Ferrari 488 GTB

Same tune, different music

"Turbocharging fails to blunt Ferrari's soundtrack" said David

"The 488 is still fully operational"

"The addition of turbocharger and intercooler has not erased its 'Ferrariness'"

"The 488 remains distinctly Ferrari nonetheless"

(in Maranello, Italy)

While turbocharging has its benefits - upping the horsepower (which enthusiasts like) while reducing emissions (which legislators around the world demand) - it does nothing to benefit the "character" of a motor. Slotting a couple of fans into your exhaust tract, to not mince words, muddles the music. In the average four door sedan, this might actually be a positive thing; silence as desirable a quality in family transport as it once was in children.

But in a Ferrari, not so much. And the new 488, like the California T before it, has finally succumbed to governmental pressure, reducing engine capacity from the 458's 4.5 liters to 3.9L and then adding all manner of forced-air plumbing.

But, and let us give thanks, that the 488 the addition of turbocharger and intercooler has not erased its 'Ferrariness'. At low speeds, for instance, the almost metallic reverberation of the 458's exhaust has been replaced with a Bugatti-like hiss of twin turbos spooling up their bad intentions. At mid revs, the 488 comes on like an AMG GT, albeit a very angry one, that grew a pair. And then, unlike most turbo V8s, save perhaps McLaren's, the 458 spins even harder, that flat-plane-crankshaft heartbeat finally resonating more clearly above 6,000. There's less of a shriek to be sure, but the 488 remains distinctly Ferrari nonetheless.

Ferrari has even futzed with the 488's turbochargers to promote those sonorous high revs. Even though the 3.9's incredible 760 Nm of torque is available at as low as 3,000 rpm in 7th gear, Ferrari actually restricts low-speed power output in the lower gears, the discrimination Ferrari's way of encouraging you to still rev the snot out their mid-engined supercar. Maranello would seem to be fully aware that the world's eyes, or ears actually, are on its exhaust pipes.

The paring back on turbo boost has seemingly little effect on performance. Thanks to the incredible response of the titanium-aluminum bladed turbochargers and quick-shifting (40 percent faster than before) dual-clutch, seven speed, transmission, the 488's 661 horsepower are sufficient enough to propel the 1,475 kilogram GTB to 100 kilometers an hour in just 3.0 seconds.

Let's put that in perspective. Three seconds flat is barely an blink behind the LaFerrari as well as the 918 and P1 that top Porsche and McLaren's supercar range, the 488's incredible performance revealing their complicated powertrains - and million-dollar price tags! - for the petty billionaire braggadocio they really are.

All that turbo techno trickery has other benefits as well. One of the common complaints of typical turbo sports cars is that their fat mid-range bulge of torque generates indelicate throttle response at the most inopportune times - i.e. mid corner when you're on the very edge of traction. All that diminishing of torque is Ferrari's way of recreating a naturally-aspirated power curve from a turbocharged engine.

It works… kinda. Power production is indeed more linear, but there's so much of it - again, I'll remind you that the 3.9L boasts 661 horses and 760 Nm of torque - that there's really no way to truly tame this beast.

Thankfully, Ferrari has further upgraded its Side Slip Control System. Flip the manettino into "Race" mode and all manner of silliness is possible with more confidence than you deserve. Only a fool disables the SSC2 without pre-paying for bodywork.

The one thing, besides the overwhelming power, that truly differentiates the 488 from its predecessor, however, is a complete rethink of the steering. The 458 was renowned for its razor sharp steering and the tenaciousness of its front Pirellis. Well, said tenacity remains, but the synaptically-quick steering is no more. The way that Raffaele de Simone, Ferrari's GT development test driver explains it, "The new 488 is so much more agile naturally that we were able to dial back the steering ratio, yet retain the lightness through tight turns." Whipping around Ferrari's Fiorano test track, the 488 did feel more stable through the high speed sweepers (aided, no doubt, by a whopping 50 percent increase in aerodynamic downforce) while still proving plenty handy through the hairpins. Think of the 488 as 458 meets McLaren 650S and only the good genes of each get passed along.

Foibles are few. Ferrari promised that with the navigation system hardware upgraded from Magnetti Marelli to Harmon, the 458's cranky mapping was a thing of the past. What a load of crap! The new system just gets you lost faster.

And Ferrari promises that the 488's magneto-rheological suspension has been recalibrated for comfort and support. Somehow, the former got waylaid, the 488's dampers, even in GTB form (a Speciale will almost assuredly follow), freakishly firm.

Verdict
But electronics glitches and suspension harshness will not put off Ferraristas. The only thing that matters is the music and, more baritones the song may be, the 488 is still fully operatic. Same as it's always been. Same as it always will be.

Pros: incredible power, sexy styling, sound still menacing
Cons: not quite as menacing as a 458 Italia, missing the immediacy of the 458's steering 
Rivals: McLaren 650S, Lamborghini Huracan, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Audi R8
Engine: 3.9 liter turbocharged, V8, 661 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 760 Nm @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 7speed dual-clutch manumatic
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 3.0 sec, 11.4 L /100 km top speed: 330 km/h
Chassis: 1,475 kg
One word: equivalent  
4.5 stars

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