Ferrari 488 Pista 2018 review

 

But it’s not, says Ferrari’s leading GT engineer, Raffaele de Simone, any more difficult to drive. This is not a Ferrari like the F12tdf or 599 GTO, which you might kindly describe as a right old handful; it’s meant to be just as playful and accommodating as the regular 488 GTB, says de Simone, which, given that the GTB has 661bhp and is almost as docile as the Toyota GT86, would be quite an achievement, seeing as its output now starts with a seven.

But it turns out he’s right. This car – chuffing hell.

What’s it like?

Our first go is around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track. The Pista is said to be two seconds faster than the 458 Speciale around here, which, given that the Speciale’s lap time is only 83.5sec, is a leap. The Pista in a different performance stratosphere from the Speciale: 0-62mph takes 2.85sec and 7.6sec to 124mph, compared with 3.0sec and 9.1sec for the Speciale.

But it doesn’t take long to realise that the Pista is no more frightening than the GTB, but merely faster, everywhere. The steering rack, ratio, everything, is the same as the GTB’s. Anti-roll bars are unchanged, and while there is a stiffening of springs, it’s minor and only comes with a marginal decrease in ride height. The GTB’s friendly nature, then, is largely intact. In fact, because of the Pista’s new tyres, which have stiffer sidewalls, steering response – Ferraris use a really quick, light, 2.0-turn rack, and McLaren and Porsche usually do it better – is if anything less nervous, more stable.

So it is just as accessible, but way, way faster. The reduction in kerb weight means that a car that was already willing to turn is now even more agile. Ferrari uses an e-differential, and its latest ‘side slip control’ program involves even more software, so if you turn in sensibly the diff stays relatively unwound, the Pista rotates beautifully and, as you come back on the power, it drives the car brilliantly, breaking traction easily if you have traction control off, but with the side-slip control system allowing a lovely degree of adjustability.

Turn everything off and the Pista’s character is still docile. Peak torque – 568lb ft of it – comes in at just 3000rpm, the car revs to the same 8000rpm as the GTB and throttle response is better than any other turbocharged car’s. So it’s just brilliantly adjustable and responsive.

What’s perhaps more remarkable is that this comes without any huge detriment to the experience on the road. Well, to the ride, at least: there’s a lot of road noise, owing to a lack of carpet and other soundproofing, so along with tyre road you can hear stones being flicked up and chattering into the body, while the air conditioning struggles on anything except its most shouty setting and the extended front and rear body addenda give you more than usual to think about on slopes and speed ramps.

But the dampers retain two settings and, even on the firmer one, the Pista is far from unsettled on twisty hillside roads. On the softer ‘bumpy road’ setting it’s remarkably compliant yet controlled.

The roads on which we drove the 488 Pista are part of Ferrari’s development drivers’ test route, so you can see why the steering ends up being so fast – you seldom need to take your hands off the wheel on hairpins – but it also explains why Ferrari likes using an e-differential. It, while heavier than a pure mechanical differential or an open one (like a McLaren’s), unlocks to ease tight corner entry and locks up to provide brilliant exit-straightening.

These roads would really expose some laggy, harshly sprung track specials, but the Pista is brilliant here, riding with deftness and cornering with composure and loads of feel and finesse. It’ll understeer if you’re clumsy and spin its wheels more than you expect if you’re lead-footed, but it’s generally more approachable and playful than its competitors.

And while its engine is less intoxicating than Porsche’s naturally aspirated 9000rpm GT3 RS unit and the Lamborghini Huracán Performante’s V10, it has the measure of the blocks in the 911 GT2 RS and any current McLaren.

More than that, though, it helps exploit one of the greatest chassis in the business.

Should I buy one?

The Pista’s chassis doesn’t feel night-and-day different from that of the regular GTB, which is a car that, for me, anyway, is still preferable to the McLaren 720S (although I’m in a minority on this website). This feels like GTB plus 20%, rather than a different animal. Put carpets and inertia-reel belts rather than harnesses in it and it could even just be the next 488, rather than a motorsport-derived special.

That, though, is important to those who buy them. V8 Ferrari owners, even track special V8 Ferrari owners, do not tend to live on race tracks like owners of, say, GT3 RS Porsches. They’ll go once or twice, just to remind themselves they’ve made the right decision. I imagine that won’t take long.

About three corners ought to do it.

Ferrari 488 Pista

Where Modena, Italy Price £252,765; On sale now; Engine V8, 3902cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power 710bhp at 8000rpm; Torque 568lb ft at 3000rpm (7th gear); Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1385kg; Top speed 211mph; 0-62mph2.9sec; Fuel economy 24.6mpg; CO2 263g/km; RivalsLamborghini Huracán Performante, Porsche 911 GT2 RS