Ferrari 488 GTB 2016 UK review

Stunning turbocharged Ferrari 488 GTB is the replacement for the 458 Italia, and we try it on UK roads

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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The 488 GTB delivers the kind of driving thrills, Formula One-inspired technology and sense of occasion that only a Ferrari can. And for most buyers, that more than justifies its £184k price tag. On UK roads, stop-start traffic will be its biggest test, as you really need a track to take full advantage of its 200mph performance and razor-sharp handling.

While Ferrari started out building front-engined V12 GTs to finance its racing activities, later mid-engined V8 cars have arguably held more appeal for driving enthusiasts. The latest in the line is the 488 GTB, and it promises to deliver even greater performance and ability than the models that have gone before it.

The newcomer is a development of the 458 Italia, and that shows in the styling. There are softer edges around the nose, while the rear end is inspired by the LaFerrari hypercar. In fact, the whole look is influenced by aerodynamics. The front features a Formula One-inspired double spoiler that channels air over and under the car, and the rear diffuser adjusts airflow to improve grip without creating excessive drag.

The 488 GTB’s engine is shared with the drop-top California T, and it introduces twin-turbochargers to the mix. The 3.9-litre V8 has been thoroughly reworked in the 488, though, with power boosted from 552bhp to 661bhp and torque up by 5Nm to 760Nm.

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It’s paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox developed from the 458, while adaptive dampers, a rapid steering rack and Brembo brakes derived from the LaFerrari are all put together to deliver the most engaging Ferrari driving experience yet.

The cabin is driver-focused, with all of the controls either surrounding or on the steering wheel. The central rev counter is flanked by a pair of pods, with the right-hand one containing all of the infotainment and trip displays, and the one on the left featuring an advanced trip computer. This includes a lap timer, G-meter and a vehicle status monitor, which shows when parts of the car are at their optimum temperature. Each pod is controlled via its own rotary dial and buttons, and while they’re a bit fiddly to use, they’re easy to get familiar with.

The steering wheel is an integral part of the dashboard, with all of the driving controls located on it – including the Manettino drive mode switch – while the long, slender gearshift paddles are a quick reach away from your fingertips. It’s just a shame that some of the materials aren’t quite up to scratch for a six-figure sports car, with some hard plastics on display.

Fire up the twin-turbo V8, and while there’s a bark from the exhaust, it soon settles with a real metallic zing. Rev the engine past 3,000rpm – which is very easy to do thanks to the throttle’s instant response – and some extra volume is added to the rasping note. Yet while the engine has a high 8,000rpm red line, some might miss the raw edge of the 458’s naturally aspirated tone.

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The driving position feels like you’re sitting quite far forward, and you’re aware that there’s a lot of car behind you. Still, the 488 doesn’t feel bulky on the move. As you may expect, the throttle brings near-instant acceleration, and the super-quick steering delivers near-telepathic responses, too.

On a bumpy B-road, the Ferrari shimmies and dives as the front wheels hunt the road surface, but the excellent ride and controlled suspension mean it never feels like you’re wrestling with the wheel.

Instead, you can just concentrate on driving, as the 488 GTB delivers a hugely engaging experience. On UK roads, you’re barely tapping into the car’s potential, but you can cover ground extremely quickly and get a feel for how focused this car is. Full-throttle gearchanges in manual mode deliver a thump in the back, while in auto mode, the electronics ensure you’re in the right gear whatever your situation.

Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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