Test Drives

Ferrari 488 Pista 2018 Review: Very Pist Off



As Ferrari’s first turbo ‘special series’ car, the Ferrari 488 Pista takes a special place in Maranello’s V8 pantheon

Photos Ferrari

Maranello, Italy
When it comes to genteel, Ferrari’s V8s ‘special series’ cars are surely not.

The 488 Pista is the latest in a line of road-legal, special series coupes that includes luminaries like the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia (still our fave of the lot!) and 458 Speciale.

But we should also remember that Ferrari isn’t a newcomer to special, turbo V8s, with the 1980s turbo-era 288 GTO and F40 of its past.


The base package of the Pista is the current 488 GTB, as we know from our test drive of it, it’s no shirking violet itself.  Why ‘Pista’? Well, it’s Italian for track or circuit, which should be self-explanatory enough.

The recipe for Ferrari’s ‘specials’ is a tried and tested one: superfluous weight is stripped away (90kg is shed from the 488 GTB), dynamics are sharpened to a keen edge and engine and transmission are tuned for ballistic track-ready performance over comfort. (read the sidebar for details on the Pista’s updates)

The result? An explosive performance package derived from the 488 Challenge race-car that will blur the lines between road, track and the prime parking spot in front of the hotel.

Like its predecessors, the 488 Pista does without a big wing and overly aggressive body-work, which are found on some of its contemporaries.

Instead, the visual cues are functional and perfectly integrated into the 488’s silhouette.

A lot of the aero and intake concepts, such as the S-Duct (a bespoke active aerodynamic feature derived from the brand’s F1 racing programme), rear spoiler and diffuser profiles, are derived from the 488 Challenge / GTE race-cars, as are the weight-loss and cooling solutions.

As noted, the engine itself is 18kg lighter. Furthermore, the exhaust manifolds are made of Inconel, while the bonnet, front and rear bumpers, rear spoiler and engine intake plenums are made of carbonfibre. The strict weight-loss regime extends even to the battery, as the Pista now sees service of a lithium-ion one.  

For the first time, there’s the option of monocoque 20-inch carbonfibre rims to save even more unsprung weight, and they weigh 40 per cent less than the GTB’s stock rims. 

The cabin ambience is suitably racy, with Alcantara and carbonfibre dominating the proceedings. There aren’t many cars whose cabins get one in the mood for a spot of fast and furious driving – the 488 Pista does (in fact, all its predecessors were blessed with similarly focused, fuss-free cabins), as do Porsche’s RS models, for that matter.

In the Pista, the seat, steering, sight, pedal feel and driving position poise one perfectly for carving up curvy canyon roads, tackling your favourite race-track, or even blasting from light to light in the city.

Though firm, the Pista’s damping is not too uncompromising for daily use; besides, there’s always the ‘bumpy road’ mode for when the road gets too erm, bumpy.

The 488 GTB isn’t just another pretty face, since it’s got big boosted performance to go with its svelte looks, and you’re probably wondering how much difference the Pista can be to drive.

Moving from 488 GTB to 488 Pista is like jumping out of a Gulfstream and into a fighter jet that is armed to the teeth and raring to tango, whatever the odds in the dog-fight.

We’re not enamoured of the steer-and-stomp variety of sportscars, since visceral feel and an engaging chassis are important elements in a car’s fun-to-drive quotient, as opposed to outright speed and lap times, and the Pista delivers the jollies by the (opposite-lock) armful.

There’s also fabulously organic steering feel and helm control thanks to the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 K2 tyres, which are further evolved from the K1s developed for the 458 Speciale.

On the road, the Pista snacks on corners, but it is on the track that the driving enthusiast can unleash the full brunt of the Pista’s fury.

In keeping with the times, Ferrari has wisely shone the spotlight back on the driver for its super-sportscars.

The latest Version 6 of the Side Slip Control System (or SSC) – that made its debut on the 458 Speciale – includes a Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer (FDE), an electronic system that only comes into play in ‘CT Off’ mode (or one level down from having all the stability systems off in ESC Off).

The FDE helps the enthusiastic driver reach and handle on-limit driving by delivering a progressive and controllable oversteer situation, especially since an uninhibited mid-engine/rear-drive configuration can bite back hard when things go pear-shaped – thanks to the FDE, the Pista will nibble and nip at you at the limit instead of ripping huge chunks from your body (and self-esteem).

However, don’t get us wrong, it isn’t an autonomous ‘fix-it’ system to bail you out of a tail-out stunt (or shunt!): FDE makes things progressive and predictable – but you’ll still need to gather the car up after provoking her, not so much as a knight on a steed armed with champer and bit, but with heroic armfuls of opposite-lock.

However, because of how much seat-of-pants feel you receive, this comes so naturally and intuitively it’s possible to flirt playfully with the Pista’s handling limits.

Moreover, what’s far cooler than talking about what your car can do in the hands of a pro driver in controlled track conditions? Doing it yourself, of course.

The Pista comes into its own on the circuit, as it will rage and roar its way fluidly around Ferrari’s Fiorano track like an apex predator on the hunt.


Up- and down-shifts are so quick as to beggar belief, with a satisfyingly dramatic ‘shotgun effect’ (or bang-bang-bang!) that underscores the Pista’s hard-hitting intent.

The transmission’s rapidfire reactions on both up- and down-shifts work well with the turbo’d V8, since there’s negligible turbo-lag to speak of – a trait you’d already have noticed on the 488 GTB.

The soundtrack of a turbo’d car has always been a soft-spot, especially in contrast to the glorious notes of its predecessors, the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia, and 458 Speciale, all naturally-aspirated high-revving screamers of course.

However, Ferrari has further improved turbo efficiency and reduced internal friction with the use of race-components (lighter flywheel, counterweights, conrods), and you’ll find it hard to believe it’s not a naturally-aspirated engine doing the heavy lifting (see box).

It’s also re-tuned the sound on its turbo V8 to slightly more rousing effect, so there’s a greater sense of go-faster theatrics from within the cabin on your flying lap, especially when you’re knocking on the twin-turbo V8’s 8,000rpm redline.

Truth be told, we’re still not sure what to make of the electronic chicanery conjured up by the FDE, because we’re relics from an era where super-sportscars were not easy to live with and drive (much less on the limit), and it was the nagging doubt you could damage car, ego and body parts that added to the thrill of driving such a beast.

Such cars were approached with respect and trepidation, and one learned to grow into them (and your driving skills) because it was a true labour of love – well, it was either that or an expensive lesson dished out by the armco.

Today, such cars bear witness to sky-rocketing performance figures, but when coupled to sky-rocketing personal fortunes, also means they enter the ownership of a diverse demographic, some of whom might not be able to handle such performance.

We’d never dared to have taken the same liberties with the 430 Scuderia as we did with the 488 Pista, but to Ferrari’s credit, it’s chosen to shine the spotlight and feel-good factor on the owner/driver who is committed to the craft of driving, since the FDE helps bring semi-pro/pro driving-god limits within reach of the every-man who is prepared to learn the lesson.

After all, watching videos of pro drivers performing feats of #hype becomes academic very quickly; if anything, it’s all the more frustrating for someone who can’t come close to the car’s potential, so as far as we’re concerned, Ferrari has made it intensely more satisfying to be having fun doing the driving, instead of just talking about it.

Ferrari 488 Pista

Engine 3,902cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power 710hp at 8000rpm
Torque 770Nm at 3000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 2.85 seconds
Top Speed >340km/h
Efficiency 11.5L/100km
VES Band / CO2 TBC / 263g/km
Agent Ital Auto
Price S$1.216m (w/o options or COE)
Availability TBC

 

Heart Of Soul
Not prancing around – the 488 Pista’s engine is lighter, more powerful, and has proper race parts in it

We should point out that like the 488 GTB it’s based on, the Pista is a turbo trailblazer, since it’s the first turbocharged special series Ferrari to date. But a whole lot of work has gone into making this engine ‘everything-er’ over its normal brethren.

The 50hp increase over the 488 GTB’s engine tells you just a little bit about the very evolved nature of the new V8.

The crankshaft is adapted from Ferrari’s racing V8s, seen onboard the 488 GTE and 488 Challenge race cars, as are the engine liners and exhaust manifolds, and the turbos.

The air intake zone is moved behind the rear spoiler – compared to behind the rear wheels – with larger intercoolers, a totally redesigned intake tract with resonant ‘supercharging’. Exhausts are similarly uprated, with larger Inconel manifolds.

The turbos are new IHI-Honeywell units with more boost, new bearings, super-light titanium alloy turbines.

In fact the engine itself is 18kg lighter thanks to a smaller AC compressor, thinner cylinder liners and other weight saving measures.

 

about the author

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David Khoo
David Khoo is the editor of CarBuyer's sister magazine, Top Gear Singapore. If it's rare, exotic, or smells like ham, he's probably touched it, driven it, or sniffed it inappropriately.