In-depth reviews

Ferrari 488 review

Ferocious performance and agile handling mean the stunning Ferrari 488 GTB coupe and Spider are far from your usual entry-level machines

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Explosive performance
  • Razor sharp handling
  • Surprising refinement
  • Limited practicality
  • High running costs
  • Fiddly infotainment system

The Ferrari 488 is a mid-engined V8 sports car that’s designed to rival models such as the McLaren 720S and Porsche 911 Turbo S. Available as a GTB coupe and drop-top Spider, the 488 is the replacement for the 458. There’s more to the car than a few tweaks, though, because Ferrari claims the 488 is 85 per cent new compared to its predecessor. The most obvious change is the introduction of a new twin turbocharged V8 that is more powerful and efficient than the old naturally-aspirated unit it replaces.

With 660bhp and 760Nm, the new unit delivers scorching performance, with both the GTB and Spider sprinting from 0-62mph in just 3.0 seconds. Both models also boast a top speed of more than 200mph.

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The mid-mounted engine is mated to an improved seven-speed twin clutch gearbox that promises 30% faster upshifts, and downshifts that are 40 percent quicker. In reality, that means virtually instant gearchanges, with the gearbox responding to the large, steering column-mounted paddles.

Happily, this increase in performance has been matched by uprated suspension, brakes and aerodynamics. The heavily restyled body manages the neat trick of boosting downforce and reducing drag, while the carbon ceramic brakes are based on those used in the firm’s wild V12-engined LaFerrari hypercar.

Updates to the adaptive dampers mean that, in combination with greater downforce, the 488 corners faster and flatter than the 458. There’s also an improved version of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control that allows a little sideways slide before the stability control smoothly cuts in. The set-up is also more closely linked with the car’s electronically controlled differential and magnetic dampers, allowing the 488 to be automatically optimized for the exit of corners.

The revisions aren’t limited to the bodywork and driving experience either, because both the GTB and Spider get a revised dashboard layout with a redesigned infotainment system. It’s still a little fiddly to use, but it now features a slicker sat-nav system, plus standard Apple CarPlay.

As with all Ferrari models, the 488 also benefits from a four-year manufacturer warranty, plus a very generous seven-year servicing package.

If you want more power and plan to use your 488 on track, the go-faster Pista version is also available. The spiritual successor to the likes of the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale, the 488 Pista brings less weight, more power (710bhp) and more agressive aerodynamics. Ferrari has most recently added a Spider variant of the Pista to the lineup as something of a swansong – the 488's replacement, the F8 Tributo, is set to arrive in late 2019.

The Ferrari 488 GTB is the latest in a long line of mid-engined sports cars from the firm, but it arguably delivers the most intense performance yet. It's fast, fun to drive and features head-turning looks, while the new twin-turbo V8 in the back is a masterpiece, delivering supercar performance in a usable package. The 488 GTB coupe has the edge for sharp handling, but the drop top 488 Spider draws you even further into the driving experience and brings you closer to the magnificent V8 powerplant. It’s difficult to imagine a faster or more involving mid-engined sports car.

Engines, performance and drive

The new 3.9-litre twin turbo engine delivers truly electrifying performance, yet it’s as responsive and sounds as spine-tingling as the naturally aspirated unit it replaces

You expect a mid-engined Ferrari to be hugely involving to drive – and the 488 doesn’t disappoint. It’s the new, twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 engine that dominates the driving experience, thanks in no small part to its monstrous 660bhp power output and thumping 760Nm torque.

As you’d expect, performance is breathtaking, with both GTB and Spider versions rocketing from 0-62mph in just 3.0 seconds. Yet it’s the pulverising mid-range muscle that really grabs your attention. It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or what speed you’re going, the 488 accelerates with real violence the moment you squeeze the throttle pedal. What’s even more impressive is that there’s virtually no turbo lag.

By using twin scroll IHI turbos and carefully managing the amount of torque available in each gear, Ferrari’s engineers have managed to create a powerplant that feels just as responsive as the naturally-aspirated 4.5-litre unit used in the 458.

What’s more, the addition of turbochargers hasn’t diluted the traditional V8 soundtrack too much. From a low baritone growl through to a full-blooded howl at the 8,000rpm redline, this new unit is as loud as you’d expect from a Ferrari. There are even the same exciting pops, bangs and burbles on the overrun.

You can get even closer to the mechanical action in the Spider, which features a folding hard-top and a retractable rear window that can be lowered even when the roof is in place. And while this new unit isn’t quite as orchestral as the old naturally aspirated unit in the 458 Spider, it never fails to raise a smile and adds another level of enjoyment on top of the GTB Coupe.

Adding to the sensation of speed is the improved seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox that delivers faster up and downshifts. It now responds instantly to the steering column-mounted gearshift paddles, ripping up and down ratios almost seamlessly.

Of course, power is nothing without control – and Ferrari has worked hard to further improve the 488’s handling, brakes and aerodynamics. The heavily redesigned bodywork boasts a 50 per cent increase in downforce over the 458, yet with no penalty in drag. As a result, the Ferrari features strong high speed stability and grip.

Elsewhere, there are recalibrated adaptive dampers and a second generation version of the brand’s Side Slip Control (SSC), which allows a little bit of sideways fun before the electronic stability control smoothly intervenes. Yet it serves as a performance enhancing function, too.

In combination with the dampers and electronically differential, the SSC allows the 488 to exit corners twelve per cent faster than the 458. Even with a muscular 760Nm of torque being transmitted to the rear wheels, the 488 benefits from impressive traction, allowing the car to fire out of corners with real violence.

Elsewhere, you get the same razor sharp and quick steering as the V8, while the engine’s clever torque management system allows you to use the throttle to subtly adjust the car’s attitude through a corner. You can also adjust the sharpness of the throttle and the intervention of the various electronic driver aids using the now familiar manettino control on the steering wheel.

Yet this high performance fun doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement. With the dampers in ‘bumpy road’ mode, the 488 soaks up bumps and potholes with the aplomb of an executive saloon, while both wind and road noise are remarkably well isolated. Even the drop top Spider is usable everyday. The folding hard-top is snug and secure when raised, while wind buffeting is effectively kept at bay when the roof is stowed.

Opt for the 488 Pista and you're greeted with 50bhp extra and 90kg less for it to push along the road – 0-62mph in 2.85 seconds and top speed of 211mph are the result. Ferrari also added what it calls its Dynamic Enhancer – a sophistocated system that helps the driver to make the most of the car up to and beyond the limits of grip, smoothing out the transition between a slide beginning and developing. The result is a mid-engined supercar that feels remarkably easy to drive very quickly indeed.

The Pista Spider is lighter than its standard counterpart but still 100kg more than the Pista coupe. Perfromance is hardly dented though and the Pista Spider is by far the most capable convertible supercar money can buy – a fitting send-off for this generation of mid-engined Ferrari.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

For a sportscar with supercar-rivalling performance, the 488 actually delivers decent running costs

You don’t expect a 660bhp sports car to be cheap to run, but the 488 is surprisingly efficient. The adoption of a smaller capacity turbocharged engine and the addition of standard stop-start technology has helped boost fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.

For instance, both the GTB coupe and Spider drop top claim a respectable 24.8mpg at the pumps and emit 260g/km of CO2.

The Pista returns a claimed 24.6mpg on average and emits 263g/km of CO2; figures for the Pista Spider are yet to be announced, but shouldn't be too far off those of the coupe. 

However, as with all extremely high performance machines, the 488 will rinse through a tank of fuel at an alarming rate if you use its full performance potential. And while its CO2 emissions are impressively low for such a fast car, the 488 still falls into the highest tax band.

Insurance won’t be cheap either, with the car being rated in the highest group 50 bracket.

Still, the Ferrari claws back some ground when it comes to maintenance as the firm includes a seven-year servicing package as part of the price. Take this into account when comparing the 488 to thoroughbred rivals and you could potentially save tens of thousands of pounds in routine repairs.

Depreciation

The market for thoroughbred sports and supercars is currently in rude health, so in the short term you can expect your 488 to maintain its value, or even go up a little. Our experts haven’t yet calculated residuals for the 488, but you can expect extremely strong returns over three years. This is mainly down to strong demand and limited supply, but the car’s four-year warranty and seven-year maintenance plan will also a play a part in its desirability.

Interior, design and technology

Subtle changes to the Ferrari’s strikingly styled interior have resulted in improved ergonomics and an updated infotainment system

The 488 GTB is an evolution of the 458 Italia that came before it, although the styling is influenced heavily by the fact the car uses aerodynamics to keep it glued to the road.

It certainly looks different to the 458, with a more aggressively styled nose, vast air intakes on the rear wings and new ‘blown’ rear spoiler that boosts aerodynamic downforce and reduces drag. The 488 also uses plenty of aero devices already seen on the 458 Speciale, including moveable wings and a bold rear diffuser.

Further exterior changes include the option of 20-inch forged alloy wheels that are 8kg lighter than the standard rims, plus the Spider is available with an eye-catching Blu Corsa metallic paint finish.

Inside, the 488 is largely unchanged over the 458. That means you get the same rev-counter ahead of the driver that's flanked by TFT screens for the trip computer, sat-nav and audio functions. Subtle ergonomic tweaks and an updated infotainment system are new, as are hi-tech touches such as keyless entry.

As you’d expect, it’s possible to tailor your 488 with high grade leathers and trim inserts, but while the overall finish of the standard cabin is excellent. there are some cheaper plastics in lower parts of the cabin. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

In an effort to keep the 488 bang up to date, Ferrari has overhauled the sat-nav and infotainment systems. As before, these systems are housed in TFT screens either side of the rev counter. Each gets a pair of controllers and features enhanced graphics and a faster processor that makes the set-up more responsive.

The trip computer features a vast array of information, including turbo boost pressure and a screen that shows when the car's engine, tyres and brakes are up to operating temperature, while the sat-nav system is now more intuitive to use. You also get all the essentials, including Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay, which mirrors certain functions on your iPhone. That said, the layout is still a little fiddly and isn’t as straightforward as BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI set-ups. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space

With its two-seater layout and mid-mounted engine, the Ferrari 488 isn’t the most practical model available

While the 488 looks different to its 458 predecessor, it's no more practical, thanks to its two-seater layout, front-mounted boot and a parcel tray behind the rear seats.

As you’d expect, the 488 features a low-slung driving position, but there’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, so you’ll have no problem getting comfortable.

On top of that, the large windscreen and slim pillars mean forward visibility is excellent. The view out of the back is less impressive, as the GTB gets a distorting clear engine cover and the Spider gets a small letterbox style window. Large door mirrors and rear parking sensors take the strain out of parking – although reversing into a tight spot is still a nerve-wracking experience, while the mirrors are dominated by the car's wide rear wings.

In terms of cabin storage, there are a pair of decent sized door bins, a shallow glovebox and a lidded cubby between the front seats. And ahead of the centre console-mounted gear selector buttons there’s a trinket tray that includes a slot for the keyless fob.

Size

In terms of its external dimensions, the 488 is roughly the same size as the McLaren 650S. It’s not as compact as a Porsche 911, and as a result the Ferrari can feel a little intimidating on tight city streets. However, head out on the open road and the 488 feels a lot more wieldy.

With its low ride height, the 488 demands care when driving over speed bumps or tackling steep driveways. Approach these obstacles too quickly and you’ll be treated to an uncomfortable scraping sound as the splitter makes contact with the ground.

Leg room, head room and passenger space

The Ferrari’s two-seater cabin is surprisingly spacious, with both occupants getting plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. The Spider feels equally roomy, even though there’s a fraction less headroom with the folding roof in place.

There’s also plenty of seat adjustment, while the high-backed bucket seats are comfortable and provide plenty of support during extreme cornering. And while the seats are low set, access is straightforward thanks to the wide-opening doors.

Boot

Like its predecessor, the 488 has a single boot mounted in the nose. With a 230-litre capacity it's nearly twice as big as a Porsche 911's. You’d struggle to call it cavernous, but its deep, well-shaped and has enough space for a couple of small suitcases.

Both the GTB and Spider get a handy luggage shelf behind the front seats, which can be used for an overflow from the boot. However, bear in mind that this space will be eaten into by the seats if you’re over six-foot tall.

Reliability and Safety

The Ferrari 488 is beautifully built and backed by long warranty and industry leading servicing package

Ferrari is calling the 488 a new car, but it shares its basic architecture with the 458. And while the twin-turbocharged engine is new, it’s heavily based on the unit that made its debut in the Ferrari California T late last year.

The 488 certainly feels robustly constructed with tight panel gaps and doors that shut with a reassuring thud.

Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the 488, or its 458 predecessor, yet there are unlikely to be any concerns about its safety credentials. Both the GTB and Spider get four airbags and a multi-stage stability control system. On top of that, the cars gets eye-poppingly powerful carbon ceramic brakes that are very similar to those used on the LaFerrari supercar. And of course the Ferrari gets the sort of blistering acceleration and limpet-like grip that makes it easier to avoid potential accidents.

Warranty

Ferrari has stolen a march on its competitors by offering an extended warranty as standard. While many rival firms include two or three-years of cover, Ferrari now offers a four year unlimited mileage guarantee. 

Ferrari also offers free European breakdown recovery for every car it's built since 1947, so if you ever get stranded, the firm will endeavour to get you and your car home, or to the nearest dealer.

Servicing

If the Ferrari’s warranty doesn’t catch your eye, then the inclusive servicing certainly will. Every new Ferrari now comes with seven years of routine maintenance as standard. The checks are carried out once a year or every 12,500 miles, whichever comes soonest.

Not only does this package bring extra peace of mind, it could potentially save tens of thousands of pounds in maintenance bills. 

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