This test car is 90% production ready – and 100% addictive
Ferrari wants to make the ultimate track-focused road-going supercar. Could the 488 Pista be it? We find out
The name says it all and aptly describes what this hardcore variant of the Ferrari 488 is all about.
‘Pista’ is the Italian word for ‘track’ and it’s on a track that the Ferrari 488 Pista has been developed to feel most at home.
And it doesn’t get more at home than Ferrari’s very own Pista di Fiorano in Maranello, which is where I’m spending an afternoon finding out how sharp a track tool the 488 Pista really is.
The Pista follows in the footsteps of its illustrious V8-powered predecessors, such as the 458 Speciale, 430 Scuderia and 360 Stradale, all developed and honed (at Fiorano) to be the finest driving machines of their day. The Pista, no doubt, has big shoes to fill and Ferrari isn’t holding back.
For starters, the Pista gets the most powerful V8 yet made by the Italian marque. The upgraded twin-turbocharged engine displaces the same 3902cc as the standard 488’s but it has undergone a raft of software and hardware changes that include a remapped ECU, a higher compression ratio (9.6:1), new pistons and higher-lift camshafts.
This shoves peak power up to a colossal 711bhp, a hefty increase over the 661bhp of the standard 488 GTB. Torque, too, is up by 7lb ft to 568lb ft but the headline figure is the power-to-weight ratio of 513bhp per tonne, a massive improvement over the 488 GTB and its 448bhp per tonne.
Up on power and down on weight like all the Ferrari track specials before it, the Pista is 90kg lighter than the 488 GTB, which in no small way contributes to a remarkable set of performance figures. Ferrari claims a 0-62mph time of 2.8sec and an even more impressive 0-124mph time of 7.6sec. That’s quick by any supercar standard and puts the Pista squarely up against its biggest rival: the McLaren 720S.
The Pista I’ve been handed is a pre-production prototype. It’s the reason it still wears camouflage, although I can’t understand why, especially since the car was unveiled to the world at the Geneva motor show in early March. Ferrari says these prototypes are 90% ready for production and all that’s left for the final engineering sign-off, before sales start in June, are a few minor tweaks to the engine calibration.
The interior is similar to the 488 GTB’s but with more Alcantara, leather and carbonfibre, although we’re not allowed to show you that in production form here, either.
It’s a pity the prototype disguise doesn’t allow us to see the Pista in all its beauty. The distinguishing fat stripe that runs from nose to tail is covered but you can’t miss the changes to the bodywork, which show the affect of additional wind tunnel work.
As well as those sophisticated aerodynamics, the Pista borrows several weight-saving measures from its 488 Challenge and 488 GTE racing siblings. The lightweight lithium battery has been carried over from the 488 Challenge as well as new 20in carbonfibre wheels, the first on a road-legal Ferrari.
However, Ferrari hasn’t embraced ultra-light carbonfibre construction whole-heartedly like McLaren and continues to use aluminium (better suited to higher production volumes) for even lightweight specials like the Pista. But to keep the weight down, there are quite a few carbonfibre panels, such as the front and rear bumpers, engine cover and rear spoiler. It may not be the lightest of track-oriented supercars but the Pista has lost weight where it counts and the unsprung mass is lower.
Lightening the engine not only contributes to the lower kerb weight of the car but also influences how the motor itself performs. Unsurprisingly, lightweight components from the 488 Challenge have made their way into the Pista’s V8 as well. Titanium con-rods and a lighter flywheel and crankshaft have cut the inertia of these rotating parts by 17% to make the motor even more responsive and faster-revving. There’s also an all-new exhaust system with longer and wider runners, made of Inconel alloy with a 1mm wall thickness. Again, this helps to reduce weight but it also affects the engine sound.
And what a sound it is. The engine note is much louder and has a sharper edge to it than the 488 GTB’s. Open the throttle and the throaty growl at low revs turns into an ear-splitting roar as the V8 catapults to the redline.
The engine is 8dB louder than before but Ferrari has worked on improving the sound quality as well. “We’ve focused on enhancing engine sound at higher frequencies,” says Vittorio Dini, head of powertrain at Ferrari.
The increased intensity of the engine sound has undoubtedly added to the Pista’s appeal but I still miss the soulful, high-pitched scream that made the 458’s naturally aspirated V8 motor so special, especially when it neared the 9000rpm rev limit. The limitations of forced induction don’t allow the Pista’s V8 to rev as high and it has the same 8000rpm ceiling as the 488 GTB.
The gearing is also unchanged. Typically, a more powerful and lighter car can accommodate taller ratios. However, Dini says: “We didn’t want to compromise the car’s response in any way by making the gearing taller.”
‘Response’ is a word that gets redefined when you drive the Pista. Off the line, it leaps forward with the tiniest flex of your right ankle and you can control the progressive throttle with millimetric precision. By artificially reducing torque in the lower gears and unleashing the full 568lb ft in seventh gear only, power is delivered with the linearity of a naturally aspirated engine. Turbo lag? If there was a whiff of it in the GTB, it has been completely snuffed out in the Pista.
Acceleration is simply brutal and it took me half a lap of Fiorano to adjust to the ferocity of the power.
It feels noticeably quicker than the GTB, especially in the mid-range, where the torque hits …read more