After a half-hour tearing up the roads near Maranello in a 488 GTB, I’m awestruck. I’m repeatedly surprised by the Ferrari’s staggering acceleration down straights, out of corners and, especially, in seventh gear above 100 mph, where the car seemed to pull even harder than it had a couple of gears earlier. The car’s handling and braking are beyond reproach, and easily best the talents of the 458 Italia it’s based on. In short, the 488’s speed is practically unbelievable, as is its control.
Now, however, my heart rate starts to drop. While the 488 feels much like a faster 458, its driving experience soon becomes a little too tidy, too planted, too smooth, too controlled. I’m beginning to wonder if Ferrari dialled out some of the 458’s exuberance along with its shrieking engine note, but then I glance down at the steering wheel and see the manettino points to Sport mode. I flip it to Race, stand on the gas pedal and am promptly introduced to a very different, very exuberant, more involving and even faster Ferrari.
Two weeks later, I’m still awestruck.
AS MENTIONED, the newest Prancing Horse is not a clean-sheet design. It is instead a heavily evolved, 85-percent new edition of the 458. While many of the fundamentals are unchanged, the specifics are usually quite different.
The two cars share very similar dimensions, with the 488 being about an inch and a half longer and half an inch wider; height and wheelbase are the same. The forward section of the 488’s all-aluminum chassis varies only slightly from the 458’s, while the center section is mostly new and builds on developments in rigidity introduced on the 458 Speciale. The rear of the 488’s chassis has been completely redesigned, a necessity to accommodate the all-new turbocharged engine.
Aside from the roof, which along with the floor is carried over from the 458, the 488’s bodywork is also all new (and its body-in-white weighs about 66 pounds less). The Italia’s profile remains visible in the GTB, but as a whole the new model looks very different.
This difference starts with the 488’s reworked haunches. Where the Italia tucked its engine air intakes discreetly into its tail, leaving its sides smooth, the GTB’s rear fenders sport enormous inlets that feed air to the intercoolers. As a result, those fenders grow both visually and dimensionally; they are taller and about three-quarters of an inch wider on each side and immediately draw the eye. The 308 GTB-inspired scallops (the 488’s name honors that car, which debuted 40 years ago) cut into the doors make the intakes appear even larger—so large that the Ferrari’s in-house designers added a “blade” to break up the gaping hole.