Behold, the newest Ferrari to be unleashed on humanity: the 488 GTB.
It’s the successor to what many consider to be the greatest car in the world, the Ferrari 458. There’s just one minor issue with the 458 and its glorious, screaming, wild-wild-wild V8 engine, which is located behind the driver — a “mid-engine” arrangement, in the parlance of automotive engineering.
That problem is that the 4.5-liter powerplant is — and here’s some more gearhead-speak, so sorry — “naturally aspirated.” That means it sucks in air, combines it with gas, and performs a sacred screaming alchemy of wild-wild-wild speed that thrills the soul but also yields a combined fuel-economy figure of … 14 mpg.
In my book, there’s no substitute for the purity of a naturally aspirated V8. Sadly, as Ferrari builds only 7,000 cars per year and hopes to continue selling a few of them in the US, where fuel-economy standards are being raised by government mandate, the magnificent old-school supercar-calibre V8, effectively a technology for rapidly transforming gas into velocity with little regard for mollycoddling the environment, has to be retired.
Of course, we’re still talking about Ferrari here. The 488 GTB still needs to, you know, go very very very fast.
So how do you achieve that, while delivering higher mpgs?
You turbocharge a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine.
Turbocharging basically takes exhaust gas, uses it to drive a turbine, crams more air into the engine’s combustion chambers, and enables that engine to match the power output of a bigger engine. The Ferrari 458 cranks out 562 horsepower, sans turbo. The 488, with its 3.8-liter turbocharged V8, delivers …
… wait for it …
Oh, and the 488 also serves up 20 mpg.
With 100 more horsepower.
OK, impressive. Well done, Ferrari engineering folks!
Still, I’m quite sad to see the era of the maniacal V8 coming to a close. I’ve always felt that as the rest of the auto industry moves toward an increasing level of fuel efficiency and squares the performance circle by using turbocharging and various other technologies to squeeze V8 oomph out of dinkier displacement engines, there could nonetheless be a place for a few exotic examples of the naturally aspirated V8 and the unique pleasures it imparts.
But the times, they are a-changin’.
Ferrari can’t do anything about my disappointment, and besides, it isn’t their fault.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
The 488 GTB looks kinda sci-fi, from my perspective. Here’s a 458 Speciale, for comparison:
Not quite as out there, is it?
But look, I guess I’ll get used to this new world of turbocharged Ferraris. Heck, at least the 488 has a V8. Up next, the company will probably have to start thinking about a turbo V6. There was much speculation that the 458 heir would have a turbo 6, but evidently that heresy will not yet come to pass.
The 488 GTB will make its big world debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
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