The Ferrari 488 Spider in Italian opaque white (or Bianco Italia Opaco) with the Nero (black) interior is refined, almost discreet for a hyper-car. Glamorous without being flash, with curves in all the right places. The matt white keeps it low key so you can appreciate the curvaceous wheel arches and sinuous body without sunglasses. The elegant lines convey stately sports car sophistication. So it should as this mobile masterpiece comes out at £335,197 with the extras.
But first the awesome specs, the Ferrari 488 Spider has a 90° V8 turbo-charged, dry sump engine with 760 Nm at 3000 rpm or 661bhp, with a kerb weight of 1525 kg. A 7-speed F1 dual-clutch transmission, F1 Trac and High-Performance ABS with Ferrari pre-fill. It will go from 0-62mph (0-100km/h) in just 3.0 s and 0-124 mph (0-200km/h) in 8.7 s. With all that power you will be pleased to know it boasts the Brembo Extreme Design brakes first made for the LaFerrari so the stopping time balances the awesome acceleration. The brake calipers are actually machined from a single block of aluminium!
As you take your seat at the controls, the Daytona carbon fibre racing seats seem to mould around you. They are divinely comfortable even over on long distance luxury tours, almost tailor made, reimagining the car as an extension of your body. This is helped by the dashboard and the interior dimensions which are sublime, with ample room for both the driver and the passenger.
My Ferrari was specced out with quite a few carbon fibre extras, and apologies if there is repetition of two particular words in the list. Carbon fibre rear air ducts, carbon fibre side air splitter, carbon fibre b-pillars trim, carbon fibre rear diffuser, carbon fibre sill cover, carbon fibre exterior package, carbon fibre driver zone and LED’s, carbon fibre tunnel bridge, carbon fibre door panels trim, carbon fibre outer sill kick, carbon fibre upper tunnel, carbon fibre wheel caps, carbon fibre dashboard inserts, carbon fibre racing package and carbon fibre front spoiler.
Can you spot the theme here? Now this may sound excessive but all this carbon fibre contrasted beautifully with the opaque white of the body. I’m not suggesting you get the same, but it gives you a good idea of just how far you can adapt the 488 to suit your tastes, and this monotone palette grew on me over the week long tour. One small niggle with the instrument panel, I could not see all the displays on the dash without moving my eye-line, as parts were slightly blocked by the steering wheel, I would like the instruments to be clearly visible at all times, as on F1 cars.
The hard top pops up or down in 14 seconds, I timed it swooping back and forth, folding with watch like precision. You would never know it was a convertible as the roof fits flawlessly. Take note, there is no loss in performance from the GTB (the drop top is a mere 45 kg heavier) as the body is stiffened to achieve parity and decrease torsion. The rear window goes up or down irrespective of the roof, so even with the hard top up you can still hear that grumbling engine sound, an orchestral accompaniment, imbuing an open air feel and great rear view visibility.
The electronics play a big part in raising this car above the level of all others, everything from the brakes that are pre loaded to maximise braking distance, to the steering that stiffens as your speed increases, to the electronic slip controls that deliver this humongous V8 power safely. The button I played with the most was the suspension injection mode, which softens the ride, you’ll want to keep that on most of the time, as it is cloud soft comfort (for a sports car). You really only want the sports ride when giving it some welly on those long blissful French roads, or round the Charles De Gaulle Etoile roundabout in Paris, that bounteous 8 lane miasma of demolition derby fun, where it’s not paranoia as they are all out to get you. With all the electronics turned off (ECS off mode) you can truly appreciate the finely tuned balance and handling, even kidding yourself that you barely need the electronics at all.
The Sports mode stiffens the suspension, heightens the engine response and ups the roaring holler, especially when the turbos activate, jumping the sound up an octave. The turbos kick in with zero lag when you press that pedal down firmly and climb up the revs, providing instant satisfaction every time. Highly addictive performance and we’re not even in Race mode yet, which could aptly be described as “Don’t Mess With Me Mode,” transferring every ounce of power direct to your privileged right foot. This is extreme, the car suddenly switches from luxury sports comfort to track beast and should be kept for special occasions, and certainly not for impressing French taxi drivers along the banks of the Seine. Sports mode alone turns even the faint hearted amateur into a skilled Formula One driver, artificially propped up by the precise steering, agility and traction. I must get some track time with this car to see just how mental it can be in race mode as it really is impossible to gauge on public roads, it is so ferocious.
The sat nav works well and it has Apple play so you can use your iPhone sat nav and music collection direct. The front and rear camera are pin sharp, you can see every blade of grass and curb, great for keeping the body and wheels scratch free, though I would appreciate a tiny bit more coverage reversing out between two parked cars. I loved the steering wheel controls, with start/stop, indicators, drive mode and wipers within thumb distance, so you never have to release the wheel while driving. It makes so much sense to have the indicators that are used so frequently on the steering. You even have the tachometer LED readout at the top of the wheel just like F1 cars so you can pick that sweet spot at 8000 revs easily. The carbon fibre paddles are seesaw and change up or down on either side. The boot at the front will take two carry on cases, so enough for a weekend, though you could push this with some ergonomic packing. In a week tour to Paris and back I managed fuel performance of 22mpg, which is pretty good, though I drove sensibly, mostly.
The steering puts the wheels exactly where you want without any effort or negative feedback, so you are in total control and suffer none of the bumps and camber of poor road conditions. The front wheel arches gently indicate the way, letting you know exactly where to place your line on narrow roads and tight corners. The magnetron dampers on this car are efficient, so that it sticks to the road like magnetised mercury, flowing over the surface, combining racing grip and luxury comfort. Torsional stiffness is identical to the GTB so now all the naysayers who declaim the coupe will always be better have been silenced.
This is a hard top convertible every bit as good as the coupe, that does 0-62 mph in 3 secs. If you want the very, very best this is the car to buy. The shape is a harmonious balance of everything you want in a sports car, distilled from everything Ferrari have developed over a century of car design, it hits every note perfectly, a work of art with frightening speed, yet masterful control. It is amazing how far engineering has come in the last decade.
It is like being given super powers, becoming the Flash or Superman. You fly through the air with effortless ease, moving from one point in space to another in seconds at the slightest thought. Ferrari has not over designed the 488, no Lily gilding here, keeping the weight down and concentrating on performance, road handling, suspension, traction and steering. There is so much power in this superbly tuned V8 that you can spin the back wheels with insolent ease and slide the back out with complete control and confidence. It is so attractive, you get let out into traffic by every car. It inspires admiration far more often than jealousy. The 488 Spider is the car that never has to wait.
The Ferrari 488 Spider is not just a mechanical and electronic marvel, it’s an entire luxury experience, people treat you differently as it is such a beautiful object and much admired, not just because of the price tag. Everyone from the two kids on the train who wanted a picture with the car to the casual admirers crossing the street were enamoured with the engineering, design and technology imbued in this sculptural tour de force. Owning one of these brings more than just the car, it brings a social element to it too. People love this car and you will find yourself interacting with others in many different ways because of it. Take it from me the owner of this car benefits from certain privileges, because the car is special, known in Italy as the Maranello effect!
Our song for the Ferrari 488 Spider: David Bowie Cat People (putting out fire with gasoline).
The Ferrari 488 Spider starts at £250,000 and mine with extras came to £335,000. They also have a 7 year service warranty, an exclusive in the industry.
Ferrari also offer an extended warranty program for both new and pre-owned Prancing Horse cars up to 15 years and a free roadside assistance for all cars not covered by warranty.
We used the Le Shuttle to get over to France, quick, easy and fun too.