720hp of fury clothed in civility, the last Ferrari V8 powered solely by gasoline is a thrilling send off for an era worth savouring
Photos: Ferrari, Derryn Wong
Maranello, Italy –Tribute bands are great fun, crowd-pleasers without the million dollar egos and price tag, or brown M&Ms. The word ‘tribute’ though, implies something both current and of a lesser scale.
So the questions are: What’s the Ferrari F8 Tributo tribute-ing? And it’s modern so is it therefore lesser?
In part, the Ferrari V8s of the past, such as the 288 GTO and F40, and also ‘normal’ V8s like the 308 GTB and the 488 GTB, which the F8 replaces.
Like the uncountable throng of Beatles cover bands, obviously nothing can match up to the original – and how do you compare anything to an F40, really?
So it’s just as well the F8’s name is also homage to its own heart, that’s the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 power unit, which has won Engine Of The Year from 2016 to 2019 running, and was also voted the best engine of the past two decades by the same panel.
But while the Ferrari F8 Tributo is literally named ‘tribute’, while it’s modern there’s absolutely nothing lesser about it: The F8 has more power, less weight, more downforce and less drag than the 488 GTB.
Given it packs the 488 Pista’s engine, and a whole lot of other improvements besides, in musical terms, the F8 Tributo is a supergroup playing its Best Of hits rather than a tribute band.
It helps that the F8 looks like it’s going thrash-metal beats per minute even at standstill. There’s a bit more emotional heft to its curve compared to the 488, Ferrari senior designer Adrian Griffiths says the F8’s shape has more of an hourglass contour for that reason.
But what takes that attractiveness up a notch is how it combines both heart and head. There’s purpose to every wing, curve, and shape, even beyond the aerodynamics.
For example, the air intakes at the rear wheels look similar to the 488 GTB’s but have an extra wing that splits the airflow, both cooling and accelerating the intake air, boosting power output.
There are also stronger ties to previous V8 Ferraris baked in as well: the slits across the Lexan engine cover are both a nod to the F40 and function as cooling vents, while the quad taillights another tip of the hat to the F40 and 308 GTB.
The low-slung cabin of the F8 is a driver’s paradise, minimal adjustment is needed to get a good position, and visibility is excellent, aside from a rearview full of raging Ferrari V8, though it’s hardly a complaint to most.
Ferrari’s made the steering wheel thinner too, for a more precise grip. (BMW M take note). The 488 GTB was a car you could almost drive with your fingertips, the F8 even more so, with Ferrari’s increased emphasis on controllability.
Beside the thunderously loud start-up and idle to warm, the F8 is an extremely well-mannered sports car, provided the driver keeps their right foot reigned in. It’s probably atavistic tree gods that ensured Maranello was a sort of supercar hell when we drove the F8 there, cold sub-15-degree weather and constant drizzle didn’t help the small lanes, tight roundabouts, and horrendous road surfacing.
Still, that was the chance to prove that the F8 will fare just as well as it does back home in Singapore Supercar Hell. Though the F8’s wide and low, the excellent visibility meant we never feared kerbing the star-pattern 20-inch alloy wheels, the only thing slowing us down (besides the weather) were speed humps and fear.
In a place like suburban Maranello, you’ll never crest 3,000rpm, but while the F8 became easier to drive as things went on, one thing hangs in the mind: How far along can we get the needle to the right side of the bright, yellow tachometer?
Once out of purgatory, the chance finally appears. Gears dropped with a tickle of the paddle shifter, gas opened, the F8 builds an almost instant roar (thanks lightened crank and flywheel), the car suppresses what would otherwise be a colossal wiggle (thanks F1-Trac) and it rockets forward with rather intense violence.
Trying to describe such fearsome acceleration can get tiring, even repetitive on the page, but in real life, it never is.
One can only imagine what it would be like in the dry and without recently-passed Italian carabinieri to avoid, but we’ll say this: The instant electric torque of EVs and added hybrid boost is chuckle-worthy, at best, but a F-ing fast Ferrari like this, even at mere half bore, is the sort of driving moment to really live for.
The twisty mountain roads finally appear, but so does mist and fog, while the rain never quite goes away, but we find that the F8 is rewarding even if you’re concentrating on keeping it on the straight and narrow smoothly (me) or trying to throw it and your passenger’s lunch around (‘Big’ Dave Khoo).
There’s a plus for passengers at least, as the F8 packs a small colour display on their side of the dash, so they can do everything from scroll through the media, read out nav points rally co-driver style, see performance data and drive systems (‘Dave you lard-monger, turn it back to Wet mode before you kill us!’).
The steering’s a delight for those who eat up the road, the body communicative but still comfortable, yet even if you’re used to straight autobahn blasters and high speed, this might simply be a little too much involvement for some.
Though it’s a joy to thread through the slippery mountain roads, it’s the engine that dominates the driving experience. The other aspects of the F8 are certainly enjoyable, but the crux of the drive is how far clockwise you can get the needle, it’s a Pavlovian reward response barely reigned in by self-preservation. To throw in another pointless 90s reference, Now That’s What I Call Engine.
Part of the reason is that the engine up to 6dB louder than before (in terms of perceptible in-cabin sound) and it also worked on the higher order harmonics, all through a mechanical resonator and without artificial electronic means.
In other words, the F8 doesn’t deliver the droning flub of basso profundo that makes so many modern turbocharged engines sound boring, but has the glorious chorus-backed higher-notes too. It’s still no heart-charging scream like the 458 Italia’s, but like we said, this itself is the end of an era.
The only caveat here is that the weather also put paid to getting a clearer idea of the F8’s capabilities – wet, cold public roads and a canned session on Fiorano circuit – we should say this drive was just a peek into what the car is capable of, a second tier rather than front row view.
Still, it’s clear that the F8 is a Best Of Collection of Maranello’s V8s of the Recent Turbo-Only Era. If the F8’s engine is a last blast, it’s a loud, thunderous, and glorious one indeed.
To paraphrase Tenacious D: The Ferrari F8 Tributo is not the best V8-powered car in the world. It’s just a tribute.
Ferrari F8 Tributo
|Engine||3,902cc, V8, twin-turbo|
|Power||720hp at 7000rpm|
|Torque||770Nm at 3250rpm|
|Top Speed||2.9 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBA|
|Price||S$998,000 without COE, options|