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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Road test rewind: Ferrari 488 GTB

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The 488’s handling feels serious without losing friendliness and it has a lack of intimidation that’s remarkable in a 661bhp supercar. Its limits are as approachable as a Toyota GT86’s. This Ferrari has an extraordinarily good chassis.

Ferrari’s greatest achievement with the 488 GTB is not simply how fast it goes, nor how it has integrated turbos or given the car all the ability of the 458 Speciale that went before it. It’s how all of the above have been melded into today’s greatest supercar. Ferrari has done it again.

Five stars

An engine that gets better with age

“What do you think of the engine?” a colleague asked me, on the way back from driving the 488 for the first time. “Great… for a turbo,” I said. Ultimately, though, I think that was harsh on the 488’s powerplant.

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As we get, with the F8 Tributo, what might be the last iteration of a mid-engined Ferrari V8 (its replacement is rumoured to be a hybrid V6), it’s time to acknowledge just what a great engine this is.

No, it doesn’t scream to the heavens like the naturally aspirated 458 Italia or Speciale’s engine did before it, and neither does it have their razor-sharp throttle response. But driving a 488 for its road test at MIRA or at our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest or even at its original launch was to marvel at what it could do. And, notably, how its response and near-instant torque set the chassis free to be exploited as easily as a Mk2 Ford Escort’s.

No other turbocharged engine in a 488 rival – not the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, not the McLaren 650S or 720S – responds so quickly to the throttle. And none has a progressive power build, which Ferrari achieves by limiting torque at low revs. It’s not just great, for a turbo. It’s a great engine, full stop.

Matt Prior

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