Ferrari 488 VS Nissan GT-R
- Monstrous torque
- Incredible dynamics
- Quality (in every sense of the word)
- Breathtaking option prices
- Some shake on rough surfaces
- Atmo engine noise MIA
- Still a mammoth drive 12 years on
- So easy to go so fast
- Nissan is still striving to improve it
- Safety features could do with an upgrade
- Price rise eats into value
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.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It’s fair to say that Liam Neeson has an enduring appeal, and he’ll forever be known for his “particular set of skills.”
The R35 Nissan GT-R has reached icon status for its own set of specific action hero talents, and the Hollywood-like number of updates it’s received over the past 12 years - or about a century in human years - suggest Nissan is hell bent on giving it Keanu Reeves-esque eternal youth.
Its trips to the surgeon have started to peter out though, with the annual tweaks of the earlier years slowing to the three year gap between its last update and the 2020 model that launches this week in time for the nameplate’s 50th birthday.
Have they managed the Keanu Reeves or the Liam Neeson, or has it jumped the shark and due for an all-new Chris Hemsworth treatment?
|Engine Type||3.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
While the 2020 changes aren’t enough to disguise its age, it’s pretty awesome that Nissan continues to develop the GT-R, as its distinct character is yet to be matched by anyone.
So it’s more Liam Neeson than Keanu Reeves, but to keep attracting buyers Nissan should really give us a new Chris Hemsworth version.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
The 2020 update is probably best described as a quick trim rather than a full haircut, let alone a nip and tuck.
Believe it or not those wheels are a new design and lighter by 140g per corner. You might also spot the blue tips on the titanium exhaust, but I’ll give you a high five if you notice the new inserts for the front corner ducts. There’s also a new Urban Grey trim colour available for the Premium Luxury trim level.
GT-R die hards will be chuffed with the return of the R34 generation’s signature Bayside Blue as a paint option though, which has required an all-new application process to suit two-decade later environmental requirements.
The car pictured is the 50th Anniversary special edition, created to celebrate the Godzilla nameplate’s golden jubilee. Unlike most special editions though, it’s not limited by build numbers or a production schedule, and is available on a built-to-order basis.
It’s based on the Premium Luxury trim level and can be distinguished by contrasting decals inspired by a 1971 Hakuska racer, 50th Anniversary badging and a special Twighlight Grey trim colour on the inside.
Aside from the minor drivetrain tweaks mentioned below, under the GT-R’s skin has been treated to stiffened brake actuation and recalibration and adaptive suspension.
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.
Nothing new here, with the same 2+2 layout that’s about as accommodating as a Porsche 911, despite the GT-R’s extra size. The boot is a decent 315 litres though, but its actual functionality is hampered by a small boot opening.
There’s also two cupholders in the front, two in the back, and bottle holders in the carpet-lined doors.
Unlike GT-R’s, the 2020 model finally adds ISOFIX child seat anchorage points to the back seat. These were previously excluded from Australian and New Zealand models.
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!’
The GT-R is still split into Premium, Premium Luxury and Track Edition trim levels, with 50th Anniversary special edition being based on the Premium Luxury.
The top-spec Nismo version has been dropped, and pricing has been massaged upwards across the range.
The base GT-R Premium is now $4800 more with a $193,800 list price, the Premium Luxury swells by the same margin to $199,800, and the Track Edition grows by a full $8000 to $235,000. The Track Edition continues to be available with an optional Nismo-themed interior upgrade for an extra $12,000.
Given the update doesn’t seem to bring anything more than the standard changes, the range-wide price rises put a marginal dent in the value equation that’s long been a relative strength of the GT-R, but it still looks pretty impressive next to the $265,000 starting point for a Porsche 911.
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.
The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6’s key stats are unchanged at a mammoth 419kW at 6800rpm and 632Nm available from 3300-5800rpm.
New turbos derived from the GT3 race car have been fitted, which aren’t quite the same as the Nismo’s GT3-matching units, which promise to be 5 per cent more efficient, without changing the max outputs.
The six-speed dual clutch transaxle has also been recalibrated for more aggressive throttle blips on downchanges, and allow gearchanges to occur during ABS engagement.
This was never going to be a highlight, but all versions of the GT-R still carry an 11.7L/100km official combined fuel consumption figure, which is actually quite reasonable for a car with this much performance.
A diet of full-strength 98RON premium unleaded is mandated though, and the above fuel figure combined with its 74-litre tank suggest a highway range of around 630km between fills.
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.
Even more than a decade later, the GT-R is still a mammoth car to drive. Mammoth in terms of its size and the sale of the thrills it delivers.
Cars in general have grown larger and heavier in the past 12 years, but 1765kg is still a lot for a performance car designed to go around corners as well as it accelerates.
And therein lies the great R35 oxymoron, it’s SUV heavy but supercar fast and agile.
Nissan stopped quoting acceleration figures with the 2017 model, but it still packs the outputs and hardware that nudged 0-100km/h below 3 seconds in the past.
So it is still fast, but what’s surprising is that the drive experience never seems to date, no matter how many years have been stacked on between opportunities to hop behind the wheel.
It needs to be said that the 2020 changes are undetectable in isolation, but what made the GT-R feel so special in 2007 still applies today.
You could criticise it for its harsh ride quality and assortment of whirs, groans and occasional thunks from the drivetrain, but I feel this is part of the GT-R’s charm. Has any depiction of its Godzilla namesake ever been quiet and friendly?
Rather than feeling like it’s falling apart, the GT-R’s mechanical soundtrack is more of an exciting reminder of how many moving parts are employed to deliver its performance.
And it’s still largely the car that delivers this performance, from the responsiveness of the twin-turbos, the excellent calibration of the dual-clutch transmission to the massive grip of four fat tyres controlled by its clever all-wheel drivetrain and array of diffs.
But regardless of the scale of the role the car plays in its performance, the driver’s most important connection, the steering wheel is delightfully round with grippy high-quality leather. The steering itself is sharp and direct too.
There’s no other car around that matches its brutal looks with such aggressive performance and thrills for the driver, yet it still feels idiot-proof in its execution.
It does come with a reversing camera, along with dual front, side and curtain airbags. It’s worth noting that the when the Track Edition is optioned with the Nismo interior, the Recaro seats mean it misses out on the side and curtain airbags like the GT-R Nismo.
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.