Ferrari 488 Pista prototype: Driven

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot if you're Ferrari. The 812 Superfast, for example, is an 800hp, 12-cylinder car, one that also happens to be very, very quick. So the fact that the new, hardcore variant of the Ferrari 488 GTB is named the Pista - the Italian word for track - should tell you a lot about where it has been developed to feel at home.

And it doesn't get much more at home than Ferrari's very own Fiorano test track, which is where we spent an afternoon finding out exactly how sharp a track tool the 488 Pista really is. The model, of course, is the latest in a long line of stripped-down, pared-back, track-focused Ferraris. With forebears including the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale all developed with the same objective: to be the finest driving machines of their day.

So that it might continue the tradition, the Pista is equipped with the most powerful V8 ever produced by the Italian marque. The uprated twin-turbo unit displaces the same 3,902cc as the standard 488 but has undergone a raft of software and hardware changes, including a remapped ECU, a higher compression ratio (9.6:1) new pistons and higher lift camshafts. The result of all this is a rise in power output from 670hp in the standard car to a rather more potent 720hp. Torque is up too, to 568lb ft, but the Pista de resistance (sorry) is a power to weight ratio of 520hp per tonne, a huge improvement over the GTB and its 454hp per tonne.

This is achieved thanks to a 90kg reduction in weight, and in no small way contributes to the Ferrari's staggering performance. Maranello claims a 0-62mph time of 2.8 seconds, with 0-124mph being dispatched in just 7.6. That's quick by any standard and puts the Pista squarely up against its biggest rival - the Mclaren 720S.

The Pista we're dealing with today is a pre-production prototype. The camouflage isn't strictly necessary, of course - the car was officially unveiled at Geneva last month - but it underlines the notion that these cars are 90 per cent ready rather than the 'real' thing. Having said that, Ferrari explains that there are merely a few minor tweaks to the engine calibration to come before the engineer's finally sign it off.

Structurally, Ferrari hasn't embraced carbon fibre construction in the same way as Mclaren, opting instead for the higher production volumes facilitated by aluminium. To keep weight down in the Pista, however, the front and rear bumpers, engine cover and rear spoiler have all been replaced with carbon alternatives. Ditto for the interior, where an extra helping of composite is notable among extra Alcantara. Underneath, meanwhile, the lightweight lithium battery has been carried over from the 488 Challenge as well as new, 20-inch carbon fibre wheels, the first on a road legal Ferrari.

But the battery isn't all that the Pista borrows from its sporting siblings. Lightweight components from the 488 Challenge have made their way into Pista's V8 as well. Titanium con-rods, a lighter flywheel and new crankshaft contribute to an engine 18kg lighter than the 488 GTB's and cut the inertia of these rotating parts by 17 per cent, making the motor even more responsive and faster revving. Meanwhile an Inconel exhaust with a 1mm wall thickness not only helps reduce weight and increase noise, resulting in a much louder, sharper note than before.

Ferrari also claims a 20 per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency over 488GTB thanks to a plethora of vortex generators, redesigned ducts, diffusers and spoilers, inspired by those on the 488 Challenge and GTE racers. The most noticeable aero change comes at the front, where the scooped out bonnet houses an F1-inspired 'S-Duct'. It is so called because the air passing through the intake on the nose is routed through an S-shaped aerodynamic duct before it exits via a large vent on the bonnet. The whole idea being to accelerate airflow, creating a low pressure area under the bonnet and generating increased downforce over the front axle.

Other notable aero additions include bigger scoops in the front bumper to deflect airflow outwards ahead of the front wheels, underbody vortex generators, a 'blown' spoiler 30mm higher and 40mm longer than standard, and redesigned side ducts. All of this new aero trickery resulting in a twenty per cent increase in downforce at the cost of just a three per cent penalty in drag.

The sum total of all of these individual improvements is immediately apparent when you drive the Pista. Off the line, it leaps forward with the tiniest flex of the right foot, the throttle controllable with millimetric precision. By artificially reducing torque in the lower gears and only unleashing the full 568lb ft only in seventh, power is delivered with the linearity of a naturally aspirated engine. Turbo lag? If there was a whiff of it in the GTB it's been completely snuffed out in the Pista.

Accordingly, acceleration is simply brutal and it takes half a lap of Fiorano just to adjust to the ferocity of its power. It feels noticeably quicker than the GTB, especially in the mid-range where the torque hits you like a sledgehammer. The engine revs so quickly and freely that the shift lights on the steering are almost constantly illuminated. To help exploit every last bit of the rev band, Ferrari has installed a 'wall' limiter which abruptly cuts off the power at exactly 8,000rpm rather than tapering it progressively as you near the redline. In manual mode, the sudden rush of crank speed makes it easy to slam against this deadline if you're not right on your game.

Handling? It's at another level altogether. The Pista takes the seemingly flawless dynamics of the 488GTB and enhances them with yet more grip and agility. The steering is very quick, especially off-centre, and super accurate too, which allows you to explore the brilliantly balanced chassis. In slow corners there's a wee bit of understeer dialed in but overall the Pista feels remarkably neutral. It can be deftly balanced on the throttle even in the restrictive 'Sport' mode. Turn the manettino to 'CT-OFF' and you're in 'hero' mode where the latest version of Ferrari's Slide Slip Control (SSC) lets you get impressively sideways whilst retaining a built-in safety net to keep you out of the scenery.

Mention must be made, too, of the new Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres developed specifically for the Pista. Apart from the terrific grip they offer, the compliance is revealed to be surprisingly decent on a brief drive in the Italian countryside outside Fiorano. In fact, the short loop around Maranello also showed how user-friendly the Pista can be. The ride is firm but not brittle and in auto mode the gear shifts are nicely smoothed out.

Not that this is what the Pista is all about nor will it be the reason that anyone buys one. The GTB is already a supreme all-round prospect; the track iterations of Ferrari's mid-engined models are all about raising the bar to hitherto unimaginable levels, and setting successive benchmarks for supercar performance. And, on the evidence of this experience, the Pista looks set to continue that tradition in some style.


Engine: 3,902cc, twin-turbocharged V8
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 720@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 568@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 2.8sec
Top speed: 211mph
Weight: 1,385kg
MPG: 23.9mpg
CO2: 263g/km
Price: TBA





Hormazd Sorabjee

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (51) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mylesmcd 16 Apr 2018

    Coming with a Liberty Walk body kit to a super car channel near you!

  • Krikkit 16 Apr 2018

    720hp, frigging hell.

    It wasn't that long ago we were looking at the 360CS with 420hp as a proper mentalist weapon, this has 70% more power in a car about 100kg (8%) heavier. eek

  • E65Ross 16 Apr 2018

    It'll be fantastic. Be interesting to see what McLaren do....isn't this argulably a rival to the potentially upcoming 720S LT? I thought the standard 488 was the rival to the 720S?

  • Chebble 16 Apr 2018

    This looks far better than the standard car. The 488 to me looks snub nosed and a bit ‘flabby’ if that makes sense.

    The front end looks rather excellent and far more aggressive.

    Krikkit said:
    720hp, frigging hell.

    It wasn't that long ago we were looking at the 360CS with 420hp as a proper mentalist weapon, this has 70% more power in a car about 100kg (8%) heavier. eek
    Obscene amount of power isn’t it? Interesting to hear that they’ve managed to make the turbos as unobtrusive as possible, but not surprising; Ferrari’s engineers are at the top of their game and have been for some time.

  • Ex Boy Racer 16 Apr 2018

    The old turbo lag thing again. Now they are saying that there was a whisper of it in the 488 but now none at all.

    Seem to remember them saying that there was none at all in the 488!

    Journalists have been saying that turbo lag has been gone for so many years, but the shortest drive shows it is still there. I mean, it has to be - that's just physics - until electric pre-boosters become common.

    I'll stick with NA. Even if the lag is solved, there will still be the massive boost followed by nothing issue.

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