Ferrari 488 GTB turbocharges its V8 appeal

Ferrari unveils latest in a long line of V8 heroes

Packed with a dizzying new array of horsepower, the 488 GTB looms as Ferrari's most accomplished V8 yet.
Producer: Tim Martin

Ferrari buyers want it all. They are demanding, often look-at-me types who expect effortless style, top-drawer quality, exclusivity, subtle safety, cutting-edge technology, and – perhaps more than anything – dramatic performance.

Performance, in this case, means The Lot. Remarkable cornering and grip levels, eye-popping braking, and – above all else - an engine and transmission double act that generates G-forces rarely experienced outside a racetrack or drag strip.

For 40 years, V8-engined Ferraris have been thrilling owners of a succession of mid/rear-engined berlinetta road rockets with an irrepressibly joyous and raucous soundtrack. That sequence began with the 308 in the mid 1970s and continued with the 328, 348, F355, 360, F430 and 458; each more powerful and faster than its predecessor.

Serious horse power

Now comes the new Ferrari 488 GTB (Gran Turismo Berlinetta), which carries the burden of maintaining the key sales role played by the mid-engined Ferrari models. For much of the past four decades they were the most popular of the Ferrari catalogue, although recently usurped by the more affordable California - the brand's first front-engined model.

The curvy, high-tech 488 GTB follows the California in farewelling the Italian supercar brand's legendary, high-revving naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engines, the glorious banshee sounds of which were close to orgasmic.

It has a deep throaty roar when the engine is loaded and a lots of exhaust crackle off throttle.

Renato Loberto

Not to meet customer expectations that the new engine would best the old V8 in both fury and noise would court disaster.

Turbocharged performance

Fear not. The new twin-turbo 3902cc V8 belts out a more-than-generous 492kW of power and 760Nm - way more than the outgoing 458 model's 4.5-litre V8.

With zero turbo lag and a rapid-fire seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the most powerful Ferrari V8 production engine ever launches the 488 GTB from rest to 100km/h in 3.0 seconds – 0.5sec faster than the racy 458 Speciale around Ferrari's Fiorano test track.

Among the cognoscenti there had been much premature hand wringing that the move away from the operatic 4.5-litre V8 to a turbocharged 3.9 might stifle the evocative Ferrari exhaust note. But we can assure owners and kids alike that Ferrari engineers have leapt to the challenge of meeting the lofty aural expectations of the clientele.


Sound of success

When the turbo V8 was fired up at the Australian launch, there were delighted smiles as the twin pipes growled and bellowed enthusiastically, then moved to a guttural roar as the revs rose. The unrestrained shriek of the old non-turbo V8 isn't evident, but the replacement soundtrack certainly won't disappoint.

Pivotal to the sounds heard in the cabin by driver and passenger are the exhaust headers with longer, equal-length tubing, and the flat-plane crankshaft.

The new V8, which can be viewed through the clear engine cover, even looks magnificent.

Renato Loberto, an Australian racing driver coach and GT3 racer who has driven the new 488 GTB during recent work in Europe, says the noises the new supercar makes at speed are no less seductive than the old 458. Just different.  "It has a deep, throaty roar when the engine is loaded and a lots of exhaust crackle off throttle, and enough wastegate flutter to remind you the turbos are there."

Walk the torque

Loberto is even more taken with the performance of the new car, in particular the huge boost in torque.   

"The chassis, the brakes and the aerodynamic technology all come together with the power delivery in a very special way," he told Executive Style, highlighting the worth of the F1-inspired blown rear spoiler and DRS (Drag Reduction System).

With the fundamental brutality of the supercar cleverly organised by the sophisticated electronics and suspension and aero engineering, there isn't the same rawness obvious in way-less-powerful earlier models from the 1980s and 1990s.

Variable Torque Management controls the delivery of torque in every gear, while other systems including the evolution of Side Slip Control, stability control and anti-lock brakes all subtly play roles in taming the beast. Because of this user-friendliness, Ferrari is now seeing more female owners turning up at its track days.

Indisputably, though, the V8 is falling out of favour in some motor sports categories – Australia's V8 Supercar touring car category won't be such for much longer, set to follow Formula One's move turbo V6s.

And the car industry has seen a drift to smaller-capacity engines and in some cases electric power. The all-electric Tesla S EV saloon accelerates like a supercar, with zero emissions and no fuel consumption.

But Ferrari Australasia's chief executive Herbert Appleroth sees no end to the lifespan of the Prancing Horse's legendary V8 engine, pointing to the massive gains in performance and efficiency in the six years between the last-generation 4.5 and the new 3.9 twin-turbo.

The evolutionary march of the Ferrari V8 commands attention when we rewind 40 years to the 308's 2.9-litre V8, with four twin-choke Weber F carburettors. Australian versions generated just 177kW and 284Nm.

But then – as now – the Ferrari V8 sounded rather spectacular. Way better than the Tesla, in our humble opinion.