Alvin Thomas finds out that the Ferrari 488 Spider is supercar that ticks all his boxes, and is the best he knows.
Wait, wait, wait! Before you traduce me for reviewing another Ferrari 488 supercar, I must point out to avid readers of the First Drive page that the car I am reviewing this week differs from the one we did a few weeks back. To be specific, this car is so different, I’m surprised it even shares the same name as the 488 GTB we tested before.
I am not keeping it away from you any longer. The car we are featuring this week is the Ferrari 488 Spider and I test drove the car at an exclusive drive event in Dubai.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first, though – this car suffers from stiff competition, with the likes of supercars such as the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, McLaren 650S Spider, Mercedes-AMG GT roadster, Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, and even the Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster.
While the Ferrari will hold its own with its enthusiasts (and fanboys), there’s one very good reason why I think it will do better than its counterparts: it is the best supercar ever made; if you set aside those ridiculously priced limited-production hypercars like the Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at my review of the 488 GTB (think of it as the prequel). And yes, I will be backing up my claim with facts, but keep reading.
First and foremost, the difference driving around in a Ferrari with and without a hard top is sort of like watching actress Margot Robbie’s scenes from The Suicide Squad and then The Wolf of Wall Street – there’s a world of difference between them.
Cosmetically, at least, the only real difference between the two 488s is that folding metal roof but there’s no denying that the Spider has that extra wow factor slathered all over it. There’s nothing quite like driving around in a convertible in between the skyscrapers of Dubai.
Apart from that, however, you still get that drop-dead gorgeous curvaceous body, low-slung ride and a darn good amount of bragging rights to owning one of the spiciest supercars ever made.
My test car, which was finished in dark grey, managed to garner quite a lot of attention on the streets of Dubai. I also remember being snapped many times at Jumeirah.
However, my biggest worry before taking the wheel of the 488 Spider was… well… the folding roof. You see, when a car loses its top, it loses its structural integrity: it becomes all wobbly and flimsy while taking corners. To circumvent that, most manufacturers add extra strength to the chassis, thereby making it heavier and effectively slower.
I was afraid that the 488 Spider would fall prey to this phenomenon but thankfully, the Maranello engineers have a done a great job in strengthening the car without adding too much weight to the chassis, courtesy of reinforcements made using reworked aluminium alloys.
As a matter of fact, they told me that the car maintains 95 per cent of the rigidity of its original coupe brother. And thanks to this, the 488 Spider is just as composed in the corners.
The 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged that resides in the middle of the car still pumps out the same 661hp and ginormous 760Nm of twist (torque). Couple this with Ferrari’s seven-speed dual-clutch F1 gearbox and I could hit the 100kph mark from naught in a mindboggling 3.3 seconds. What’s even more amazing is that I achieved (and validated multiple times) this on a hot 45-degree-Celsius day.
On the road, the 488 Spider is a well-behaved supercar with very less in the line of driving obscurity, meaning, the car is incredibly predictable, and poised. Weirdly, the 488 Spider’s adaptive suspension is also more bearable than the Nissan GTR on normal roads.
Switch the red button on the steering wheel into “Race” mode, however, and things take a turn for… well… the insane. Now, the car becomes ever more focused, and track-ready. Upon doing so, the car is every bit as sharp as the 488 GTB is, even taking corners with very little (almost non-existent) levels of body flex.
The grip from the Pirelli P Zero tyres is truly phenomenal, allowing you to hug corners and even keep the racing lines at almost unbelievable speeds. At one point, I saw myself take a sharp right-hand corner at 120kph. The only way I could tell I was doing too much was when I felt I would snap my neck with the generated G-Force. Ufff!
Ferrari’s traction control system, however, can induce a faint touch of understeer, especially if you are burying the throttle before entering a corner. But that can be corrected by laying off the throttle.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It is very easy to induce tyre-squeal and oversteer and lead into a drift; even with the electronic nannies switched on. Feeding in the throttle midway through a bend is one way to do that. But, the low-end torque is sufficient enough to spin the tyres of the car even when you’re coasting at 100kph.
The gearshifts are downright quick, and it maintains the right gears at all times, even in the “Auto” setting. Things only get ferocious when you use the paddle shifters, and sometimes downshifting gears would spike the engine revs to a point at which you are well within the power and torque band for a quick manoeuvre. No surprises there, though.
The steering is incredibly direct and provides me with ample feedback. Like I stated last time, this allows you to orchestrate some dramatic slides without making a fool of yourself. Much like the 488 GTB, you can easily chuck the car into a corner and hold your line by countering the drift using the steering and throttle.
The four Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes are simply splendid, and provide ample if not a bit more stopping power for your daily needs. Oh, but they do squeal a lot when they are cold.
But what are the minor squeals and hiccups when driving a mid-engine supercar, right?
Truth be told, the 488 Spider, like its coupe brother, is still one of the better supercars to drive on a daily basis (if you can afford it). The cabin in my test car was essentially the same as the coupe: the sleek dashboard remains to be intensely driver-focused – you will lose focus of the oversized rev counter and the “Manettino” dial on the steering wheel.
But simpler features like a new keyless starter switch and a sleek infotainment system with some extra processing grunt makes this car all the more appropriate. Granted, the latter could be a handful when you’re driving.
The seats, their positioning and the general milieu are all perfect. The around visibility is excellent, even with the top deployed. The retractable hard top peels off and backflips into a slender compartment behind your head in about 14 seconds. But, as I stated earlier, top and windows down, the car looks doubly sensational, and good enough to drop your arm onto the door and simply cruise the highways.
By now, you would have guessed that I am completely bowled over by the Ferrari. But before I let you make any assumptions, I have to tell you that I have driven the previous iteration of this car (the 458 Spider), the current McLaren 650S Spider and the Lamborghini Huracan. But, here’s the thing: none of them can quite capture the finesse and the overall aura of this Ferrari. Reliability, sensibility and simple thought as to what a driver needs are the key qualities that make this car all the more special… and all the more desirable.