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Ferrari 488 Spider review - 488 goes convertible, but is it as good as the coupe?

Adam Towler
13 Oct 2015
Verdict:

Stunning drop-top version of the 488 GTB provides open-air thrills with negligible compromises

Evo Rating: 
Price: 
£204,400
For 
Blistering performance, usability, fluid handling, brilliant folding roof integration
Against 
High-rev theatrics of the 458 engine are no more; infotainment still a bit fiddly to use; makes going mind-numbingly fast almost too easy
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Ferrari’s switch to forced induction for the V8-series, after 40-odd years of yelping naturally aspirated engines, has been a master-class in engine design and electronics. Now it’s time for the drop-top version of the 488 to appear, once more with a folding metal roof. What of the noise though? High on the list of reasons for ordering a Spider in the past has been the added volume and proximity to a screaming Italian thoroughbred: can the new turbo motor fulfil the same role with conviction?

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time

The 3.9-litre twin-turbo motor and seven-speed dual clutch gearbox of the 488 GTB are carried over unchanged for the Spider. Put simply, they make an astounding partnership. Freakishly devoid of turbo lag, Ferrari has created an engine that responds with an almighty kick up the diffuser from 2,000rpm, and never abates that thrust until the 8,000rpm redline. The dual-clutch ‘box is almost impossible to fault. Auto mode works seamlessly, and up and down shifts are virtually instant.

The raw numbers are 0-62mph in 3 seconds dead, 0-124mph in 8.7-sec, and a top speed of 203mph. Brisk, then. 

> Read our 488 GTB review here

Machinery highlights: 

The transformation into an open-top 488 has naturally involved some fundamental changes. Gone is the elegantly sloping glass rear window, with its view of the V8 beneath, replaced by a flat deck area surrounded by flying buttresses. The multi-metal tub has been bolstered at the front and rear to compensate for removing the roof panel. In doing so, Ferrari claims the Spider has the same torsional rigidity as the coupe. However, it’s that bracing, plus the roof mechanism, that adds 50kg onto the kerbweight. Depress a switch on the centre console and 14 seconds later the roof has vanished into a space over your shoulder. 

What’s it like to drive?

One word? Sensational. With the roof in place wind noise is no different than in the GTB: with it lowered, turbulence is kept in check, with more exhaust noise audible than in the coupe but less turbocharger ‘hiss’. The tone is still unmistakably Ferrari: the low down timbre has that same hollow, sweet quality, but with revs the higher frequencies are undeniably subdued. It’s a subjective thing: if you were a fan of the demented howl of before, then yes, you will miss that, but this is far from a bad noise by any measure. 

Dynamically, it’s nearly impossible to tell the Spider apart from the GTB. Driven back-to-back, then yes, maybe, but realistically they are incredibly close. The structure of the Spider feels so strong: on hideously scarred, broken asphalt that made me wince in anticipation, there’s the slightest suggestion of a tremor from the rear-view mirror, but it’s something you see rather than feel through the car’s body.

The steering is quick and light in the modern Ferrari style, but it’s not a difficult car to drive enthusiastically. With ‘Sport’ selected on the Manettino it can be subdued – ideal for slogging along an Autostrada or soaking up the rays on the Riviera, with a ride quality that would shame many an executive saloon. Switch to RACE, and it positively ripples with raw energy, but there’s no end of systems on your side, including the latest Side Slip Control 2, bequeathed in principle from the La Ferrari. Such is the 488’s intelligence that it in effect attempts to adapt itself to the skills of the human at the helm. Set up like this, you can drive incredibly quickly – arguably too easily? – and never feel anxious.

Turn everything off and it’s somewhat different. The 488 has so much more torque compared to the 458 that your options can be dictated dramatically by the right-hand pedal. The 488 will power out of curves and slide over crests with 35 degrees of slip, smearing black lines on the road, but seemingly turning 99% of the energy into forward motion. It’s an exhilarating, heart-thumping experience, but the E-Diff and magnetic dampers give the car such a graceful, malleable character even in extremis.

Rivals: 

At present, the obvious rival is McLaren’s 650S Spyder, which is ever so slightly down on power but a paltry one mph faster. Old rivals from down the road, Lamborghini, are soon to re-join the battle with their Huracan LP610-4 Spyder – a car where there won’t be any discussion over how it sounds.

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