Purity or perfection? By definition there is nothing wrong with the latter, however in performance car circles it is increasingly the former that is being mourned with each passing generation.
Can the two possibly co-exist? Unlikely. Not when the purists call for DIY gearshifts, minimal electronic interference and engines that breathe atmosphere and rev to the stratosphere; concepts at odds with engineering’s demands for uninterrupted cog-swapping, unlimited grip levels and ever higher power figures with ever lower consumption and emissions.
For the first two-thirds of its 68-year history, Ferrari was the poster child for the no-frills philosophy, putting the driver first and foremost and to hell with the compromises.
The release of the F1 transmission in the 355 was the first sign that a shy bird called progress had nested in Maranello, quickly followed by aluminium spaceframe construction (360), state-of-the-art electronic systems (430), clever all-wheel drive (FF), hybridisation (LaFerrari) and now, next-generation turbocharging.
This last step is arguably the most contentious of the lot, but installed in the back of the new 488 Spider, Ferrari’s new 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 goes a long way towards satisfying both purist and perfectionist. The superseded 4.5-litre naturally-aspirated V8 found in the 458 Speciale may have revved higher and screamed louder, but by any objective measure the new turbo engine is the superior powerplant.
Producing 493kW at 8000rpm yet summoning 760Nm from 3000rpm (though only in seventh gear thanks to each gear having its own torque map), even installed in the 50kg heavier Spider it matches the Coupe to 100km/h at 3.0sec and loses only three-tenths on the sprint to 200km/h, which disappears in 8.7sec on the way to a 327km/h top speed.
In-gear acceleration bests its free-breathing predecessor by 25 per cent and fuel consumption is improved, however more important for our purposes is the improved throttle response (naturally, Ferrari has a graph to prove it).
And the noise? Well, suffice to say that above 4000rpm we can only assume that the exhaust certification authorities must have been on sick leave the day the 488 Spider was tested. Its racket is sufficient to have the ever-enthusiastic Tifosi demonstrating their appreciation whenever its eye-watering acceleration is unleashed on the roads between Naples and Palermo.
Eye-watering and unrelenting, thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox which swaps ratios effectively instantly, though Ferrari claims a blink-of-the-eye improvement over last year’s model. Purists may yearn for a manual, but while three pedals and a lever may have been preferable to any iteration of the F1 gearbox up to 430 Scuderia, the 488 is too fast and the dual-clutcher too polished for a manual to make sense. Whatever flaws the 488 Spider may have, the absence of a clutch pedal is not one of them.
Nor can any be found in the driving experience. With lid in place it’s virtually indistinguishable from that of the Coupe, but 14 seconds is all it takes for that perception to change markedly. That’s the time taken by the roof panel to stow itself (at speeds up to 45km/h) and the world to come alive. All of a sudden volume is up, temperature is down and the work rate at the wheel increases.
With windows up and wind deflector in place, it’s no more blustery than the eye of a hurricane, but as v-max approaches eyes begin to blur with tears and hair becomes a living thing. The al fresco experience satisfies every sense; the view of the sky above, the high-pitched hum of the 20-inch Michelins on the tarmac below and the pungent aroma of hot carbon-ceramics offering a connection to your surroundings no fixed-roof car can match.
Yet a Ferrari drop-top no longer need be a prima donna. Auto does a reasonable job of muffling that exhaust and shuffling through the gears with finesse, while the adaptive dampers deliver a ride capable of tackling all but the worst road surfaces. There’s even 230 litres of luggage space with further storage capacity available behind the seats.
If ever there was a car that could meld both sides of the ideological divide, it’s the Ferrari 488 Spider. By using the latest technology to support, rather than supplant, the goals of the driver it achieves what can only be described as very close to driving perfection. Mark it on the list as a car to try before you yourself pass on to the next generation.
5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Engine: 3902cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 492kW @ 8000rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 6750rpm
Weight: 1420kg (dry)
0-100km/h: 3.0sec (claim)
Like: Performance; handling; looks; character; feel-good factor
Dislike: Long wait list; um, we can’t all have one?
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