A FERRARI 488. THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD, AND VAN MORRISON SINGING: “OH MY MAMA TOLD ME, THERE’LL BE DAYS LIKE THIS…”
Cynics will tell you this is what TMR does every day - "lucky sods, blah de blah" - and, "In any case," they'll say, "what’s the point of a car like the 488 on Australia’s clogged, speed-camera infested roads?"
The answers are no, no we don’t - every drive of a Ferrari is rare and special - and secondly, Ferrari says year-to-date sales in its market segment (we think you can work out what that means) are up by 35 percent in Australia and 28 percent in New Zealand.
So, despite our sub-standard road network and ever-present camera plague, the allure of this sort of car continues to grow. Obviously.
To date, sales of the masterpieces from Maranello are line-ball here with 2015…which is to say the folk in the historic – but now updated – factory are working to capacity to keep-up with demand in every country.
And here’s a few fast facts: on average Australian Ferrari buyers spend an extra $65,000 per car on ‘customization’ (via the Ferrari ‘Tailor-Made’ program); the average age of buyers is down from 52 a few years ago to 46; Australia leads the Western world in the percentage of female Ferrari owners (12 percent); and, instead of annual volume targets, the KPI for a Ferrari dealer is measured in terms of customer interaction.
And a key component of that customer engagement is the ‘Ferrari Concierge’ which, with just one telephone call or email, can arrange everything for you from a Ferrari F1 team shirt to a helicopter round-trip to a winery. Or perhaps a dinner at a ‘Celebrity Chef’s’ un-bookable restaurant, a race circuit drive day, or, of course, the Ferrari suite in the Paddock Club at an F1 Grand Prix.
Each year the Ferrari Concierge arranges for around 250 Australian owners and their partners to visit Maranello (where factory tours are exclusive to owners).
While there will always be a waiting list for cars with the ‘Prancing Horse’ badge, Ferrari Australasia chief Herbert Appleroth and his team have ways of making things bearable.
Vehicle Style: Sports Coupe
Price: $469,988 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 492kW/760Nm 3.9 litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 11.4 l/100km
Sadly, as Ferrari’s biggest-selling model, the 488 will always have the longest waiting list – the rear-engined sports car is, after all, the soul of the company.
The replacement for the hallowed 458, the 488 had big shoes to fill. The swag of prestigious awards in the trophy cabinet confirms it has succeeded.
As always with new Ferraris, the 488 has a mix of things borrowed and things new. So on the one hand we have the headline trumpeting the "first-for-a-road-car active aerodynamics" - a unique rear ‘blow spoiler’ which bleeds air over the rear bumper and working in concert with active veins in the diffuser.
And, borrowed, we have brakes from the La Ferrari and the steering rack, shock absorbers and a fair chunk of the chassis from the 458 Speciale (but as anyone who has driven the 458 Speciale will confirm, that’s not a bad thing).
And there’s the second generation of the astonishing Side Slip Angle Control (SSC2) which Ferrari describes succinctly as: “makes it easier for non-professional drivers to reach the limit”. Ferrari’s ‘drift mode’ you might say.
Power comes from a high-output version of the twin-turbocharged flat-plane-crankshaft 3.9-litre V8 used in the California T (with larger twin-scroll IHI turbochargers, a longer stroke, different pistons, different intake and exhaust manifolds among a host of up-rated components to support its higher – 8,000rpm – rev limit). Turbocharger boost pressure is almost twice that of the California T.
Just looking at that powerplant aft the cockpit can keep you curious for hours. Our test car was fitted with the optional carbon-fibre engine compartment ($13,242) and carbon-fibre rear air ducts ($6,800).
- Standard Features: leather-trimmed seats, climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, electronic seat adjustment
- Infotainment: 1280-watt, 16-channel JBL audio
You know how SUV buyers like the ‘raised’ seating position for its commanding view of the road? The Ferrari 488 is the exact opposite.
First-up you need some suppleness just to assume the seating position. Once inside, you will find yourself ensconced in a gorgeous leather-wrapped seat which is virtually on the floor and with your legs stretched-out race car-like to the pedals with only the slightest bend at the knees.
And forget all those old stories about Italian cars with their stumpy legs/long arms driving position… with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment (rake and reach), just about anybody can find a perfect driving environment in the Ferrari 488 (although, like an F1 car, the wheel will always be higher than in say a Fiat Freemont).
Our test car was fitted with the optional carbon-fibre driver zone ($13,950) which includes an F1-style carbon-fibre steering wheel with a myriad of dials and buttons (including of course an index finger button to flash the headlights when overtaking on an autostrada, the engine start button and the various drive-mode settings).
Right in front – naturally as this is a Ferrari – is the rev counter (8,000rpm redline!) and in our test car it was in ‘Rosso’(a no-cost option). Either side of the tacho are displays for navigation and chassis set-up.
While there is no traditional ‘centre-stack’, air-conditioning controls are installed centre dashboard on the lower edge (more or less where the top of a centre stack would be).
And between the two seats, angled towards the driver, is a small carbon-fibre panel with a button to select reverse gear, another to switch between automatic and manual and the third for launch control.
Naturally there is plenty of shape to the dashboard itself, everywhere you look the materials are gorgeous and look… over there…it’s a Ferrari badge and there, above the glove-box, is a ‘488 GTB’ badge.
Such ‘Ferrari-ness’ allows you to overlook the predictable lack of storage for anything larger than a small paper map.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: Twin turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 with 492kW @ 8000rpm and 760Nm @ 3000rpm in 7th gear
- Transmission: Seven-speed sequential automatic with paddle-shifters for manual changes
- Suspension: Double wishbone (front)/multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel carbon-ceramic disc brakes
We were invited to see the open-top version of the Ferrari 488 for the first time on Australian soil – it’s astonishingly beautiful - but when it came time to hit the road, your TMR correspondent (a dedicated ‘Ferraristi’) headed straight for the hardtop GTB.
Sure there is the magnificence of the California and F12 Berlinetta and even the four-seat convenience of the GTC4 Lusso.
But the 488 – especially in ‘Rossa Corsa Metallizzato (a metallic version of Ferrari’s traditional ‘Maranello Red’) with tan-coloured leather inside – is the pulse of Ferrari, capturing a magic dating back to that bleak winter’s day in 1947 when Enzo used the streets of Maranello to test-drive the first car to carry his family name.
So you punch the engine start button on the steering wheel and the twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 explodes into life and settles to a rather loud and fast idle (which in our case had people running from Melbourne’s Blackman hotel to see what all the noise was about). Some, fools really, have criticised the noise of the 488 – they’re still wearing string-back leather driving gloves and think all Ferraris are bellowing atmo V12s.
Then you hit the ‘R’ for reverse gear button and try to back this +$618,000 (with extras, taxes and on-road charges) supercar into the street with something approaching smoothness and subtlety. Not impossible, but difficult on both counts.
And for the first couple of kilometers in city traffic you’re aware of two things: the large V8, massive turbochargers, ducting and seven-speed gearbox sitting behind your head. The second things is is that fear-driven impression that seemingly every rusty old Falcon and Magna in Victoria is trying to carve you up and leave a calling card on your gleaming red paintwork.
Fast-forward to The Great Ocean Road – and forget the interminable time spent behind ambling caravans – and we were able to briefly let-fly with this supercar of supercars.
Acceleration is gob-smacking (3.0 seconds 0-100km/h) but it’s the delivery in any gear which stamps the 488 as very special.
Steering is genuinely super-sharp (as we expected having driven the 458 Speciale) and the chassis is just sublime.
Of course there is remarkable grip from the Pirelli rubber – that’s expected – but there is a new level of refinement (remember you’re basically sitting between the two front wheels) when you turn-in and when you hit mid-corner bumps.
But for us, the justification for that massive investment comes when you come rushing down a hill into a tight hairpin, working the sequential seven-speeder manually (it’s 30 percent quicker than the 458), and the Ferrari 488 responds with shrieks from the flat-plane-crank twin-turbo V8 and the carbon-ceramic brakes seemingly tear your eyeballs towards the windscreen.
Then you flick the steering wheel in the direction of the apex, and, in the blink of an eye, you’re erupting out of the corner towards the next with the rev-counting LEDs on top of the steering wheel urging for the next rapid upshift to avoid the redline cutout.
That’s the sort of experience only a car like the Ferrari 488 GTB can deliver.
ANCAP rating: Not tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, stability and traction control
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometers
Servicing: Seven years free servicing (you only pay for brake pads and tyres). Service intervals 12 months/12,000kms
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
We're in rarefied air here, and competitors are few and equally eye-wateringly expensive. It's hard, however, not to always lean to the Ferrari for what it is, for that statement that only a Ferrari can make, and for the particular way it can spear you to the horizon.
That said, the machinery at this level of expense and excellence can intoxicate and excite in the way few cars can. Our shopping list, if we were to benchmark the performance and exclusive desirability of the Ferrari 488 GTB would include:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
How do we rate a car like this? How can anyone? It is so ridiculously capable, so fast, so desirable, and so bloody gorgeous to behold.
And the noise it makes, and the way it responds... there is something to driving a Ferrari that can't really be adequately described, but can be only be experienced.
Put it this way: we’ve been to Maranello a number of times, many years ago we attended one of Enzo Ferrari’s famously ridiculously pompous and orchestrated annual ‘meet-the-press’ conferences (held every October), we’ve even had coffee - more than once - with Luca Di Montezemolo…yes, we get the Ferrari mystique.
So we’re prepared to say the 488 is the best car of its type we’ve driven. And we understand how Ferrari works so we’ll forgive the horrible rattles in the dashboard of the car we drove (it had been used for track days, Ferrari explained).
But with a Ferrari, there is so much more here than 'just a car'.
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