Gone are the days when removing the roof from a supercar resulted in a wobbly mess due to too much power and not enough structural rigidity. Launch a supercar today and it’s expected that it needs to work equally well as a coupe or a convertible, or if we’re talking Ferrari, as a Spider.
Which goes a long way to explaining why the Ferrari 488 Pista Spider is, save for a tenth here and a gram there, pretty much on a par with the Pista coupe. It shares the same 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine, the aerodynamics are no less focused, its weight saving no less extreme, the driving experience equalling as enthralling.
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Engine, gearbox and 0-60 time
If you are familiar with the 488 Pista’s engine, the Spider’s holds no surprises. It’s the same F154CD twin-turbo V8 that shares 50 per cent of its components with the engine in the factory-built Challenge race cars, and it has an appetite for revs that rivals Honda’s greatest VTEC engines combined with the mountainous levels of torque expected from a turbocharged motor. How Ferrari has managed to make its V8 feel so un-turbo-like in its power and torque delivery remains one of the great automotive mysteries.
Peak power and torque are as per the Pista coupe, which means 710bhp produced at 8000rpm and 568lb ft of torque arriving at 3000rpm, resulting in a 2.9sec 0-62mph time and a 1min 21.5sec lap of Ferrari’s Fiorano test track. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is as per the Pista coupe’s unit, which means a gearshift strategy both up and down the ‘box that’s quicker than the human brain can measure.
Aerodynamics. No modern supercar can live without a considerable period of its development time being spent in a wind tunnel. The 488 Pista Spider is no different. It has a 20 per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency over a regular 488 Spider courtesy of new active aero under the rear of the car and the latest development of the 488’s blown rear spoiler. As with the coupe the Spider’s radiators have also been repositioned to improve cooling efficiency and reduce drag, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in their cooling abilities. As for the hot air generated, that’s disposed off in a downward direction to create a ‘virtual fairing’ ahead of the front wheels, further reducing drag. The engine’s air intakes have also been relocated to the rear spoiler, which is both 30mm higher and 40mm longer.
There’s a full suite of driving modes available via the manettino dial on the steering wheel, with Sport the default setting. Ceramic brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s are also standard, as well as recalibrated active dampers and ten per cent stiffer springs.
What’s it like to drive?
In every sense much like a 488 Pista coupe: visceral, confidence inspiring, exhilarating when you let that V8 off its leash, rewarding when you tie it all together and let it flow along a road. Don’t drag it kicking and screaming: savour the alertness of its steering, enjoy the suppleness of its chassis on badly cracked roads, its sharpness when the surface smoothes out. Work to the grip of the Cup 2s and the strength of those phenomenal brakes that are some of the best carbon-ceramics you can experience and the Pista Spider demonstrates why Ferrari’s mid-engined game is so strong.
With the roof open there is no recognisable increase to the soundtrack’s depth or character, it’s predominantly whistles from the engine intake and the turbos’ wastegates and engineered-in pops from the exhaust on the overrun. But that sensation of rushing around an Italian hillside (any hillside will do, in fact, as long as the rain holds off) in an open-topped Ferrari that isn’t a Portofino remains one of motoring’s greatest pleasures.
But don’t mistake the 488 Pista Spider as a softer option than the Pista, because the performance is no less savage than that of its coupe counterpart, with full throttle in the first four gears enough to give the Cup 2 a serious workout, and the last three gears requiring serious commitment and a rather blasé attitude to retaining your licence. It’s not McLaren 720S or 600LT savage, but it demands an equal level of respect.
Price and rivals
£278,850 gets you a seat at the table, while options will most likely add an additional £50,000 to that price. This makes McLaren’s 600LT Spider a relative bargain at £201,500, and even the 720S Spider undercuts it at £237,300.