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Ferrari 488 2015 review

Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the Ferrari 488 GTB in Italy.

The climate was right for Ferrari to build a faster, cleaner supercar.

Here's an upside for global warming. Without Europe's increasingly stringent emissions laws, the world would not have one of the fastest Ferraris ever built.

It's not to be equated with a Toyota Prius, of course, but the 488 GTB is Ferrari's idea of saving the planet.

Ferrari has been forced to join the rest of the world's car makers in downsizing engines in the interests of fuel economy.

In the same way the next Holden Commodore is likely to have a four-cylinder instead of a V6, the latest Ferrari V8 is smaller than the one it replace.

It also has two whopping turbochargers bolted on. It's safe to assume Greenpeace and other environmental evangelists weren't expecting the fuel economy drive would create even faster supercars — initially, neither did car makers.

"At first it was fuel economy that motivated us, then as we started developing the technology, it became an opportunity," says Ferrari engine expert Corrado Iotti.

Turbochargers have come a long way since Ferrari last dabbled with them more than a quarter of a century ago for the iconic F40 supercar but the philosophy is the same.

They use the exhaust gases to pump more air back through the engine to make it rev even faster, more easily. That's why turbochargers are also brilliant in economy cars.

The technology went out of vogue because of turbochargers' chronic delay in power delivery until they "spooled up" but those days are well behind us.

In this instance, the result is an increase in grunt of epic proportions. Torque (a measure of an engine's ability to overcome resistance) is up by an astonishing 40 per cent.

The Ferrari has a greater torque figure than the supercharged HSV GTS — yet it weighs half-a-tonne less than Australia's fastest sedan.

You know you're in a parallel universe when the police want you to rev an engine

This combination delivers a sports car that's almost too fast for your senses, covering the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.0 seconds and topping out at 330km/h.

But the vital statistic I love is this: the 488 GTB hits 200km/h in the same time as it takes a Corolla to hit half that speed (8.3 seconds).

Here's another: the seven-speed gearbox can shift through four gears in the same time as the previous model got through three. That truly is F1 racing technology for the road.

At a glance, it's hard to pick this as the new model. But 85 per cent of the parts are new and the only carry-over panels are the roof, mirrors and windscreen.

The changes may seem subtle in photos but there is no mistaking it for the new model in its hometown Maranello, where locals strain for a closer look.

By far the most unusual reaction, however, is from the police. At first I think they're gesturing for me to stop, but I'm crawling through town at 40km/h, how on earth could I be in trouble?

The trouble, as it happens, is that I'm not driving it fast enough. "Veloce, veloce," they say, as they waved their arms encouraging me to give it more gas. "Go, go."

You know you're in a parallel universe when the police want you to rev an engine.

With town well behind us, we venture into the winding mountain passes near the Ferrari factory, before heading across to roads familiar from the classic Mille Miglia rally.

Eventually the road opens up and the traffic clears for long enough to allow the prancing horse to stretch its legs.

What is hard to convey is the sheer and instant brutality of the acceleration.

The only delay in power delivery is the time it takes to move your right foot. The response is absurdly quick.

Its reserves of power seem unlimited. Most engines suffer an asthma attack at high revs but the Ferrari's shove of acceleration just doesn't stop. It has as much punch in the middle of its powerband as when it's time to change gears.

As with all Ferraris, this engine revs high (8000rpm) but it doesn't sound like a Ferrari.

There is a subtle V8 note underneath but the engine is sucking in so much oxygen it adds a unique sonic factor — makes the same sound as when you take the air hose off your tyre valves but much, much louder and for much longer.

The only thing more astounding than the performance is the agility and comfort. Despite riding on tyres with sidewalls as thick as an iPad cover, the Ferrari glides over bumps.

And, unlike some other Italian supercar makers, Ferrari got the steering right on the first go. At this point I should find some token flaw, so I don't sound all gaga.

OK, it's the door handles (designed like a shark fin, they also direct air to the rear intakes). They're a bit wobbly on the pre-production car tested (all car makers say something is pre-production when something's not right, but we never know if it's true or not).

But that's not the reason it's half a star away from a five-star score. It's because a rear camera is an option on this half-a-million-dollar supercar when it's standard on a $14,990 Honda hatch.

Would that stop me from buying one? What do you reckon?


Everyone expects Ferraris to be fast but not this fast. Thank you, Greenpeace.

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