God is in the Details: Form Follows Function in This Mesmerizing Supercar
The door handle of the Ferrari 488 GTB is probably as good as any place to start. It’s a curiously shaped piece, a vaguely finlike structure that requires your fingertips to be inserted from the top to open the door. A bijou stylish flourish from Ferrari design chief Flavio Manzoni and his team? Nope. The door handle is shaped like that, says Ferrari aerodynamics specialist Enrico Cardile, to help direct air into the massive inlets on the 488’s broad haunches.
God is in the details, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said. He was talking about architecture, but his famous maxim neatly sums up the stunning Ferrari 488 GTB. It looks like just another poutingly seductive Italian supercar. But drive it, as hard and fast as you dare, and you’ll quickly realize its talents are more than skin deep. There’s a thoughtfulness, an intelligence, a cleverness about this Ferrari that is mesmerizing. And it’s all down to the details.
The 488’s new 3.9-liter, twin-turbo V-8 is the headline news, of course. It’s turbocharged to help it meet strict new emissions standards. “What started out as a constraint became an opportunity,” says engine development chief Corrado Iotti. Courtesy of two low-inertia, low-friction turbochargers, the 488 powerplant delivers 660 hp at 8,000 rpm, and up to 560 lb-ft of torque from just 3,000 rpm. The engine shares its block with the California T’s powerplant, but little else, and the 86.5mm bore and 83mm stroke combine to give the car its name, reviving an old Ferrari tradition: The cubic capacity of each cylinder is 488cc.
The new engine defines the 488, which is essentially a major rework of the 458. Ferrari says 85 percent of the car is new: The roof and greenhouse are carried over, as is much of the front subframe and suspension. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also from the 458, though with different ratios, and marginally faster upshifts. The rear subframe is new, to carry the wider engine lower in the car, and the heavily sculpted rear fenders bulge out over a wider rear track as well as the pair of intercoolers. “We decided the form should follow function,” says design boss Manzoni.
The design combines some familiar 458 visual cues (the headlights) with an obsessive attention to aerodynamic details (those door handles). Clever aero features include the dual splitters at the front of the car, and what Ferrari calls a blown rear spoiler, where air is channeled through a slot at the base of the rear window and exits just above the rear license plate. Ferrari claims the 488 develops 452 pounds of downforce at 124 mph, 150 pounds more than the 458 at the same speed, and it even has its own F1-style drag-reduction system, courtesy of a movable flap that can stall the rear diffuser under certain conditions.
So let’s bury the right foot, and cut to the chase: Does the turbo engine mean the 488 is less intoxicating to drive than the 458? Emphatically not. The 488 sounds different, emitting an elemental basso snarl rather than a metallic howl as you bang-bang-bang through the gears. But after one flat-out blast along your favorite canyon road, you’d forgive it if it sounded like a combine harvester chewing a bucket of bolts: This is a staggeringly good engine.
Forget any notions of turbo lag. The power arrives virtually the moment you move the throttle pedal — Ferrari claims an engine response time of 0.8 second at 2,000 rpm in third gear compared with 0.7 second for the 458’s engine — and continues in one epic, absolutely linear surge until it head butts the 8,000-rpm redline. In the first three gears that happens almost as fast as you can fan the right paddle, as the 488’s turbocharged 3.9-liter gets to 8,000 rpm way quicker than 458’s naturally aspirated 4.4-liter.
The 458 Italia set a benchmark for chassis dynamics. The 488 GTB sets the bar even higher. The latest generation of Ferrari’s E-Diff and F1-Trac systems are seamlessly integrated with its second-generation side slip control system, SSC2. But here’s the really clever bit: SSC2 now also controls the damping rates for the MagneRide shocks, stiffening or soften their damping rates in response the car’s slip angle. It’s like having a Ferrari engineer riding along with you, tuning the suspension to dial out excessive understeer or oversteer, corner by corner.
The 488 has much sharper turn-in than the 458, with meatier steering feel and much more front end grip. There’s a ton more traction at the rear, too, and with all that torque the 488 punches harder out of corners than the 458. But what’s most impressive is the utter composure of the chassis — on twisting, turning, bumpy back roads the 488 rides beautifully and tracks true; on the track it’s the most confidence-inspiring mid-engine supercar you’ll ever drive.
The genius of the Ferrari 488 GTB is that regardless of your talent behind the wheel it effortlessly makes you feel like a driving god. All the thoughtful, intelligent, clever engineering in this car works just for you. Yep, it’s in the details.
|2016 Ferrari 488 GTB|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.9L/660-hp/561-lb/ft, twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,250 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||179.8 x 76.9 x 47.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.0 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||September 15, 2015|