- After testing the new Ferrari488 GTB in 2016 and naming it a 2016 Business Insider Car of the Year runner-up, we got a crack at the Spider version.
- I drove the Ferrari to Lime Rock Park, a famous racing venue in Connecticut.
- The convertible Ferrari was the ultimate cruising machine – and cruise missile when it wanted to be.
Ferrari is quite predictable when it comes to new sports cars.
For example, when the all-new Ferrari 488 GTB debuted in 2015 for the 2016 model year, it was swiftly followed by a drop-top version, the 488 Spider. We tested the 488 GTB in 2016 and were blown away, naming the latest mid-engined Ferrari supercar a finalist for our Car of the Year award.
A racetrack-derived 488 came next – the Pista. We wanted to get our hands on that speed machine at some point, but while we’re waiting, Ferrari let us borrow a nearly $US400,000 2017 Spider ($US393,411, to be precise), and I took it on a pleasant jaunt to a legendary track in the Northeast, Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park, former stomping grounds of the late Paul Newman, who was a serious race-car driver when he wasn’t a world-famous actor.
Ferrari took a major risk with the 488, sacrificing the naturally aspirated V8 engine that had propelled the phenomenal 458 and replacing it with a twin-turbo V8 that produced a lot more power, but added a pair of turbochargers to a platform that had shunned them.
The result was well-received, after an initial period of pre-launch scepticism and worry.
Enter the Spider (which is just what Ferrari calls convertibles). It brings open-air motoring to the 488 experience and was perhaps the ideal vehicle to take on a journey through the lushly green and deliciously winding roadways of semi-rural New England.
Here’s how it went.
It’s always an exciting day when a Ferrari lands in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test center. I know what you’re thinking: Why isn’t the Spider red?
Because it’s “Avorio,” which translates from Italian as “Ivory.” If you’re used to red Ferraris, maybe the odd blue or silver here and there, this colour is sort of … controversial. However, after a few days, I started to love it. You just don’t see many Avorio Ferrari! Besides, the seats were plenty red!
My wife said that it looked like a piece of sculpture, and the colour does show off the shape and lines of the 488 in ways that red can’t. And just for the record, I witnessed no shortage of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the civilian population during the four days when I had the 488.
As you can see, the drive to Lime Rock was a little over two hours. The last 45 minutes or so took me through some lovely Connecticut countryside.
Lime Rock was the home track of longtime semi-pro racer, Connecticut resident, and Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman. Newman was good behind the wheel — he finished second at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.
Newman took his final laps at Lime Rock when he was 83 years old, shortly before his death in 2008.
The Spider is the convertible version of the 488 GTB that was named as a 2016 Business Insider Car of the Year runner-up.
The youngest Ferrari lover in my family was impressed — but also a bit intimidated!
After a combination of highways and byways, the 488 Spider and I arrived at Lime Rock.
Inside the Ferrari’s front trunk or “frunk” is a plaque that details its individual specifications.
I adore the look of the 488 GTB, but I have to say that I like the Spider better.
The defining feature of both cars is the front end, which was reworked from the relatively delicate 458 to be more in line with the more aggressive fascia of the LaFerrari hypercar.
Top-down motoring in this car was an absolute joy.
Especially because although it was quite hot on the day I drove to Line Rock, it was also overcast. I prefer convertibles on cloudy days.
As you can see, although the cockpit of the 488 is cosy, because the engine is located behind the driver, its had an open, airy quality that’s enhanced by dropping the top.
It folds away into a compartment behind the seats. The process takes about 15 seconds.
With the top up, you have the same aristocratic vibe as you’d experience with the 488 GTB. The only concession is no transparent hatch to view the mighty V8 engine.
At Lime Rock, the Ferrari was joined by a wide variety of four-wheeled company.
Sure, there were other Ferraris.
But it wasn’t all European elites. How about this fifth-generation Chevy El Camino, well preserved and in a colour not too dissimilar to the 488 Spider?
This MGB was for sale — and I wanted to be a buyer!
Someone even brought a Chrysler Le Baron.
Who can argue with a Buick GNX, perhaps the scariest Buick ever built. It’s a turbocharged, high-performance legend.
Lime Rock has been around since 1956 and is a great place to watch motorsports. The hills that the track weaves through create a natural amphitheater effect that fans really enjoy.
You get great views of the racing.
The event I attended was part of the Pirelli World Challenge series, which consists of a variety of sports car races for professionals and amateurs.
For fans, the event at Lime Rock over Labour Day weekend was a racing feast. Because Lime Rock is a compact venue, it’s fun to walk around and take in the sights and sounds of competition.
That’s a Mercedes AMG racer.
A pair of BMWs.
And let’s not forget that with Pirelli as a sponsor, one is going to see some tires.
Lots of tires.
Lots and LOTS of tires. Notice that these are largely untreaded racing slicks — they’re designed to heat up and help the race cars stay stuck to the track.
At races, the teams use an assortment of alternative ways to get around. Such as these BMW bikes.
Ferrari always has Vespa scooters, and they’re rarely not red.
When it’s time for the race cars to go home, they go home in big-rig style.
OK, so back to the 488 Spider. Gorgeous alloy wheels hide ventilated brake rotors and the huge calipers required to control a car with a 0-60 mph speed of three seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph.
The headlights sweep back dramatically from the sharklike front end.
The Ferrari badge is actually rather modest.
Under the hood is the frunk. You can get a few duffle bags in here. I even used the car from a grocery store run.
The toolkit features a pair of prancing horse gloves. Be a shame to get them dirty!
The heart of the 488 Spider is a 3.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V8.
The V8 cranks out 661 horsepower, a huge increase over the 458’s 570. It also looks insanely cool.
The driver sees a prancing horse, some very large paddle shifters for the dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox (borrowed from Formula One), and the tachometer front and center on the cluster.
Would you like some infotainment with your 8,000rpm redline tachometer?
Yes, it’s tiny. But to be honest, it works surprisingly well. There’s satellite radio, GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity for devices, and USB/AUX ports. Also, having the screen in the instrument cluster is far less distracting than locating it in the middle of the dashboard.
Ditching the touchscreen also helps. Everything its controlled with the easy-to-understand cluster or knobs and buttons, which is well within the driver’s reach.
Yes, there are cupholders!
There is one — but your cup will block the view the exquisite Ferrari fob in its fob-holder.
Simple climate control buttons and knobs around out the minimalist controls.
Some interior details in shimmering chrome.
The carbon-fibre, leather-wrapped steering wheel features the famous Ferrari manettino, which selects driver modes. I stuck with Sport and Race mode and didn’t mess with disabling the traction or electronic stability controls.
Read more about it here.
The big red start-stop button is also on the steering wheel. Push it and you’re rewarded with a sweet symphony of brash, bold internal combustion. It might be the best thing about a Ferrari. It raises the blood pressure.
So what’s the 488 Spider like to drive?
In my review of the 488 GTB, I wrote:
“Many, many Ferrari fans were worried that a turbo V8 would mean two things: the end of that amazing, wild, screaming engine note, and the dreaded turbo-lag. I’m here to tell you that the turbo doesn’t lag, though, Ferrari acknowledges that it is routed to the rear wheels a nanosecond or something slower than in the 458. And the engine sounds less maniacal than the 458’s, but you can now hear the sweet high-pitched whistle of the turbos, which never gets old. The Ferrari orchestra has added a new instrument.”
I added: “Brilliant in a straight line, brilliant in the curves, just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Fast and tight, the 488 fills you with confidence and makes you a better person.”
That pretty well sums up what I also thought of the Spider.
I didn’t go nuts with the GTB, although I did at times drive it aggressively. With the Spider, I dialed it back and used the car as more of a leisurely cruising machine. OK, it can become a cruise missile with a touch of the throttle, but with the top down I wanted to smooth matters out an savour the 488s well-mannered side, keeping a lid of a wildness.
The 488 Spider is a dream and the version I would without hesitation purchase if I were looking to unload an extra $US400,000. All it takes is a Ferrari after you haven’t piloted a Ferrari for a while to make you fall in love with Ferrari all over again. The Masters of Maranello truly know what they’re doing.
Our Spider did come with racing seats that are less plush than softer versions, so I was concerned that after four hours of motoring, I’d be worn out. But I wasn’t. That said, I’m not sure I would want to ride in these saddles for more than four hours.
You may have guessed that I found nothing to complain about (and neither did my colleague Ben Zhang when he got behind the wheel after I had my time with with the Ferrari). The car that I thought was glorious with a fixed roof if even better with one that can be folded down.
Predictably, I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new pal. But likes all good things, the Ferrari 488 Spider had to to pass. I drove back home and returned the magnificent machine to Ferrari on Tuesday.
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