All the goodness – and pace – of the 488 GTB in a drop-top body makes the 488 Spider the most potent convertible Ferrari to date.
WHAT IS IT?
The convertible version of Ferrari's top seller, the 488 GTB. It utilises the folding hard-top first seen in the 458 Spider but blends it with the sexier body and more potent twin-turbo V8 from the 488 GTB.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The 488 Spider has just arrived in Australia, giving sports car lovers an open-top alternative to Ferrari's most popular model.
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, McLaren 650S Spider
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Properly fast convertible thanks to a superb turbocharged V8, which delivers a supreme surge throughout the rev range. The straight line pace is matched with brilliant roadholding to create one of the world’s truly fantastic driver’s cars. Throw in the clever folding hard-top roof and it makes for a superb drop-top with all of the ability of the coupe. But if you haven’t popped in your order, get ready to join a two-year queue.
PLUS: Phenomenal turbo V8; superb cornering grip and balance; one-touch folding roof
MINUS: Join the queue; exhaust sound muted for a Ferrari; crazy options prices
THE WHEELS REVIEW
YOU probably don't need to know how good the Spider version of the Ferrari 488 is. Because, on the off chance you've stumbled on $526,888 - $57,000 more than the hard-top 488 GTB - you'll still have to join a queue that stretches almost two years before you get to hand over that money. Like the 488 GTB, the Spider has more people desperate to own one than Ferrari can (or will) produce from its Italian factory.
Key to the Spider's appeal is the promise of a hurricane in your hair while still being able to blast to 100km/h in 3.0 seconds - exactly the same time as the 488 GTB that's held the V8 Ferrari high ground for almost a year. That's despite an extra 50kg-odd courtesy of the folding roof mechanism and bracing to maintain body rigidity.
The roof, a carryover of the “Retractable Hard Top” of the 458 Spider, is the highlight of the 488 Spider. Press a button and the cover for the rollover hoops rises, allowing the two-piece roof to fold away to soon be concealed once the rear panel lowers back to its original location. The whole operation takes 14 seconds and can be done at up to 45km/h.
The challenge with the Spider is keeping it below that speed. The 3.9-litre V8 hammers out 760Nm from 3000rpm, but at any engine speed there’s a rush of torque threatening to build pace potently at any dab of the throttle. It’s a beautifully flexible engine virtually devoid of turbo lag, making it fast at any speed in almost any gear.
Spin the engine close to its 8000rpm redline – at which point it’s punching out 492kW – and acceleration is brutal. The Spider is one seriously quick drop-top.
There’s the occasional inelegant low speed clunk from the twin-clutch seven-speed auto, but it’s otherwise a model of slick, well-timed shifts that adds to the extraordinary acceleration.
Roof up and there's little to distinguish the Spider from the Coupe. However, the small rear window retracts to allow more snorting and burbling from the V8 that sits just aft of occupants.
Roof down and that bark is more pronounced, although some of the turbo whooshing is less obvious.
If there’s one criticism, it’s that the force-fed V8 is a tad too polite, lacking the high rev shriek that’s characterised Ferraris for decades.
Sans roof the Spider lets a satisfying bluster into the compact cabin (there's less legroom on the passenger's side, so make sure your companion is happy not to stretch out). Windows up reduces the blast, while that rear window extends an inch or so to act as a mediocre wind deflector.
The suspension is firm but doesn’t jar, and the 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros on our car ensure it points superbly, the Spider hunkering down brilliantly in flowing bends. Select the "bumpy road" shock absorber mode and that firmness melts into more satisfying compliance, also lessening the very mild scuttle shake (body rigidity is generally brilliant).
Rear vision isn’t great, which makes the decision to pop the reversing camera on the options list a strange one. Then again, when buyers are clambering over themselves to hand over the best part of $600K there’s no burning incentive to load the thing with fruit.
That said, it’s far from baron. Standard kit includes smart key entry with the push button start on the steering wheel (it’s one of 14 buttons on the carbon fibre wheel), carbon ceramic brakes and dual-zone air-con.
Dig deeper and the Spider has traits that could classify as quibbles on lesser cars; the ventilation fan is noisy if you crank it up; the audio system sounds tinny and can only be controlled by the driver; road noise is prevalent on coarse bitumen surfaces.
But they’re easily overlooked the second you squeeze the throttle or aim at a corner. The 488 is a sublime driver’s car – and one that is properly quick. Little wonder there’s a queue.