Ferrari’s 488 GTB: fun, functional and fabulous

Ferrari’s 488 GTB: fun, functional and fabulous

DAYS have passed and Madam Wheels is deeply mourning the loss of the Ferrari 488 GTB from her revolving stable of test cars. It’s just another sports car, you might (erroneously) say. There must be something better on the horizon. Well, thank goodness I had a Ferrari track day to look forward to, otherwise the next cab off the rank, so to speak, was scheduled to be a BMW 630i Gran Turismo, and what on earth is that? Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out, but that will be the subject of the replacement car’s review.

First, let’s talk Ferrari. I’ll say up front, ladies, that there is absolutely nothing to be intimidated about in these Italian stallions of automotive legend. They may once have required a disproportionate amount of strength and dexterity to drive, but no more. Not only are these cars easy to drive, they’re also incredibly comfortable and  loaded with all the design features, finishes and capabilities of something you could take out on to a race track. And ladies, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Driving a 2018 Ferrari is a snap, and if you’re not already enamoured with the romance and exhilaration of being behind the wheel of one of these cars, the 488 GTB may get you there. But beware an introduction to the brand. There’s an inexhaustible appetite for vehicles from the Prancing Horse stable, with model sell-outs the norm. Once you get a taste for the unattainable, prepare for your addiction to go unsatisfied.

It’s most annoying when a company says - on the one hand - it knows it can sell more cars because the numbers clearly prove that’s so. But rather than up production, it ups the price. Low supply (ie exclusivity) effects demand (“If they can’t get it, they’ll want it”), which drives up price, yada yada yada . 

So, here we are. You’d like a 812 Superfast? Gone. How about the 488 Pista? Finita. The California T replacement in the sexy Portofino? Well, yes, there is some stock of this so-called entry-level Ferrari designed to steal buyers away from other brands. But Ferrari’s Chief Executive Officer, Sergio Marchionne, told Bloomberg earlier this month that the Italian company’s production was almost fully committed not just for this year but partially into 2019. If you’re lucky, you may still be able to buy into the the GTC4 Lusso family car - and that’s no slouch, let me tell you.

If you’re into your cars, one of the key benefits of buying a really good one can be “the  club” it gives you access to. If you’ve ever been to a Ferrari car launch or customer event, you’ll know just how far-and-beyond the Italian sports car company goes to make those in its fold feel truly loved.

Speaking of love, let’s get back to that 488 GTB. This car may not seem an obvious choice for a lady given how driver-centric it is. But some women really love driving, so they don’t care a fig about the fact the seats have to be manually adjusted or that the vanity mirror exists solely behind the passenger’s sun visor. No, they’ll have more important things to admire than themselves, such as the jaw-dropping reaction the 488 gets in traffic. Inside, they’ll be revelling in the dynamic look and feel of the car’s track-ready constitution but road-car poise. I love its sculptural flanks and this model-specific colour, Rosso Corsa Metallizzato - or Metallic Racing Red - designed to highlight its sportiness. Up close, the finish is brilliant, achieved, according to Ferrari, by triple-layering paint in which millions of micro-particles have been suspended.

The car itself is unlikely ever to be suspended, though, thanks to some clever aerodynamic design features which start in the dual-grill openings up front, run over the bonnet’s side channels then through to the patented “blown spoiler” in the rear. The low placement of the spoiler means it reduces drag while taking in air to dispense through to the bumper to keep the car planted. So it wears the clever duality of looking good and being functional, too.

In the cockpit, everything’s handcrafted to look sporty and elegant but with the driver front-of-mind. There’s plenty of handy functionality on the steering wheel (a $9,200 carbon fibre upgrade in this car), including indicators, drive modes and windscreen wipers. Most of the other commands - such as the Integrated Command system which controls the vehicle’s set-up - are on wrap-around satellite pods facing the driver. Madam Wheels quite likes that the air vents in the compact dashboard were inspired by military jet air intakes. 

Everything’s within easy reach from the sport seats - in this variant a $17,400 optional Daytona upgrade. Up front there’s a new sport infotainment system which suits the look of the car and is easy to use, including Bluetooth, digital radio and navigation.  

One particularly important feature you should not miss when loading on the 488 options is the car’s $8900 suspension lifter. This is a five-second saviour which will take you from loser to superstar over speed humps and steeper driveways. The vehicle drops back to stealth height once it hits 40km/h.

The 488’s pared-back dash doesn’t include analogue clocks, nor any driver-assistance packages apart from parking sensors. You won’t find speed limiters or adaptive cruise control here - you’re on you own in this car, which is as it should be. Needless to say, once you get behind the wheel, ladies, hold on to your Paspaleys. This car is very, very fast, producing a neck-snapping response to a stomped-on accelerator. Ferrari claims this is its highest-performance engine ever with zero turbo lag and track-style gear shifting which blasts from a dead stop in first gear up to fourth gear in just 6 seconds. That’s a race car! 

Not surprising, really, when you consider that the 488 GTB’s dynamics are based on the experience of Ferrari track and laboratory cars performing on global racing circuits. It sprints from 0-100 km/h in 3 seconds. Steering is quick, too and you can feel everything through the steering wheel. What’s more, despite its race-car nature, there’s nothing cramped about this car - there’s plenty of room above and to the sides, with wide-open and unobstructed visibility in every direction.

As for the sound? Well, it’s just like magic really, making true music out of the turbo assistance it gets in the engine. And when you add all that up, I have to admit it adds credence to what Ferrari’s marketing gurus say about the car, guaranteeing that it will provide “unmatched driving pleasure to drivers of all abilities”. In the 488 GTB, it seems that’s true.

Madam Wheels Verdict

Madam Wheels Worthy? It’s so hard to choose favourites among the Ferrari model lineup but the 488GTB is right up there. It’s incredibly easy to drive, has serious road presence and, fundamentally, is just all class.

Buy: Only if you’re going to use it. This is a car begging to be taken for long, meandering drives through the countryside in good company and with phones at least switched to silent. 

Avoid: If you have an addictive personality. You’ve been warned about how things can go with Ferraris.

Likes: It’s modern, looks expensive and the ergonomics feel spot-on; the race-track capabilities combined with all the requisite daily-drive’s comforts and safety features.

Dislikes: The fact I can’t afford one so will not be joining “the club” any time soon.

Bottom line: $A469,988, as tested $586,706 before on-road costs, with more than half of the difference made up from carbon-fibre improvements to the car.