- The Ferrari 488 GTB is the Italian carmaker’s top-dog supercar.
- The Corvette Z06, with its mighty engine and bold design, is a supercar in the eyes of many.
- The ‘Vette costs more than about $200,000 less, but the Ferrari remains king of the hill.
Fresh off a battle between the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS and the Ford Mustang – won by the ‘Stang – we decided to revisit the world of unlikely face-offs between European and American legends.
Next up: the Ferrari 488 GTB against the Corvette Z06. Italy versus the USA. Maranello versus Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Again, on its face, this is a preposterous comparison: the dashing red mid-engine Ferrari, tipping the price scales at $A326,587 to start, against the stonking front-engine ‘Vette, with a base of about $A104,508.
But we like to look closer. The competition versions of the 488 and the ‘Vette face each other down on the world’s racetracks. The 488’s twin-turbocharged V8 cranks out 661 horsepower, while the Z06 uses a supercharged V8 to achieve 650.
The racing stuff and the motors alone give us a basis for this showdown. Read on to see who came out on top.
Behold the Ferrari 488 GTB, the successor to the much-loved 458 and the latest in the line of mid-engine supercars from Maranello.
Voila! The Corvette Z06. Until the new ZR1 was revealed in late 2017, the Z06 was the most powerful of the seventh-generation ‘Vettes. Our “Watkins Glen Grey Metallic” tester had a targa top, but the 488 can also be an open-air spider.
We’ll start with the Prancing Horse. Though some fans prefer the finer-boned lines of the 458, the 488’s looks are stunning. Our test car arrived in a “Rosso Corsa Metallizzato” paint job — $A16,329 extra.
Let’s just get to the pricing right up front. To own the 458, you need to have the $A326,587 and a willingness to accept that anything additional will cost a lot more. Also, you might not be able to buy the car.
Ferrari produces fewer than 10,000 total vehicles every year and sells them all. So even if you have the means, you could end up waiting for the privilege of ownership.
You accept this to be part of the Ferrari mystique.
The new twin-turbo V8 is can be studied beneath its transparent hatch.
The 488’s 3.9-litre powerplant bumped the mid-engine machine’s output up about 100 horsepower from the 458’s already impressive 570.
Gone was the wild-animal scream of the 458’s naturally aspirated V8, replaced by wailing turbochargers and something more subdued yet hardly unterrifying in the 488.
The engine is ridiculously good, mated to a dual-clutch seven-speed operated with F1-style paddle shifters. The power arrives always, on command, and the sound is worthy of a Ferrari supercar. The heart of a great Ferrari is, of course, its motor, and on this score, the 488 doesn’t disappoint.
The 488’s snug cabin is luxurious but purposeful. There’s no mistaking the motorsport-derived design of the steering wheel, right down to the famous “manettino” drive-mode selector — and if you get a 488, you’d better love carbon fibre.
What makes the 488 GTB so great?
Beauty and power, plus heritage. Ferrari took a big but necessary risk by turbocharging the 488’s V8. In the sports-car line, the 488 recalled the F40 from the late 1980s, but that machine would now be thought of as a hypercar.
So the 488 had to retain the mid-engine supercar vibe of the 458 while still witnessing a massive upsurge in power and defying scepticism that ditching the naturally aspirated V8 from the earlier car would spoil the party.
Maranello pulled it off, and the connection with the 1970s-era 308 – the beginning of the mid-engine line – remained intact.
Those are the horsepower politics. Once you get past them, the 488 is bliss to drive.
The McLaren 675LT is perhaps an objectively better car, and you’re less likely to get yourself in trouble with an all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan. The Tesla Model S P100D in Ludicrous Mode – an all-electric family sedan – can notch a more blistering 0-96km/h run.
But the 488 makes you feel alive in a visceral way that’s Ferrari’s signature. It isn’t all about speed, but the way you interpret your enjoyment of the speed.
The 488 is a tutor, a teacher, a guru, a guide. Driving it provides you a glimpse into a different world. Not incidentally, the 488 also connects you with pro drivers, thanks to the vast racing heritage symbolized by the Scuderia Ferrari badge.
Once you start driving it, you don’t want to stop.
On to the Z06! No doubt about it, this is an abundantly aggressive machine. You can get dizzy counting the hood scoops, air intakes, and aerodynamic edges. You’re in the presence of a ‘Vette, and don’t forget it!
The ‘Vette’s 6.2-litre V8 is among the greatest motors ever made.
What’s more American than a great big V8?
The Z06’s LT4 powerplant is at the top of the heap at General Motors, making 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. When I tested the Z06, I savoured that gusto while grabbing gears with a brilliant seven-speed manual transmission, but a paddle-shifting auto is available.
I often say that you don’t drive a ‘Vette, you drive its engine – and that’s surely the case with the Z06. This is as much horsepower as most mortals should flirt with, and it demands constant attention to control. If you cut it lose, you’re on your own.
Chevy claims a 0-96km/h time of 2.95 seconds, so for flat-out straight-line grunt, we have ourselves a dead heat. As far as top speed goes, both the Z06 and the 488 can top 321km/h.
There isn’t much room in the Z06 either. In fact, the cabin is snugger than the 488’s because the front-engine/rear-wheel-drive layout requires a drive shaft to slice through the middle.
What makes the Z06 so great?
History and value, quite simply. While the Ferrari 488 can trace its lineage to the 308 of the mid-1970s, the Z06 draws a line all the way back to the very first Corvette of 1953.
OK, the Z06 and the peppy little ‘Vette roadster from back in the day have almost nothing in common beyond the shared name. But a legacy is a legacy.
The Z06 also has among the best price-to-horsepower ratios ever minted. Spend less than a hundred grand and obtain 650 raging ponies? Sign me up.
The seventh-generation ‘Vette is also rather defiantly supercar-looking. Once you get past the iconic C3 gen – think “Boogie Nights” – the C4-C6 cars went for a smooth, sleek vibe that owed something, certainly, to the lines of some classic Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis.
But the C7 ‘Vette’s design is far more aggressive – all sharp angles and brusque cut-ins.
Beyond that, it retains an all-American spirit – that massive engine up front, the power piped to the rear wheels, the exhaust note a downright scary rumble and roar.
The thing is flat-out fun, as it has always been meant to be – and a bargain on top of it all.
Rumour has it that the C8 generation will ditch the front engine in favour of a mid-engine design, which could entail a massive pricing uptick. We’ll see. For now, the Z06 is a beast of the old school, and glorious because of it.
And the winner is … the 488!
In the car world, ‘Vettes are ‘Vettes and Ferraris and Ferraris, and though the Z06 is objectively stupendous, the far more expensive 488 is worth the money – and, more importantly, is a Ferrari.
Ferraris aren’t supposed to be rational. You don’t buy the 488 GTB because you want a 661-horsepower supercar that can hit 96km/h in three seconds. You buy it because it’s the best sports car Ferrari sells – and because you’ve always wanted a Ferrari, for that special, intangible Ferrari thing.
I would be delighted to own the Z06, but the 488 is just so, so much more exclusive. You can’t even call it snob appeal, though that’s part of it. Ferraris simply occupy a different plane of consciousness.
There’s also the shocking stylish application of violent power to the task of moving a machine forward through time and space. The Z06 gets the job done, and with a seven-speed stick, it is arguably more thrilling. But the 488 captures your attention at every moment by provoking a routine gasp: “How can something this beautiful be this terrifying?”
That’s the classic Ferrari contrast. And the Z06, for all its many merits, doesn’t pull off the same trick. Both cars blow your mind. But the Ferrari 488 knocks you into a different state of consciousness. It’s a transcendental supercar, while the Z06 is merely the best deal on the planet.
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