Originally published June 24, 2015
Maranello, Italy – It’s not easy to replace a highly regarded lust machine on wheels like the Ferrari 458 Italia. Even five years after the mid-engine sports car’s launch, it still elicits wide admiration – and perhaps a touch of drool – from owners, seasoned auto reviewers and onlookers alike that have experienced its Formula 1–inspired banshee wail.
Okay, perhaps some of those onlookers with fingers in their ears were not quite that impressed. But for anyone inside the 458, that 9,000 rpm metallic aria belted out just behind your ears could very well be amongst the most addictive sounds in the auto universe.
But just as modern Formula 1 race cars have been downsized and somewhat muffled by smaller yet more powerful engines, so goes the transformation from 458 to the new 488 GTB. Landing in sweltering 39 degree Celsius late spring temperatures at Ferrari’s factory and headquarters in Maranello, we’re here to experience just how much it has changed from behind the wheel, both on urban roads and the canyons around Modena, as well as on Ferrari’s Fiorano test track.
But before laying hands on the car, first the assembled media folks are ushered into a room for a detailed technical briefing all about the GTB, fleshing out the teasingly limited information presented at this car’s public debut earlier this year at the Geneva auto show. The new twin-turbocharged engine with smaller overall displacement is the obvious main news, its first mid-engine turbocharged model since the range-topping 1988 F40. This engine is similar in displacement and layout to the one in the California T, but with more advanced and performance-oriented materials than its front-engined and much less powerful cousin.
Similar dimensions, all-new aero tricks with familiar cues
The body features some new technical tricks as well, on top of providing sharpened, aero-sculpted surfaces marked most clearly by the aggressively larger nostrils up front, and the pinched, Coke-bottle waist that leads up visually to a bisected air intake in front of each rear wheel. That bisected strake in our tester was done up in carbon-fibre, which to these eyes brought to mind the black strakes of the mid-1980s Ferrari Testarossa and the 348 that followed.
Those trick active aerodynamic black “moustaches” at the front of the 458 that lowered at high speed have disappeared, in favour of an all-new double front wing and “Aero Pillar”. The double wing’s upper section helps channel airflow to the radiator, while the larger lower lip increases the aerodynamic vortices that help create low pressure and therefore downforce suction at speed. And of course, stylistically, the new more aggressive front end resembles to the double stanchions of an F1 car’s front nose.