mid-engined Ferrari ever.
Review: 2019 Ferrari F8 Tributo
It wasn't that long ago that Formula 1 cars made around 700bhp, yet this two seater coupé delivers 710bhp 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.
There's also the slightly odd name change here, from three digits to one and Tributo suffix? What's that all about? This is the third major car to be derived off this chassis, which can claim lineage from the 2009 458 Italia. Ferrari claims this new car, which comes just four years after the 488 GTB, is a tribute to the car's V8 engine which has received criticism for its exhaust noise compared to its yowling, screaming naturally-aspirated predecessor, but not much else.
“There was space to do a new 488 for the customers of the 488 GTB,” says Raffaele de Simone, Ferrari’s chief test driver, “there were enough new parts and new know how. We had an opportunity to open a gap in which we can work and use.”
What's also true to say, however, is that the writing is on the wall for these big, brawny conventional combustion engines as emissions legislation starts to tighten like a python's embrace – even Ferrari has its 1,000bhp SF90 Stradale plug-in hybrid under development. So is the F8 Tributo the last-ever V8 combustion Ferrari? No one would confirm or deny at the Italian launch.
Your 200 grand (though most buyers specify over £43,000 of extras) 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 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.
While the body is recognisably derived from the Pininfarina-designed 458 Italia, that famous Italian carrozzeria doesn't work for Ferrari anymore.
“The relationship with Pininfarina can still flourish on special cars where historic links are important,” explains Flavio Manzoni, head of design, “but you cannot put a body on a car like a dress anymore.”
These days design has to work closely with engineering and aerodynamics to achieve the sort of performance figures and aerodynamic performance exhibited by the F8, which is a five per cent better coefficient of drag and ten per cent more downforce. While the appearance is certainly handsome, some of the details are fussy. At the rear, round tail lamps are back and the lines are cleaned up, but that F40-style louvered polycarbonate engine cover looks odd. Pininfarina had a better grasp of detail.
The cabin has been redesigned with a new instrument binnacle, door cards and updated displays, yet the style is dated; all jet fighter macho from the Fifties. The sat nav is too small and not easy to control, and the Apple CarPlay system isn't the simplest to access, either. The accommodation is generous, with wide and comfy racing style seats, and there's about six inches of space behind for a briefcase or handbag. The door pockets and centre console, however, are tiny and the pedal box too small for those with larger feet. Views out to the front are great, but to the rear they're awful and that engine cover shimmers so badly it's like looking at the world from the inside of a fish tank.
De Simone says it's too early for wheel-mounted paddles (which means they are on the way) and that pupils on Ferrari driving courses are taught to alter their hand position on the wheel as they enter hairpin bends.
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 magneto rheological 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.
Of course these cars are toys which on average do no more than travel 3,000 miles a year, but if this is the last-ever conventionally powered V8 Ferrari, then it is a fitting tribute. Get down there and join the waiting list which currently stands at almost 18 months. God willing there should still be the odd tank of petrol to be had by 2021.
Stat attack: Ferrari F8 Tributo
Price: £200,000 (approx.)
Engine: 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed double-clutch, rear-wheel-drive
Power/torque: 700bhp @ 8,000rpm/770Nm (568lb ft) @ 3,250rpm
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds
Top speed: 211mph
Combined economy: 21.9mpg
Kerb weight: 1,445kg
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