Ferrari has turned to the digital world and embraced electronics with the new 488 Pista, the fastest and most powerful V8 mid-engined Ferrari ever — and the result is quite special in a way cold, hard numbers can never convey
It always comes up, but this time they really mean it — the new 488 Pista is the closest thing to a race car Ferrari has ever put on the road. It is loaded with race-car technology and direct know-how translated from the 488 Challenge cup car, the 488 GTE Le Mans racer, and the F1 Scuderia.
Compared to the 488 GTB it’s based on, somewhat loosely we must add, the Pista lives up to its name with improved aerodynamics without increasing drag, lower weight without sacrificing the structure, and more power without any perceivable turbo lag.
It took 50 percent new components to come up with the Pista’s 3.9-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine, with titanium internals and new intake and exhaust system for a raucous soundtrack. It’s 8 dB louder but not quite Speciale special, though it definitely sets the tone.
Which is intense — zero to 100km/h takes 2.85 seconds and even more violently the Pista gets to 200km/h in 7.6 seconds and tops out at 340km/h. Mid-range acceleration with the seven-speed transmission and flappy paddles right out of the 488 Challenge is brutal, and requires correct breathing techniques to stay ahead of this supercar. With 720 horsepower and 770Nm of torque motivating 1,395kg (the Pista is 90kg lighter than the base 488 GTB), performance is flabbergasting and you simply can’t experience the car on a public road at anything over half-throttle. No matter the terrain, there are hardly any straightaways in a 488 Pista and it merely reels in corner after corner like the road’s just a retracting vacuum cord.
And yet despite the phenomenal engine in the middle of this car and the addictive throttle response, the rest of the Pista doesn’t let the V8 dominate. The brakes are so strong you feel you can’t make a mistake or get surprised by anything, and that gives you all the more courage to push the limits. Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone was adamant in his quest for driving feel, influencing development of an ultra-short-travel brake pedal and a gearbox that kicks back with a wallop through every downshift.
With the latest generation electronics (Side Slip Control System 6.0) and new Michelin tyres the car flatters drivers and allows a true experience of 700 horsepower, after which it’s hard to go return to the regular world. The new look is entirely governed by aerodynamic changes to the rear end and the front S-duct with that bridge in the middle of the nose, however most of the proper stuff happens underneath — radiators are raked like in the 488 Challenge to direct air under the car towards a bunch of flaps and vortex generators to maximise the effectiveness of the rear diffuser. That’s why the Pista doesn’t need an ugly fixed wing at the back.
On 20-inch carbon fibre wheels (40 percent lighter) and such animated steering you can place this car anywhere, and the superb seating position, snug bucket seats with four-point harnesses, and huge windshield offering good outward visibility with those pointy wheel arches for your apexing reference points, the Pista is as intuitive to drive as it is fearsome. Even if you take the Manettino dial far clockwise the Pista doesn’t get too lairy because the stability control system still works in the background, only subtly without the juddering interruption out of corners that we’ve come to expect. Ferrari’s has struck an impeccable balance between slip and grip in the Pista so that 720 horsepower needn’t come with bad consequences.
That is not to say the Pista isn’t exciting — everything happens in such a frenzy and the engine keeps punching you in the guts that you end up with a physical supercar just as a supercar should be, and the nerves are frayed from the speed and the power, not impending disaster.
That is also not to say the Pista is entirely useable although Ferrari insists it is. The firm ride is enough to detract most from daily use, if the four-point harnesses (and consequent blind spots, since you can’t move) don’t do so already. Anyway it’s irrelevant since the entire run (limited by capacity not a predetermined production number) of 488 Pistas is spoken for, with most going to collectors who already own something like a 458 Speciale, 430 Scuderia, 360 Challenge, or all of them.
It’s a shame this driver’s car won’t get driven much, but the fact that Ferrari can put cutting edge technology to such excitable use means all enthusiasts can learn to embrace electronics in time. With the new 488 Pista the Italians have married the digital and the emotional and the result is one of the greatest supercars ever made.
2019 Ferrari 488 Pista
3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 | Seven-speed twin-clutch, rear-wheel drive | 720bhp and 770Nm of torque | 0-100km/h in 2.85 seconds and a top speed of 340km/h | $350,000 (AED1.3 million)
To check out Motormouth’s video review of the Ferrari 488 Pista, click here.