Ferrari 488 VS Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST
- Monstrous torque
- Incredible dynamics
- Quality (in every sense of the word)
- Breathtaking option prices
- Some shake on rough surfaces
- Atmo engine noise MIA
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST
- Savage design
- Furious performance
- Absurd V12 noise
- Electronic power steering
- Crazy price
- Possibly too powerful for this planet
James Cleary road tests and reviews the new Ferrari 488 Spider with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
It’s almost inevitable. Tell someone you’re a motoring journo and the first question will be, ‘So, what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?’
Without getting into an esoteric analysis of what the word 'best' actually means in this context, it’s clear people want you to nominate your favourite. The fastest, the fanciest, the car you’ve enjoyed the most; the one that’s delivered a clearly superior experience.
And if I enter the room of mirrors (where you can always take a good hard look at yourself) the answer is clear. From the thousands of cars I’ve had the privilege of sliding my backside into, the best so far is Ferrari’s 458 Italia, an impossibly pure combination of dynamic brilliance, fierce acceleration, howling soundtrack and flawless beauty.
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Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST
Picturing yourself driving a Ferrari is always a pleasant way to waste a few 'when I win Lotto' moments of your life.
It’s fair to assume that most people would imagine themselves in a red one, on a sunny, good-hair day with an almost solar-flare smile on their faces.
The more enthusiastic of us might throw in a race track, like Fiorano, the one pictured here, which surrounds the Ferrari factory at Maranello, and perhaps even specify a famously fabulous model - a 458, a 488, or even an F40.
Imagine the kick in the balls, then, of finally getting to pilot one of these cars and discovering that its badge bears the laziest and most childish name of all - Superfast - and that the public roads you’ll be driving along are covered in snow, ice and a desire to kill you. And it’s snowing, so you can’t see.
It’s a relative kick in the groin, obviously, like being told your Lotto win is only $10 million instead of $15m, but it’s fair to say the prospect of driving the most powerful Ferrari road car ever made (they don’t count La Ferrari, apparently, because it’s a special project) with its mental, 588kW (800hp) V12, was more exciting than the reality.
Memorable, though? Oh yes, as you’d hope a car worth $610,000 would be.
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The Ferrari 488 Spider is a brilliant machine. It's properly supercar fast, in a straight line and around corners. It looks stunning, and attention to design detail, engineering refinement and overall quality oozes from its every pore.
Is it the best car I’ve ever driven? Close, but not quite. Others may disagree, but for what it’s worth, I think the Ferrari 458 Italia, in all its high-revving, naturally aspirated glory is still the sweetest ride of all.
Is this open-top Italian stallion your dream machine? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7.4/10
Clearly, this is not a car for everyone, and you’d have to question whether it’s a car for anyone, really, but people who like spending $610,000 on Ferraris, and waiting in a queue to do so, will be delighted, because it delivers the kind of exclusivity, and bragging rights, that you’d have to hope a car called Superfast would.
Personally, it’s a little too much, a little too over the top and definitely too mad, but if rockets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.
Is the Ferrari 812 Superfast a bit of you, or a bit too much? Tell us in the comments below.
Launched in 2015, the 488 is the fourth mid-engine V8 Ferrari based on the aluminium space-frame architecture unveiled with the 360 Modena back in 1999, and unlike its Pininfarina-penned predecessors, was designed in-house at the Ferrari Styling Centre, under the direction of Flavio Manzoni.
The key focus this time around was aero performance, including the additional breathing and cooling needs of the 488’s 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 (relative to the 458’s 4.5-litre naturally aspirated unit); hence the car’s most obvious visual identifiers - substantial air intakes in each flank.
Measuring 4568mm nose-to-tail, and 1952mm across, the 488 Spider is marginally longer (+41mm) and wider (+15mm) than its 458 equivalent. That said, it’s exactly the same height at just 1211mm tall, and the 2650mm wheelbase is unchanged.
Ferrari is a past master when it comes to sneaky concealment of spectacular aero trickery, and the 488 Spider is no exception.
Upper elements of its F1-inspired double front spoiler direct air to the two radiators, while the larger lower section subtly pulls flow under the car where carefully tuned ‘vortex generators’ and a yawning rear diffuser (incorporating computer-controlled, variable flaps) dial up downforce without a significant drag penalty.
The ‘blown’ rear spoiler manages air from intakes at the base of the rear screen, its specific geometry allowing a more pronounced (concave) profile for the main surface to increase upward deflection and maximise downforce without the need for an oversize or raised wing.
Those side intakes are divided by a central, horizontal flap, with air from the upper section directed to exits over the tail, pushing the low-pressure wake directly behind the car further back to again reduce drag. Air flowing into the lower section is sent to the turbo engine’s air-to-air intercoolers to optimise intake charge. All brilliantly efficient and tastefully incognito.
Putting the engine in the centre of the car and fitting only two seats doesn’t just pay off dynamically, it delivers the perfect platform for visual balance, and Ferrari has done a superb job of evolving its ‘junior supercar’ with a nod to the line’s heritage and an eye on extending its reach.
The tension across its multiple curved and contoured surfaces is beautifully managed, and the Spider’s crouching stance screams power and single-minded purpose.
Inside, while the passenger might be enjoying the ride, the design is all about simplicity and focus for the person with the steering wheel in their hands.
To that end, the slightly angular wheel houses a host of controls and displays including a very red start button, driving mode ‘Manettino’ dial, within-thumb’s-reach buttons for indicators, lights, wipers and ‘bumpy road’ (more on that later), as well as sequential max rpm warning lights across the top of the rim.
The steering wheel, dash, doors and console are (optionally) carbon-rich, with the familiar buttons for Auto, Reverse and Launch Control, now housed in a dramatic arching structure between the seats.
The compact instrument binnacle is dominated by a central rev-counter with digital speedo inside it. Readout screens for on-board info across audio, nav, vehicle settings, and other functions sit either side. The seats are grippy, lightweight, hand-crafted works of art, and the overall feeling inside the cockpit is an amazing mix of cool functionality and special event anticipation.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10
It’s very… big, isn’t it? And it looks even bigger in the flesh with a bonnet you could use to put a roof over your tennis court. In all, the Superfast is 4.6m long, almost 2.0m wide and weighs 1.5 tonnes, so it certainly has presence.
Making something this big look good is a challenge even for those as talented as Ferrari’s design team, but they have nailed it. The front has what appears to be a mouth, poised to swallow lesser cars whole like some whale shark Terminator.
The bonnet appears to be flaring its nostrils, and looks fabulous from the driver’s seat, and the swooping side and taut rear complete things nicely.
Personally, it still just looks too big to be a Ferrari, but then this is not a mid-engined super car, it’s a grand touring rocket ship, and the ultimate expression of unnecessary excess, and it pulls off that aura perfectly.
Okay, so how do you approach practicality in a car that’s so obviously not engaged with the concept?
Best to say there’s cursory consideration in terms of cabin storage, with a modest glovebox, small pockets in the doors, and a pair of piccolo-sized cupholders in the console. There’s also a net and some general oddments space along the bulkhead behind the seats.
But the saving grace is a generous, rectangular boot in the nose, offering 230 litres of easy-to-access load space.
Another attribute fitting broadly under the heading of practicality is the retractable hardtop which smoothly unfolds/retracts in just 14 seconds and operates at speeds up to 40km/h.
Price and features
Let’s get the big number out of the way. The Ferrari 488 Spider costs $526,888 before on-road costs.
Included in that not inconsequential figure is the ‘E-Diff3’ electronically-controlled differential, ‘F1-Trac’ traction control, ASR & CST, ABS, an anti-theft system, carbon-ceramic brakes, Magnaride shock absorbers, dual-zone climate control, racy leather seats, bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights and indicators, keyless start, Harman multimedia (including 12-speaker, 1280-watt JBL audio), 20-inch alloy rims, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring, and… a car cover.
But that’s just the starting point. Any self-respecting Ferrari owner will need to put a personal stamp on their new toy and the prancing horse is happy to oblige.
If you want an exterior colour to match your favourite polo pony’s eyes, no problem, the Ferrari Tailor-Made program will do whatever it takes. But even the standard options list (if that makes sense) offers more than enough scope to make an already spectacular four-wheel statement even more distinctive.
Our test car featured six new Mazda3’s worth of extras. That’s just under $130k, with the highlights being more than 25 grand in exterior carbon-fibre, $22k for the special, two layer, iridescent effect ‘Blue Corsa’ paint, over $10k for chrome painted forged rims, and $6790 for Apple CarPlay (standard on the Hyundai Accent).
But you’ve got to remember an inverse logic applies here. While some may see $3000 for cavallino rampante shields on the front wings as somewhat pricey, to a proud Ferrari owner they’re badges of honour. In the yacht club carpark, showing off their latest acquisition, you can script the satisfied boast - ‘That’s right. Two grand. Just for the floor mats!’
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST6/10
Is it possible that any car - save one made from gold, dusted with diamonds and stuffed with truffles - would represent good value at a price of $610,000? It seems unlikely, but then people who can spend that much assay value differently, and would probably say that something as profound as the 812 Superfast is worth buying at any price.
Another way to look at it is price-per-litre, which is less than $100,000, considering you do get 6.5 litres of V12 Ferrari donk. Or you could go by kilowatt, which works out at nearly $1000 each for your 588kW.
Other than that you do get a lot of leather, a high-quality interior, superior exterior styling, badge-snob value that’s hard to put a price on and vast swathes of F1-derived technology. And a free car cover.
Engine & trans
The 488 Spider is powered by an all-alloy, mid-mounted 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8, featuring variable valve timing and dry sump lubrication. Claimed outputs are 492kW at 80000rpm and 760Nm at a usefully low 3000rpm. Transmission is a seven-speed 'F1' dual clutch driving the rear wheels only.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10
I did want to give the epic, enormous 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine a perfect 10 here, but when I paused to think about it I had to admit that it is, quite possibly, a little too powerful.
Yes, it is amazing to think Ferrari can build a car that has 588kW (800 horsepower - hence the 812 nomenclature; 800 horses and 12 cylinders) and doesn’t just dig itself a hole in the road as soon as you put your foot down.
And yes, it does provide the kind of performance that makes all other cars seems a bit piss poor and pathetic, even the really good ones.
But honestly, who could ever use it all, or need it all? They might seem like irrelevant questions, I guess, because it’s all about conspicuous over-excess, a car like this, so really the question is, would anyone want to live with 588kW and 718Nm of torque, or is it just too scary in reality?
Well, a little bit, yes, but Ferrari’s engineers have been wise enough not to actually give you all of that power, all the time. Torque is limited in the first three gears, and maximum mental power is actually only available, in theory, at 8500rpm in seventh gear, at which point you’d be approaching its top speed of 340km/h.
The fact that you can rev an engine this big, and this lusciously loud, all the way to 8500rpm is, however, a joy that would never tire.
In more practical terms, you can run 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds (although cheaper, less crazy cars can do that, too) or 200km/h in 7.9 (which is a tiny bit slower than the far lighter McLaren 720S).
What you can’t do, of course, is achieve any of those numbers on winter tyres, or roads with snow on them.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST5/10
Much as you can’t have a good volcano without some serious lava, you can’t have 800 horsepower without burning a lot of dead dinosaur goo. The Superfast has a claimed fuel-economy figure of 14.9L/100km, but on our drive the screen just said "Ha!" and we burned through a whole tank of fuel in less than 300km.
Theoretical emissions are 340g/km of CO2.
We had the rare opportunity of driving the 488 Spider on road and track with Ferrari Australasia handing us the keys for a rural run from Sydney to Bathurst, followed by some private bonding time on the roads around town, then a batch of unrestricted hot laps on the Mount Panorama circuit in the lead up to this year’s 12 Hour race (which the scuderia won in emphatic style with the 488 GT3).
On the freeway, cruising at 110km/h with roof open, the 488 Spider is civilised and comfortable. In fact, Ferrari claims normal conversation at speeds over 200km/h isn’t a problem. Top tip (no pun intended) is to keep the side glass and small electric rear window raised to minimise turbulence. With the roof up, the 488 Spider is every bit as quiet and refined at the fixed roof GTB.
Even with the multi-mode Manettino in its regular ‘Sport’ setting and the seven-speed ‘F1’ dual-clutch gearbox in auto, all it takes is a gentle crank of the right ankle to despatch pesky road users with the temerity to impede the 488’s progress.
On the quiet, open and twisting roads around the outskirts of Bathurst we may have flicked the switch to ‘Race’, slipped the gearbox into manual and given the 488 Spider a nudge. In some sweeping corners on Mount Panorama we might have even tested Einstein’s theory that matter bends the fabric of space and time. In short, we were able to get a good feel for the car’s dynamic abilities, and they are monumental.
Relative to the 458, power is up a lazy 17 per cent (492 v 418kW), and turbo-fed torque leaps a staggering 41 per cent (760 v 540Nm), while kerb weight is trimmed by 10kg (1525 v 1535kg).
The result is 0-100km/h in 3.0 seconds (-0.4sec), 0-400m in 10.5 (-0.9sec), and a maximum velocity of 325km/h (+5km/h).
If you must know, given fuel efficiency and emissions performance was the key driver behind Ferrari’s move to a turbo powerplant, all this is balanced by claimed 11.4L/100km combined economy (down from 11.8 for the 458).
A full blown launch in this car is like lighting the wick on an Atlas rocket, with a seemingly never-ending surge of thrust pinning your back to the seat, and each pull of the column-mounted carbon gear paddle delivering a seamless and near instantaneous shift. Ferrari claims the 488’seven-speed ‘box shifts up 30 per cent quicker, and down 40 per cent faster than the 458’s.
The lofty summit of the twin turbo’s torque mountain arrives at just 3000rpm, and once you’re up there it’s a table top rather than a peak, with more than 700Nm still on call at close to 7000rpm.
Maximum power arrives at 8000 (perilously close to the V8’s 8200rpm rev ceiling), and the delivery of all this brute force is impressively refined and linear. To improve throttle response, the compact turbos incorporate ball-bearing-mounted shafts (rather than the more common sleeve bearing type), while the compressor wheels are made from TiAl, a low-density titanium-aluminium alloy. As a result, turbo lag simply isn’t in the 488’s vocabulary.
And what about the sound? On its way to 9000rpm the 458 Italia atmo V8’s rising fortissimo howl is one of the world’s greatest mechanical symphonies.
Maranello’s exhaust engineers allegedly spent years fine-tuning the 488’s aural output, developing equal length tubes in the manifold to optimise harmonics before gas flow reaches the turbos, to get as close as possible to the high-pitch wail of a naturally aspirated Ferrari V8.
All we can say is the 488’s sound is amazing, immediately turning heads on contact... but it ain’t no 458.
Using the 488 Spider’s incredible dynamic ability to translate forward momentum into lateral g’s is one of life great pleasures.
Supporting the double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension set-up is a host of high-tech widgets including the tricky E-Diff3, F1-Trac (stability control), High-Performance ABS with Ferrari Pre-Fill, FrS SCM-E (magnetorheological shock absorbers), and SSC (side-slip control).
Combine that with the active aero quietly turning the car into a four-wheel suction cup, plus ultra-high performance Pirelli P Zero rubber, and you have amazing grip (the front end especially, is incredible), perfect balance and stunning corner speed.
Our Mount Panorama blat confirmed the 488 Spider remains poised and throttle steerable through corners and curves at ludicrous speeds.
Chasing gears into the top of the ‘box up mountain straight made the lights on the upper rim of the steering wheel look like a fireworks display. The Spider transmitted its every move across the top of the circuit through the lightweight seat, and the very fast blast into The Chase at the bottom of Conrod Straight was other-worldly. Set the car up on entry, keep squeezing the throttle, grease in just a fraction of steering lock, and it just blazes through like a high-speed hovercraft, at 250km/h-plus.
More time back outside Bathurst confirms feel from the electro-hydraulic rack and pinion steering is brilliant in the real world, although we did notice the column and wheel shaking in our hands over bumpy backroads.
The quick fix there is a flick of the ‘bumpy road’ button on the steering wheel. First seen on the 430 Scuderia (after then Ferrari F1 hero Michael Schumacher pushed for its development), the system de-links the shock absorbers from the Manettino setting, providing extra suspension compliance without sacrificing engine and transmission response. Brilliant.
Stopping power comes courtesy of a ‘Brembo Extreme Design’ system derived from the LaFerrari hypercar, which means standard carbon-ceramic rotors (398mm front, 360mm rear) clamped by massive calipers - six piston front, four piston rear (our car’s were black, for $2700, thank you). After multiple stops from warp speed to walking pace on the circuit they remained firm, progressive, and hugely effective.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10
Insane. It’s a word that people often lift from their lexicon when describing a supercar experience, because clearly, as forms of transport, things like Ferraris and Lamborghinis are not sane options.
But the Superfast really deserves the word, because it feels not only the opposite of sane, but truly bonkers. As if someone built it for a dare, realised it was a bad and possibly dangerous idea, and then put it on sale anyway.
Picture some tiny-handed child with his greasy, post-cheeseburger fingers poised over a big red button on his desk that could wipe out humanity, and that’s basically the situation your right leg finds itself in when driving the Superfast.
There is so much power on tap here - even the limited amount of it that the engineers allow you to access in lower gears - that it truly seems possible you’ll have a Road Runner moment, and simply dig a hole in the ground, if you push the throttle too hard.
Yes, on the one hand, the noises this extreme V12 makes above 5000rpm are memorable and moving, like Satan himself singing Nessun Dorma in a shower of sparks. At one stage we found a long tunnel, perhaps the only dry road within 500km that day, and my colleague forgot all about his licence and let rip.
The numbers on my 'Passenger Screen' spun like poker-machine wheels, then turned red and then implausible. I was shoved back into my seat as if by Thor himself, and I squealed like a small pig, but my co-driver heard nothing over the Monaco tunnel during F1 sound.
Even on dry road, of course, the winter tyres we were forced (by law) to run in the foul snowy conditions could not maintain grip, and we constantly felt the rear skipping sideways. Fortunately we were in Italy, so people simply cheered us on.
The likelihood that you will lose traction in this car is so high that the boffins have included a special feature in its new 'Electronic Power Steering' system called 'Ferrari Power Oversteer'. When you inevitably start going sideways, the steering wheel will apply subtle torque to your hands, 'suggesting' the best way to get the car back in a straight line.
A proud engineer told me that this is basically like having a Ferrari test driver in the car with you, telling you what to do, and that they used their skills to calibrate the system. You can override it, of course, but it sounds scarily like an autonomous-driving precursor to me.
What’s disappointing about this car having EPS at all, rather than a traditional hydraulic system, is that it just doesn’t feel muscular enough for a hairy-handed monster of a car like this.
It is accurate and precise and pointy, of course, and makes driving the Superfast, even in stupidly slippery conditions, almost easy. Almost.
It’s actually surprising how hard you can push a car like this along a windy and wet mountain road without careering off into a muddy field.
More time, and more traction, would have been appreciated, but you can tell it’s the sort of car you’d grow into, and perhaps even feel in control of, after a decade or so together.
So it’s good, yes, and very fast, obviously, but I can’t get past the idea that it’s all a bit unnecessary, and that a 488 GTB is simply, in every single way, a better car.
But as a statement, or a collector’s item, the Ferrari 812 Superfast certainly is one for the history books.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10
It might not surprise you to hear that, unlike every other company’s press kits, the Ferrari ones don’t generally include a section on 'safety'. Perhaps because driving something this powerful is inherently unsafe, or possibly because they believe their 'E-Diff 3', 'SCM -E' (magnetorheological suspension control with dual-coil system), 'F1-Traction Control', ESC and so forth will keep you on the road no matter what.
If you do fly off, you’ll have four airbags, and a nose as big as a house forming a crumple zone, to protect you.
The Ferrari 488 Spider is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, and purchase of any new Ferrari via the authorized Australian dealer network includes complimentary scheduled maintenance, through the ‘Ferrari Genuine Maintenance’ program for the first seven years of the vehicle’s life.
Recommended maintenance intervals are 20,000km or 12 months (the latter with no km restrictions).
Genuine Maintenance attaches to the individual vehicle, and extends to any subsequent owner within the seven years. It covers labour, original parts, engine oil and brake fluid.
Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10
Once you’ve paid the vast cost of entry, it’s nice to know you will get some stuff for free, like your first seven years of servicing, including all parts and labour, carried out by trained Ferrari technicians, who even dress like pit crew. It’s called 'Genuine Maintenance', and is genuinely Kia-challenging in its scope.