- Turbo, but still sounds like a Ferrari
- Sharper handling, without a jittery ride
- Edgier yet evolutionary design
- Better-finished cabin
- What active-safety features?
- Infotainment remains dated-looking
- Less direct than its predecessor
The 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB and 488 Spider are sensual beauties, with shattering performance amped up by a new turbocharged V-8.
The 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB and Spider are just the latest in a family tree of mid-engined, V-8-powered Ferrari two-seaters that dates back decades.
Just a few years ago, the 488 was conceived as the 458 Italia, but that was before turbocharging made a forceful appearance across the entire Ferrari lineup. With some careful visual progress and a major boost in power thanks to turbos, the car became the 488, and adopted a Spider convertible model.
Today it's one of the best-reviewed Ferraris in recent memory, one of the most memorable sports cars we've driven. It's more influenced by the racing heritage of the Italian automaker than by the luxury-car needs of the modern Ferrari brand—but it's still accessible without being too compromised.
Ferrari 488 styling and performance
The sex appeal oozes from the 488, from its technical front end to the evocative curves that run down its flanks. It's a marked departure from the 458 in a few ways: there's more depth in its rear quarters and side panels, compared to the more flat-sided 458. The voluptuous, organic look is still there, just amplified in the way the sheet metal carves itself out; it gives the design far more presence when you’re right up next to it.
And while the 488 GTB and 488 Spider cut in with a look that’s traditionally Ferrari, the design in back has plenty of nods to F1 racing, including flaps that actively change the purpose of the rear diffuser depending on whether more downforces are needed, and a subtle rear spoiler that helps cut drag at lower speeds while pushing downward at higher ones.
The 2017 Ferrari 488 models pack the latest 3.9-liter turbocharged V-8, making 660 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 560 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. That’s 63 more hp and 162 more lb-ft than the former naturally aspirated powerplant in the 458 Italia, and the turbo engine's peak torque at half the revs than before. It’s as before mated to Ferrari’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
It’s the most powerful Spider engine ever for Ferrari, and it has the highest torque in its segment, Ferrari says. The GTB can get to 60 mph in less than three seconds or to 124 mph in 8.3 seconds—also best-in-segment times. And if you care about mileage, the EPA rates it at 15 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined.
Ferrari says that it spent tremendous engineering effort in making the new engine one with near-instantaneous responsiveness. The automaker says that at 1,000 rpm, in third gear, you only have to wait for 0.8 seconds for maximum torque delivery.
All the right sounds are there, too. Despite having a turbocharged engine, the 488 sings louder and with more urgency as revs rise and power output builds. It’s lacking a few revs at the top end, with a power peak of 8,000 rpm versus the previous 9,000 rpm, yet there’s no personality and charm missing from this experience.
The 488 lineup offers more accessible handling near the limits, too. There’s an enhanced version of the side slip angle control system that originally made its debut on the 458 Speciale. Now called Side Slip Control 2, or SSC2 for short, it works with the electronic differential, and stability control system to help the driver slip quicker out of corners. The system works together with the active dampers. It can all be changed in well-coordinated fashion via a small "manettino" thumb lever on the steering wheel, which provides five different drive modes.
Spider models have a different exhaust system, and produce about 1 dB more across the rev range; yet with careful engineering and aerodynamics Ferrari says that you can carry on a conversation at a comfortable level in the cabin, with the top down, well above typical American highway speeds.
488 comfort and features
Compared to the 458 Italian, the 488 GTB and Spider have a distinctly different cockpit. The separation still exists between the dashboard and tunnel; the 488s still have a multi-function steering wheel, a control switch bridge and plush bucket seats. Most of the controls either are part of the steering wheel (yes, push-button turn signals) or are on control pods within a short reach away, provided your hands are at their proper place on the steering wheel. But the shape of the air vents is new, as are upgraded trims throughout, to give this interior a thoroughly more modern and better-detailed look than that of the 458.
The 488 Spider offers a two-piece retractable hardtop. The Spider includes a glass rear window, and the top can be raised or lowered in less than 15 seconds. It also includes a different design treatment altogether behind the rear window—adding up to an abbreviated roofline plus an extended engine cover (with more prominent engine-compartment vents) instead of the long rear window.
The infotainment system that’s included in the 488 GTB and 488 Spider has Apple CarPlay capability, as well as some sport-driving functionality, and an optional, full-fledged racing telemetry system (a version of the one developed for LaFerrari). Another option is a high-end audio system with 12 speakers and a 1,280-watt amp. The 488 also now includes keyless ignition (no longer requiring the turn of a key first), and between various trims, wheel and brake upgrades, and accessories, all part of a personalization program, there are plenty of ways to add exclusivity (and up the price tag).