Test driving the new Ferrari 488 Spider on the Great Ocean Road

We were somewhere over the West Gate Bridge, on the edge of the city, when the caffeine began to take hold.

The world whipped by from the driver's seat of my Ferrari 488 GTB as I recalled the hour leading to this point in time: a briefing in the Garden Penthouse of the Blackman Hotel, appropriately overlooking the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit; a personal driving tutorial from Ferrari Australasia CEO, Herbet Appleroth; and three double espresso coffees. Our destination was the Great Ocean Road.

The convoy in which I drove, which comprised the Ferrari 488 GTB, Ferrari California T and the Ferrari 488 Spider – the latest Prancing Horse to hit Australian roads – roared ahead of the traffic as surrounding drivers stared slackjaw at our motorcade of desirable design and engineering.

Car of the self-made man

Like many Australians, I've always believed that ownership of a Ferrari is reserved for those in the executive suite, who pull down seven figures a year. Not so. According to Appleroth, the average Australian Ferrari owner is a self-made success, having worked their way up from backgrounds as diverse as construction, joinery, plumbing, real estate and finance.

They've worked hard their entire life, but have still found pleasure in the finer things.

You could say that owning a Ferrari is the Great Australian Dream.

In the passenger seat next to me sits Mr Appleroth – a spectacled man in a puffer jacket (though it's September, when it isn't raining, Melbourne is still blowing a gale) and sensible haircut. An unassuming man, he's as charming as he is astute.

A custom-made experience

Like catching a glimpse of Tom Hiddleston in a finely tailored suit, sighting a Ferrari in the wild, either speeding around the inner city or touring an open road, is an emotional experience. The curves, the confidence, the power, the legacy – it's a formidable combination, and one Ferrari tailor to each customer.

"We encourage people to maximise the tailoring, so every Ferrari is different," said Appleroth. "Every showroom has a beautiful 3D car configurator, where people can select many changes. They may have seen a colour in a magazine that they like; they can upload it and paint the car that colour. That's just the beginning."


You can also tailor the seats, lower dash, carpet, calipers, leather stitching and even tyre rims, to create a truly personal statement. If you really want a leopard print paint job on your brand new Ferrari, it's yours.

Redefining the road

Following a brief stop at a roadside cafe, we hit the road again to take in some majestic sea views. I first drove these roads, some 25 years ago, in a dirty brown Datsun 180B. To state the obvious, today promised a world of difference.

The Ferrari 488 Spider is not shy when it comes to acceleration. In three exhilarating seconds this car will take you from complete standstill to 100km/h. If you have ever ridden a horse bred for speed, driving this vehicle is a similarly unique experience. The company's emblem, the Prancing Horse, is more than mere marketing.

Each press on the accelerator yielded a moment of brief anticipation, where the engine audibly sucked in air, much like an Olympic weightlifter preparing for a feat of superhuman strength, before propelling the car forward, faster and faster. This process takes milliseconds.

Over the edge

Indeed, Appleroth tells me that the 488 actually learns the driver's style; every tap of the brakes, every push on the accelerator and turn of the steering wheel, adjusting revs and gears accordingly to maximise control and handling. In effect, driver and vehicle become one.

Purchase a new 488 Spider, or any other Ferrari, for that matter, and you obtain the keys to a variety of exclusive events that comprise the annual Ferrari calendar. From Auckland to Abu Dhabi, or Mexico City to Barcelona, every year is full of track meets, sport driving courses and Formula 1 Grand Prix events.

Naturally, you can expect more events beyond these, where members are encouraged to explore the finer things in life.

"We send out a lifestyle questionnaire every year," said Appleroth. "We ask people what sort of activities they like, what sort of pursuits. Is it cycling, polo, skiing; is it about food? From that we can create an individual contact plan for every customer. Because we have such a diverse suite of customers, we have to be diverse with our events. That's the majority of what we do to engage people in our brand."

Members benefits

Aside from the main calendar of annual events across the globe for all members to enjoy, Ferrari also offers a personal concierge service, catering to any whim, large or small. You name it, and thy will be done.​

"These concierge qualities make the Ferrari experience very different to anyone else in the market," said Appleroth. It's clear that if you can afford the $470,000-odd dollars and a two-year wait for a Ferrari 488 Spider, along with a superlative high-speed motoring experience, the keys to a kingdom of luxury leisure pursuits will be yours.

Giving the car back at the end of the day was an emotional moment. While my time in the driver's seat had been brief, the 488 and I had gotten to know each other intimately. With hard work and a small amount of luck, perhaps we would one day find our way back to each other.

Until then, a man can dream.