Ferrari 488 GTB review - outrageous performance, sublime chassis - Ride and handling
We've driven the 488 in the UK and on track, words don't do it justice.
There’s an element of witchcraft that accompanies the 488 GTB’s ride quality. In the softer of the two modes, Ferrari’s ‘bumpy road mode’, the ride quality is completely at odds with your expectations of a 661bhp, twin-turbocharged V8 mid-engined supercar. The way it smothers imperfections in the road surface is surreal, especially so since it has no effect on how the 488 handles.
What makes the 488 most enjoyable is its balance and exceptional adjustability. Like the 458 Italia and Speciale before it, the 488 GTB allows you to drive with the abandon that you would a hot hatch or Caterham not a mid-engined supercar. The 488 GTB is incredibility forgiving and with simply astonishing levels of balance no matter what the speed. But, such is the rate of acceleration the GTB delivers it needs to be.
The traction through and out of any given corner is quite phenomenal, and with each successive corner you have to urge yourself to push deeper into your resources and work the Michelin Pilot Super Sports that bit harder and trust in their grip levels.
When you turn in, the front axle just hooks on your chosen line and hauls the car through the apex, where you can then lean on that immense traction and dial the throttle in as the lock unwinds. What impresses more is that you can drive the 488 with a measured approach, lean on the engine’s torque and flow along at a rate that will leave most competitors for dead. Or you can grab it by the scruff, wind the revs up to the engine’s peak and indulge in the 488’s magnificently wide operating window, feeding off the steering and seat-of-your-pants communication feeds.
Build confidence, and you will, you will detect a small amount of understeer. However, rather than back-off and wait for the understeer to subside, now’s the time to get into the GTB’s power and torque to use the rear axle to neutralise the push.
It’s not only the 488’s balance and measured performance in, through and out of a corner that captivates you, but how it composes itself across any given road. You would expect a bumpy British B-road to be the last place that an Italian Supercar would be at home, but such is the pliancy of the MagneRide suspension that it covers the ground like the factory is based in Melton Mowbray not Maranello. As a result, the pace that you travel down roads can catch you unawares.
The damping smooths undulations and bumps that in any other car, especially a mid-engined super car, you’d have slow down for or completely drive around. As you tense and wait for the sickening crash of the underfloor headbutting the tarmac, the 488 rides it out as if nothing was there.
As you turn-in there’s just the right degree of body roll across the car; under braking the nose dives at the expected rate; when you hook up those rear tyres the back-end squats just enough to prepare you for the onslaught. It’s such an engaging and fulfilling chassis that after every drive you want to jump straight back in and experience it all once again.
Even on familiar stretches of tarmac you can find yourself having to look at corners and crests afresh as your approach speed ends up being substantially greater than you’ve previously experienced. Such is the torque that on slippery or even just cold tarmac you’ll see the traction control light blinking furiously even when you might think you’ve short-shifted, but the calibration of the various systems (F1-Trac, E-Diff3, SSC2, etc.) is so good that you hardly feel them doing their subtle work.
Ferrari’s latest Slip Slide Control software, SSC2, really adds to the enjoyment of the 488 GTB, especially on the road. Now integrated with the chassis’ active dampers – as well the F1-Trac stability system and an E-Diff, as before – the system is optimised to improve body control and increase stability. It will also allow greater angles of slip before reining things back in. While the theory sounds impressive it’s the practical element that grabs your attention. It allows the driver to relish in the 488’s balance and to feel like a hero more of the time, without ever loosing that safety net completely. SSC2 isn’t infallible, however, and if you ask too much of the rear tyres you’ll be expected to be on hand with the corrective lock.
Because SSC2 seems to impressive and intelligent, and given how much the light flashes with the systems on, you might think that the 488 would be a real handful when you turn everything off. The speed of the steering and the brilliance of the chassis means that as long, as you’re paying attention, it is actually beautifully easy to control.
This makes driving the 488 on track a sublime experience too. It will easily play the hooligan, as you’d expect from a car with vast amounts of power and torque, but driving it quickly is just as satisfying. Despite the forced induction engine, the throttle allows you such intimate control over the rear axle. You can push the tyres right to the point before they loose traction, and hold them there with minute movements of your right foot. Fast corners allow you to have the car balancing on the edge of grip with only small steering corrections, too.
Being able to brake harder on track, really push the front tyres into the tarmac, and the understeer that becomes apparent on the road doesn’t materialise on track. Heavy braking can cause a large degree of turn-in oversteer if your inputs are too blatant. Be patient and delicate instead, and you can use this quirk to make the 488 even more agile.