Ferrari 488 Pista: Driven

Details, details, details. That, beyond anything, is what marks out the two consistently best super sports cars in the business: the fast, special versions of Porsche's 911, the GT3 RS, and Ferrari's mid-engined V8, which, now, is the 488 Pista.

I think it's because they're cars from engineers and purists, for likeminded folk. And because motorsport runs through them both. 

They've both been around since 2003: the GT3 RS because Porsche needed to homologate two suspension components for racing, thought it'd sell a few hundred, and ended up flogging several thousand. In Ferrari's case, the 360 Challenge Stradale took its cues from the single-make race car of the same time. And it's always the details, the nuances and the myriad tweaks - each amounting to a tenth of a per cent change - which add up to make a big difference.

The 488 Pista, then - Pista meaning track - does the same. Its engine is, effectively, the current 488 Challenge car's engine. It was always Ferrari's plan for it to be that way: build the single-make series race engine, than drop it into the 'special' variant once it's done and proven. 

The Pista retains a 3.9-litre twice-blown V8 with a flat-plane crank and the same 8,000rpm rev limit as the 488 GTB, but now 50 per cent of its internals have been changed so that it can cope with the extra urge. Of which there's an additional 50hp, while there's 568lb ft - only in seventh gear, because torque is limited in lower gears to make the engine feel more naturally aspirated - at just 3,000rpm. 

It drives the back wheels, through a seven-speed auto which, in the angrier drive modes, now bashes through downshifts less smoothly, to give more engine braking and the impression that you're in the racing car.

With the right options - carbonfibre everywhere available, deleting other options and asking for carbonfibre wheels at over £10,000 - the 488 Pista will weigh as little as 1,385kg, up to 90kg lighter than a 488 GTB. McLaren reckons the carbon-tubbed 675 LT is a 1,328kg car (both are DIN kerbweights).

The Pista does do carbonfibre, though: the bonnet, bumpers, intake plenum and rear spoiler. And is it me, or do those bodywork mods have shades of Ford GT about them? There's an S-duct at the front, the wing is 30mm higher and 40mm longer than the GTB's. Downforce is 240kg at 124mph, up 20 per cent, while drag is up only two per cent. The underfloor diffuser retains the movable flaps that can stall it to reduce drag at higher speeds.

There are developments to Ferrari's 'Side Slip Control' system too, which is now on version 6.0, incorporating the e-differential, stability control and lord knows what else: the idea is that it's easier than ever to control on the limit if you put the car in 'CT off', which leaves stability control enabled, loosely, but  turns off the traction control. The only one beyond it is 'ESC off', when you're on your own. 

The suspension is changed less than you might think. So much so that in an hour and a half's presentation they basically neglected to mention it until reminded. "Oh, right, yeah. Er..." 

The adaptive dampers have been recalibrated to accept a 10 per cent stiffer spring rate, anti-roll bars are the same, the ride height is a smidgeon lower and the steering is the same as the 488 GTB's, though the tyres are new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s which are so soft they leave black marks where you're surprised to see them, but also enhance the steering's off-centre feel.

The idea, though, is that it's all still just as driveable and accessible as a 488 GTB; given the GTB is about as docile as a Toyota GT86, that would be some achievement.

But it's one they've managed. It takes about three corners around Ferrari's Fiorano test track to realise that the Pista is no more frightening than a GTB, merely faster, absolutely everywhere. It's two seconds quicker around here than a 458 Speciale - 81.5sec versus 83.5sec - and the Pista's nature is entirely friendly. It turns brilliantly. It's possible to understeer in slower corners if you turn-in too quickly, and it's possible to oversteer on the way out absolutely everywhere. These tyres might be good, but they're not that good.

What they are good at, though, is allowing a really progressive breakaway under power. In CT-off mode and with Side Slip Control doing what it does best, the Pista indulges in small slides at what would otherwise be gulp-inducingly high speeds, and draws itself out of them with great composure. With everything off, mind, it's the best mid-engined chassis in production, in my book; beautifully balanced, composed, assured, and terrifically un-scary given the power and torque output.

The steering is sufficiently fast - at around two turns between locks - that you rarely have to take your hands from the overly-squared wheel, and whatever they've done to the chassis means that there are stronger messages here, plus improved feel on centre, so it's a less nervous feeling system than in other Ferraris. 

I still think Porsche and McLaren do better steering, but abandoning the track for the road you'll see in these pictures, which constitutes part of Ferrari's development route, and you can see why it's so light and fast. And why Ferrari uses an e-differential, which can lock and unlock at an electronic whim. It means that here, too, the Pista steers with better agility than anything else in the class, and hooks up under power to whip onto the next straight. 

What's perhaps most remarkable about it, though, is that it does all of this without notable detriment from the GTB's ride quality. There's a lot of road noise, mind - owing to the absence of carpets and other sound absorption - but even in the dampers' firmer mode, it copes easily on the road, and in the 'bumpy road' setting is surprisingly plush.

Unlike, say, a Porsche 911 GT2 RS or GT3 RS, the Pista retains oodles of the character of the vehicle on which it's based. Is that a problem? A GT3 RS is so far removed from a Carrera 2 that it easily justifies its price. At £252,765 a Pista is £54,000 more than a 488 GTB but if somebody stuck carpets and a glovebox back in it and got rid of the harnesses and told you it was the facelift you'd half believe them.

But, y'know, that's fine by me. I'm not going to think badly of a car for being too capable all round. That it can do what it does on a circuit or in a corner, while still being a composed road car that's rewarding at any speed, only serves to show what a remarkable job they've done. As with the GT3 RS, the work is all in the detail, but the result is the two best driver's cars on sale.


Engine: V8, 3,902cc, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 720@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 568@3,000rpm (in 7th gear)
0-62mph: 2.9sec
Top speed: 211mph
Weight: 1,385kg
MPG: 23.9
CO2: 263g/km
Price: £252,765























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Comments (79) Join the discussion on the forum

  • GroundEffect 06 Jun 2018

    The Ferrari specials are always brilliant. I want them all.

    This one no different.

  • CS Garth 06 Jun 2018

    Mother of all gods I need that vehicle

  • WCZ 06 Jun 2018

    as expected then but possibly not as drastic?
    looking forward to seeing some lap times

  • thebraketester 06 Jun 2018

    Did anyone else misread that as pasta?

    Beautiful car.

  • The Surveyor 06 Jun 2018

    As much as I don't want to like this latest v8 special, it sounds absolutely epic from that (refreshingly nicely written) write-up.

    Well done Ferrari.

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