Ferrari’s recent move from naturally aspirated to turbocharged engines has paid off again – the new 488 GTB will blow drivers away.
FERRARI purists consider models powered by naturally aspirated engines to be the purest expression of the brand’s DNA, despite the fact that the Italian carmaker never strictly adhered to this formula. Ferrari utilised turbocharging twice before – once in the iconic F40 and another time in the lesser-known 208 GTB.
The former was designed to make huge lumps of power (478bhp to be exact), while the latter was created to dodge car taxes in Italy with its 2-litre V8. But by and large, Ferrari championed natural aspiration in its road cars over the past decades. The Prancing Horse even took naturally aspirated engines to the loftiest heights of the automotive world, when it produced the 458 Speciale, which has a 4.5-litre V8 rated at 135bhp per litre and a 9000rpm redline. But that was before ever-tightening environmental regulations forced it to grow a conscience and adopt turbocharging.
Ferrari’s turbocharged v8 can embarrass a naturally aspirated v12.
Ecological concerns aside, Ferrari exists to race, and in order to win, the manufacturer has to embrace the latest technologies to shave that extra tenth of a second – even if it means eschewing its naturally aspirated formula. For the Italian company, it is all about being the quickest. To get more out of an engine while reducing its CO2 footprint could not be achieved by going further down the naturally aspirated path. It meant joining the current trend of turbocharging and downsizing. This move also lets Ferrari allude to the (tenuous) link between its road cars and its current Formula One machines, which have turbocharged hybrid powertrains.
Thankfully, there is no hybrid technology in the 488 GTB, just turbocharging. The 488 GTB’s 3902cc V8 is over 500cc less than that of the aforementioned 4.5-litre V8, but the former gains two ultra-lightweight turbochargers, which feature compressor wheels made from a titanium-aluminium alloy and ball-bearing-mounted shafts. The turbochargers’ impellers fit more snugly in their housings, thanks to “abrade-able” polymer seals that can be scraped away as the turbos bed in, thereby increasing their effi ciency.
This turbocharged V8 blends the best qualities of natural aspiration and turbocharging while reducing the downsides associated with the latter
The powerplant’s compression ratio is kept relatively high at 9.4:1 to improve combustion and achieve good part-throttle characteristics. Exceeding the 458 Italia’s 570bhp is easy with turbocharging, but Ferrari wanted to have at least an 8000rpm operating range, in lieu of the 9000rpm previously. That said, the 488 GTB’s output of 670bhp isn’t exactly fantastic in the world of turbocharged motors. However, the way Ferrari has applied this technology, is. In the first three gears, the 488 GTB’s torque curve mimics that of a naturally aspirated engine, rising along with the revs and increasing incrementally with each upshift. This progressive nature also saves the traction control from working overtime. Since the V8 doesn’t deliver maximum torque at lower revs, turbo lag isn’t palpable. Only from gears four to seven is the full torque figure available.
With SCM 3, the dampers not only deliver better control, they offer a better ride, too.
However, the downside to having a pair of turbos blocking the exhaust flow is the attenuation of the highpitch scream that characterises naturally aspirated Ferraris. So to give the 488 GTB its “voice”, the engineers have replaced the Ferrari “wail” with a loud, flat-plane tenor roar. It’s not bad, but it also doesn’t sound like any Ferrari I know. This is exactly what happened to F1 cars when they switched from naturally aspirated to turbocharged engines. Now, while the soundtrack isn’t titillating, this automobile’s performance certainly is. Floor the throttle and the 488 GTB will accelerate from rest to 100km/h in three seconds.
Keep your foot on the loud pedal and 200km/h will arrive 5.3 seconds later. If you select Race mode, the surge of acceleration will pin you to the seat even if you’re in fourth gear. Complementing the powerplant is the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which has shorter sequential shift times compared to the dual-clutch transmission in the 458 Italia. In this car, all the driver has to do is hold the “-” paddle and the gearbox will continuously downshift until the ideal gear ratio is chosen. There’s no need to pull back on the paddle multiple times to achieve this.
Helping the driver carve through corners is its stability control system, which is called Side Slip Control 2. The new algorithms in said system are focused on yaw control and help keep the vehicle in a neutral handling state by diverting power via the Active E-Diff , selective braking and active roll stiff ening via the rapid-responding SCM 3 magneto-rheological dampers. My drive began on Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit and there was no time to familiarise myself with the car. I was given only four laps, so it was literally like diving into the deep end of a pool before I had learned to swim. The health-monitoring gear strapped to my body did me no favours.
The first order of business was to try the new downshift function. It sounds simple – all you need to do is hold the downshift paddle as you brake. Unfortunately, doing this feels quite odd because one will need to turn the steering wheel as you enter a corner, and the 488 GTB’s column-mounted paddleshifters make this awkward. This clever function would work better with steering-wheelmounted paddle-shifters. Selecting Race mode on the Manettino dial solves this issue, as it leaves the gearbox in the default auto mode, while allowing it to hit every downshift perfectly. It does this even when you’re braking from 240km/h to 90km/h, which requires multiple downshifts in a very short time.
The cockpit is more functional than it is stylish, but the good news is that it isn’t hard on the eyes.
Moreover, the “nanny” Race mode is quite lenient, as it allows you to perform some tail-out antics before reining you in. Drifting, however, wastes time, so the “nanny” will try to keep the car as neutral as possible. If you want to let loose, just set the Manettino switch to “CT Off ”. For the 488 GTB, Ferrari chose Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres for a balance between sheer grip and ride comfort. These wheels are extremely communicative, too – you can tell when they’re approaching the limits of their adhesion.
Equipped with these Michelins, this automobile is supposedly two seconds faster than the 458 Italia around Fiorano. The former, however, really shows its true athleticism on the tortuous route around the Emilia-Romagna countryside. Although it is wider than its predecessor, the 488 GTB still fits (just) comfortably on these country roads. Plus, with its superb chassis, one can place the car in its lane with pinpoint accuracy.
The 488 gtb is not only fast – it also delivers heaps of pure entertainment.
The helm is wonderfully precise and provides a positive connection with the road. There is heft in the steering, and because of the well-tuned chassis, you feel confident that the machine will obey your every command. On regular roads, it is best to use the “bumpy road” damper setting. Although the ride is suppler, this actually makes for faster progress on undulating surfaces without any apparent loss of control. The harder Race setting is really only suited to circuits or perfectly paved roads.
The ability of the active magneto-rheological dampers to smoothen out pock-marked tarmac is incredible. The fastacting processor and additional sensors are able to eke out every last gram of comfort while still suppressing body movements with iron-fisted control. The 488 GTB’s turn-in is phenomenal. The front-end grip seems endless as I grapple with the twisty bits. I’m able to flick the car from side to side as if it were weightless. The vehicle’s limits might be superhuman, but they can be reached if you are crazy enough.
The generous swathes of carbon fibre will make drivers think they’re sitting in a racecar.
The skies opened up during the last half of my route around the countryside. Apart from dampening my pace, it revealed the incredible grip aff orded by the Michelins on wet surfaces. The tyres’ limits again proved to be beyond that of my courage, which is very impressive. This vehicle’s stopping power comes courtesy of its carbon-ceramic brakes, which are identical to the ones used in the marque’s LaFerrari hypercar. These stoppers are supposedly 9 percent more eff ective than the 458 Italia’s.
The components responsible for their enhanced eff ectiveness are the higher friction pads, faster ABS processor and a 36 percent quicker rise in hydraulic pressure in the callipers. To further augment the handling, designers from the Ferrari Styling Centre worked with aerodynamicists to hone its fabulous form. The external door handles, for instance, are placed at a seemingly odd location, but their positions actually redirect air flow into the rear arch vents.
To keep this supercar planted, its bodywork features vortex generators and an active rear diff user underneath. Apart from a double front spoiler, this Prancing Horse also has a special centre channel that diverts air down and underneath, as well as to the side intakes. The 488 GTB will remain glued to the road at high speeds – it develops 200kg of downforce at 200km/h and a massive 325kg at 300km/h. Given that the test cars didn’t have front number plates, I wonder if they would aff ect the aerodynamics. Unlike other countries, having your number plate on a sticker is illegal in Singapore. Now, while the car’s exterior looks spectacular, the same cannot be said for its interior. In typical Ferrari fashion, there are few organic lines, but the design is neat and functional rather than stylish, with the main driving controls clustered on the steering wheel.
The 488 GTB’s curvaceous body isn’t just for show – it enhances aerodynamics as well.
Controls with related functions are grouped together in pods and separated by either leather or carbon fibre. It’s a good thing that Ferrari drivers spend most of their time scanning the road ahead instead of admiring the interior. Never before has 670bhp been so well-deployed in a rear-wheel-drive machine. The F40 from yesteryear that has “only” 478bhp is almost undriveable compared to today’s 488 GTB. An all-wheel-drive system would have undoubtedly simplified matters, but with rear-wheel-drive, lots of intelligent solutions need to be employed. In the 488 GTB, there’s no single magic bullet. Rather, it is the perfect blend of oily bits and eye candy that delivers the goods. Preconceived notions of turbo cars will cloud opinions, but not once did I feel frustrated that I had driven this turbocharged Prancing Horse. Clearly, Ferrari has achieved the impossible.