Ferrari 488 Spider: Driven

Would you ever consider buying a Ferrari Spider? If you care about driving - chances are you do as a PHer - then probably not, because all too often the glorious looks (or otherwise) are at the expense of dynamics. 550 Barchetta over a Maranello? 360 Spider over a coupe? Exactly. Something like a 275 GTS would make a lovely classic roadster, but for actual driving the coupe is always preferable, right?

The 488 should change that. Really. Torsional stiffness is identical to the GTB and 23 per cent improved over the 458. Weight is only up 50kg over the coupe. So confident is Ferrari in the structural integrity of the Spider that the spring and damper rates are carried over unchanged from the GTB. This should be - cliche alert - the best of both worlds, a roadster with open-top thrills and hardtop dynamics. The dream scenario so often promised and seldom delivered. The high with no comedown. The gain without pain. The Ferrari Spider that drives like a Ferrari Berlinetta. With something like the 488 as a base car, that's a tantalising prospect.

Direct, back to back comparisons with the coupe will have to wait for an opportunity to do exactly that. For now though, it can be said the 488 Spider is exceptional, truly exceptional. Its composure, precision and resolve are phenomenal, remaining unflustered over some terrible Italian roads. These were deliberately chosen by Ferrari to demonstrate just how capable the 488 is and how the structure really can cope. Bar a very slight shimmy or two through the steering column over a few really abrasive imperfections at, er, some speed, it's unflappable. And damn impressive.

Bigger window
Knowing that allowances don't have to be made as a Spider, the 488's myriad talents can really be exploited and enjoyed. The damping is exquisite; fluid and relaxed but with flawless body control. I fell asleep in the passenger seat for 30km, so settled is the ride. With the roof down. The brakes too are gorgeous, with huge performance and absolute faith in the response from the top of the pedal. Before even 3,000rpm is breached, the 488 is already seducing with huge dynamic talent and charm.

And beyond 3,000rpm? Hold on. Really tight. The 488 is obscenely fast, from comfortably below those revs in fact. Lag is genuinely imperceptible, the 3.9-litre V8 immediately reacting to the smallest inputs at very few revs. But the way it builds speed leaves you in no doubt as to its turbocharged roots, the onslaught of speed quite shocking. But it still goes so hard all the way to 8,000rpm, getting faster and faster until all those shift lights illuminate and you thwack into the limiter. If you're feeling brave the Spider can comfortably, almost nonchalantly accommodate. What on earth must a LaFerrari be like?

We knew a 488 was fast though. And responsive. But what about the noise? A huge concern for both buyers and Ferrari, because what's a Spider without a soundtrack? Flat-plane crank, two turbos, ever stricter drive-by regulations... everything is stacked against the 488 Spider. It's certainly loud, and the turbo whooshes and gargles add another dimension, but it's hard to describe it as a thrilling noise. Where the old V8s howl, this one blares. Nape very much unprickled, sadly. Perhaps a churlish complaint given what Ferrari has to work with - and other journalists will disagree - but it's an inescapable point. The Lamborghini Huracan Spyder will surely hold an advantage here. Sorry.

No bull?
But will that carry over to the dynamics? Here the Huracan may face a tougher task. Climbing up endless hairpins in the Italian countryside, the Spider is joyous; the gearbox is impeccable, so you brake as late as you dare and know the gear will be selected. Turn-in is quick but feels entirely natural, the car never caught out by the steering's fast response. Then out of the bend the traction is magnificent, all the electronics collaborating to make the driver feel like an absolute hero. Race mode permits a little wiggle even for when 670hp and slackened traction control don't feel wise. Wonderful.

It's even good with the roof - apologies, Retractable Hard Top - up. The interior suddenly feels very dark but the refinement is superb and the engine sound is improved too, less shouty and allowing the intake noise a more prominent role. It's a very, very hard car to find fault with, the 488, and a very easy one to be completely beguiled by. Arguably a McLaren 650S has a more attractive interior and more pleasant steering, but the Ferrari is a stunningly complete package.

The best of both worlds then? It could well be. The 488 Spider may still face the stigma of being a convertible Ferrari, but it is no longer encumbered by the dynamic compromises of being a convertible Ferrari. Those who have driven both cite barely any difference, something that can hopefully be proven with a direct comparison. Until then, the 90 per cent of Ferrari Spider customers who have never had a coupe and use it mainly for trips out with their partner (yes they do, the Ferrari research says so) will adore the 488. And those who have never considered a Spider may well want to think about changing their minds.

: 3,902cc V8, twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 670@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 560@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.0sec
Top Speed: 203mph
Weight: 1,420kg (with "lightweight options")
MPG: 24.8mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 260g/km
Price: Β£204,400

Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sidesauce 14 Oct 2015

    Ooh yes. Now this is a car I'd love to own. To all who would accuse one of being a poser I'd simply reply "I enjoy my life, hope you enjoy yours"!

  • epom 14 Oct 2015

    Wow, very Enzo-esque smile

  • DeltaEvo2 14 Oct 2015

    The WANT is too big to describe it. smile

  • mnx42 14 Oct 2015

    That is simply gorgeous.

  • ecs0set 14 Oct 2015

    The suggestion at the top of the article is that PHers prioritise driving dynamics above all else and would never consider a convertible over the hardtop version as a result. That seems a little disrespectful to the diversity of PHers. Perhaps PH Towers should spend a little more time sampling wind-in-the-hair motoring to appreciate that sometimes, sacrifices are appropriate?

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