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Ferrari 488 GTB 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
9
Stephen Corby takes the Ferrari 488 GTB on a pilgrimage from Sydney to Mount Panorama, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Jack Pyefinch takes the Ferrari 488 GTB on a pilgrimage from Sydney to Mount Panorama, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

It's not impossible to describe what driving a Ferrari as ferocious as the 488 GTB around a big, scary race track is like, but it's close. If I were talking to you in person I would make primitive grunting noises, wave my hands rapidly in front of you and produce facial expressions of comical awe and frantic fear. But I'm not, so we resort to numbers - 493kW, a zero to 100km/h time of three seconds exactly, a twin-turbocharged V8 (which is a hard thing to swallow for naturally aspirated super-car purists).

But one number beats them all - 8.3 seconds. That's how long it takes a 488 at full, fulsome noise to go from a standing start to 200km/h, a figure made even more astonishing by the fact that it's more than two seconds quicker than the already amazing 458 this car replaces.

Truly, we are in a whole different territory, in every aspect, from performance to price to prestige, which makes it fitting that we drove it in the wholly unusual surroundings of the Mt Panorama race circuit at Bathurst.

Price and features

The funny thing about the truly, hugely rich is that they probably didn't get there by being profligate money wasters. And yet they seem strangely willing to be taken for mugs by the high-end car companies who help them to feel, look and live special.

Sure, there's probably an argument that says a car as advanced and amazing as the 488 GTB is worth $460,988, and yes, a lot of that total is going to the government in taxes.

'Practicality' probably wasn't a key term in the minds of the mad people who devised this machine.

But there is surely no way of justifying a company charging $21,730 for "Vintage Paint" (ie, a flat grey in our case), $2700 for some more gold paint on your calipers, and another $19,000 for some two-tone daubing on the roof, not to mention $10,500 for your wheels, $15,000 for a carbon-fibre driver's seat and $1250 for "special thick stitching" on that seat.

And the list goes on, and on, taking the total price to $625,278. For which our car didn't even get the optional reversing camera ($4990).

In terms of features, the Passenger Display our test car had - which allows your passenger to watch your speed, gear position etc on their own screen - was very cool, but it's a $7350 option as well. The car does offer Apple CarPlay (another $6,790, despite being standard on some cheap Hyundais these days), but it's on a dinky, non-touch screen.

On the other hand, the Ferrari does offer a Pit Speed button, for setting the maximum velocity for your pit stops (or cruise control as the non-Tifosi call it), an F1 Trac system a car cover, carbon ceramic brakes and Magnaride Shock Absorbers, all as standard.

Practicality

Shall we just move straight along? No? All right, well there are two seats, you can fit your jacket behind them, and there's a boot that will easily fit enough luggage for a weekend away in front of you. Behind you is a glorious engine, framed under glass  (surrounded by a carbon fibre engine compartment that cost you an extra $13,425) and caressing your ears.

In terms of achieving its intended function - being awesome - it should score 10 out of 10.

Losing your licence, as seems inevitable, isn't particularly practical either. But then "practicality" probably wasn't a key term in the minds of the mad people who devised this machine. Nor were cupholders, although you do get two small ones.

In terms of achieving its intended function - being awesome - it should score 10 out of 10.

Design

Few people would argue that the 488 is an eye-catching and eye-waveringly extreme looking piece of design, but not even its most ardent fans could argue that it's the most beautiful Ferrari of all time. Indeed, it's not quite as pretty as the car it replaces, the truly stunning, almost perfect 458.

There is necessary beauty in the GTB, those huge air scoops behind the doors to provide air for all that turbo heat for example.

To see the two parked together is to witness an argument that was won by engineers and aerodynamicists, not designers.

There is necessary beauty in the GTB, those huge air scoops behind the doors to provide air for all that turbo heat for example, but the subtlety and purity of the 458 has been sacrificed as a result.

In interior terms, however, the new car is a step forward, with more quality and technology on display.

Engine and transmission

"There's no replacement for displacement" is becoming a hoary old argument in the face of the kind of tectonic turbocharging we're seeing on cars like the 488. Yes, it's got a V8, but it's only a 3.9-litre one, which seems far too tiny to make 493kW and 760Nm.

Despite being 600cc smaller than the naturally aspirated V8 on the 458, it makes a whopping 100 horsepower (or 74kW) more power, and 200Nm more torque. Anyone who's ever driven a 458, and been properly awed by the experience, will tell you that those numbers are just a little bit frightening.

The result is an engine that offers you the kind of power that corrupts absolutely. Using full throttle can put your belly button in close contact with your spine - even if you're an old, fat bastard - while even the most gentle throttle applications push you past 150km/h faster than you can say "oh dear, was that a speed camera?"

This car is not fast, it is far more than that.

The road is no place to attempt to test its limits, but in our very first experience of Mountain Straight, less than 30 seconds into our first lap, we found ourselves being back slammed past 220km/h with a kind of effortless, ridiculous shove.

This car is not fast, it is far more than that.

The F1-derived, dual-clutch gearbox is slick and smooth to use in Auto, almost instantaneous in Sport setting - although it's a struggle on the track to keep up with how quickly you need to shift between the seven gears - and turns into a brutal back-massage device once you switch to the super-swift Race setting.

Gear changes at full whack on a track are much quicker than you human eyes can blink, because you're too wide-eyed with fear and wonder to blink at all.

The only downside to this wondrous new turbocharged engine is that it doesn't sound like a Ferrari, or at least not where it matters.

Driving the 488 is hugely intimidating, like being asked to punch Anthony Mundine in the face.

Down low, the angry, shouty and bitey growl is still there, but up high, where the 458 and all Ferrari engines before it have screamed with operatic fury, the new one makes whistling and comparatively wussy sounds. It's not quiet, of course, and it's not awful, but it's not the same. The character, so unique to this brand, has been somewhat sacrificed.

But you do get a whole lot of speed to make up for it.

Fuel consumption

Of all the unlikely numbers associated with the Ferrari 488 GTB, undoubtedly the hardest one to believe is the claimed fuel economy of 11.4 litres per 100km. It might achieve that on a dyno, possibly, although you wouldn't bet on it, but in the real world it sucks down fuel like a Hummer with an elephant on the roof. The problem being that it's so hard to resist playing with that throttle, and when you do it turns fuel into speed frantically. Something closer to 20 litres per 100km is probably more likely (our test drive around Bathurst isn't really a fair example), no matter how economical turbo engines are.

Driving

Driving the 488 is hugely intimidating, like being asked to punch Anthony Mundine in the face. You really want to do it, but there's a distinct sense that it's going to get you into trouble, particularly on a public road.

Outside of Germany's generous highways, there's really not a public road in the world that would feel at home for a car like this. Well, maybe one, a public road around a certain hill in Bathurst which, all too rarely, is turned into a very special race track. In this case it was for the 12 Hour -  a race Ferrari went on to win, with the help of Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup - and we were allowed on to the closed circuit for half an hour.

On the track, however, it is an absolute face-creasing joy to stretch the Ferrari's Usain Bolt-like legs.

Driving the cars up there from Sydney was mainly a mix of frustration and fear, for your licence, as we crawled up a beautiful road, the Bells Line, that's been ruined by an absurd 60km/h limit.

A quick fang up a side road near Lithgow rams home just how fast you have to be going to feel like you're actually pushing this car around a corner.

The chassis absurdly stiff, the steering is beautiful weighted and precise - better than the too sensitive system on the 458 - and the car's overall ability is almost magical. But it's just too fast.

On the track, however, it is an absolute face-creasing joy to stretch the Ferrari's Usain Bolt-like legs. This car treats 200km/h the way a Porsche 911 treats 80km/h, with disdain, and almost contempt. The way it accelerates too and through that point inspires disbelief, and giggling.

Coming down the legendary, and long, Conrod Straight, the road version of the 488 is apparently even faster than the GT3 race car that would go on to win on Sunday (take that, Lowndes), but the one with the numbers on the side, slicks underneath and giant wing on the back has considerably more downforce.

This means you can go as fast as you like, as long as you don't mind the distinct sensation that you're going to launch into the air in the uphill section of the straight, just as you're cresting 270km/h. This is one of those moments when you realise what separates humans from racing drivers; fear.

While the straight was intimidating, the climb uphill through The Cutting, over Skyline and into steep fall down The Esses were all genuinely heart-pounding stuff.

Fortunately, the bottom third of the track is about as much fun as driving can get, particularly in this car. The way the 488's massive carbon ceramic brakes pull it up for The Chase (they did get a bit soft in the pedal after about 25 minutes, but perhaps I was using them too much) is rib-squeezing, but it's the way it attacks that corner, and then Hell Corner on the way out of the pit straight in particular, that really make you fall in love with this car.

It really does put its competitors to the sword.

The way it's balanced, the feedback through the steering and the seat, the scream of the engine, and the way you can get the power down out of a bend all ad up to a higher-level driving experience.

In terms of sheer pace, and making you feel like you're stretching your own limits, the 488 is simply the best car I've ever driven. Period.

Yes, it's a bit firm on the road, it's hard to see out of and it's not as pretty, or as loud, as it could have been, but it really does put its competitors to the sword.

  • Bathurst 12 Hour winning Ferrari 488 GT3 Bathurst 12 Hour winning Ferrari 488 GT3
  • Bathurst 12 Hour winning Ferrari 488 GT3 Bathurst 12 Hour winning Ferrari 488 GT3
  • Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 drivers: Toni Vilander, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup. Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 drivers: Toni Vilander, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.

Safety

You can forget heavy and ugly looking technology that uses unsightly cameras or radars, because they have no place in a car as pure as this. So no AEB, because braking is your responsibility, and you really should be paying attention in a car like this. Those massive ceramic brakes are your safety net. You do get driver and passenger front airbags and door panel side airbags, for a total of four. Not getting a reverse camera as standard seems a little absurd, because this is not an easy car to see out of.

Ownership

Surely nothing will ever go wrong with something this complex, built by a bunch of Italians? So you barely need a warranty, but you get one anyway, through what Ferrari calls "Genuine Maintenance", which covers scheduled servicing and labour, along with original spare parts, engine oil and fluids, not only for the original buyer but any subsequent owners for the first seven years of your car's life. Impressive. But then, you've paid for it.

Pricing Guides

$419,950
Based on 7 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$379,990
Highest Price
$419,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
SPIDER 3.9L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $422,950 – 486,090 2017 FERRARI 488 2017 SPIDER Pricing and Specs
GTB 3.9L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $379,990 – 419,950 2017 FERRARI 488 2017 GTB Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist

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