You might not believe this, but the latest Ferrari has been criticised for not sounding good. If you need reminding, this is the Spider convertible version of the 488 GTB, with a twin-turbocharged V8 that provides a top speed of more than 200mph and accelerates from 0-62mph in precisely three seconds.
So how could Ferrari get it so wrong? Well, we’re glad to report that it hasn’t. Admittedly both cars, which have the same 3,902cc engine, lack the high-rev thrill of the naturally aspirated V8 of the GTB’s predecessor, the 458 Italia, but it’s not exactly like you’ll feel short-changed if you’ve spent £204,400 on the latest Spider (available now for delivery in June).
The reason is the turbochargers. As in Formula One, forced induction has liberated stunning amounts of power from relatively small capacity engines, but the spine-tingling sound has been lost in the process. Along with everyone else, Ferrari has been forced into turbocharging to achieve ever greater power while satisfying emissions regulations.
Ferrari reckons that the new 488 Spider will account for well over half of all 488 sales in the UK. We just love convertibles. And when they look this good, you can excuse the 488 Spider almost anything. Because it’s not just the looks: the way this car goes makes its sublime predecessor seem almost pedestrian. But is it worth an extra £20,000 over the coupé?
Looks-wise, the flat rear deck is the only difference to the GTB. You can no longer see the engine, however, because the hard-top folds away on top of it. But even with the roof in place you can lower the tiny rear window to get the full experience.
It’s extremely quiet – docile, even – at low revs but step on it and the way the 488 Spider accelerates provides a visceral thrill, the soundtrack becoming more addictive, then as the revs reach 3,500 it takes on a harder edge and becomes much louder.
‘More than the coupé, the Spider can be anything you want it to be – barnstorming sports car or refined cruiser, and anything in between.’
Ferrari has engineered the unit to mimic the power delivery of a naturally-aspirated V8, but peak power and torque (659bhp and 560lb ft) arrive at much lower revs than before. So it’s different, but no less compelling – as the turbos get into their stride the acceleration is relentless and you have to be ready to select the next of the seven speeds in the seamless, twin-clutch paddle-shift gearbox before the rev-limiter cuts in.
In conjunction with magnetic dampers, which provided a remarkably smooth ride, the Spider has the latest version of Ferrari’s side-slip control (SSC), which stiffens or relaxes the dampers to maximise grip. This works in tandem with the car’s electronic brain that also constantly adjusts the stability and traction control systems as well as the electronic differential.
It sounds complicated, and the processing power to achieve it is mighty, but the end result is an amazingly grippy and adjustable car that goes precisely where you point it. Turn the wheel some more and the front end simply tracks and goes round, while there’s incredible stability at the rear as the tyres simply grip rather than try to slide wide.
The 488 Spider’s set-up inspires great confidence, and if you owned one there would be a lot of satisfaction in learning to get the best from it.
The aerodynamics also play a part in the car’s ability to cover ground like few others, being slippery enough for a high top speed yet channelling the air over, around and under the car to achieve downforce without increasing drag.
There’s no sign of body flex, either. Ferrari has added 50kg-worth of bracing to the aluminium chassis to improve the Spider’s rigidity. It has the same suspension as the GTB coupé’s and it handled brilliantly on some truly atrocious roads.
More than the coupé, the Spider can be anything you want it to be – barnstorming sports car or refined cruiser, and anything in between. In the rarefied world of Ferrari ownership, the extra spent on the droptop over the GTB is money well spent.
Photography by Lorenzo Marcinno