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Ferrari 488 engines, drive and performance

2016 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 5 out of 55.0

Written by Parkers Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

  • Phenomenal 670hp punch in the back
  • Rockets from 0-62mph in three seconds
  • Incredibly quick gearchanges

There’s no need to lament the fact there’s only one engine available for the Ferrari 488 because it’s an awe-inspiring powerplant, delivering relentless performance.

Turbocharged for power with a nod to efficiency

Downsizing’s arrived at Ferrari, just as it has everywhere else in the automotive industry, but keep a sense of perspective here because at 3.9 litres, this is still a large engine.

It’s such a work of mechanical art that Ferrari has ensured it’s constantly on display through the glazed engine cover behind the two-seater cabin. Here you can see its V8 cylinder configuration and the pair of turbochargers that help the GTB produce an astonishing 670hp at 8,000rpm. That’s not as high-revving – or as deep-sounding – as the 4.5-litre V8 in its predecessor, but it’s evocative enough to stir your soul every time you sink the throttle pedal against the bulkhead – an anthemic accompaniment to the speed at the 488’s disposal.

There’s a monumental 40 percent increase in peak torque to 760Nm from 3,000rpm, in part ensuring that the 488 will scorch from 0-62mph in just three seconds; standstill to 124mph takes just 8.3 seconds. Its top speed is a claimed 205mph, a figure we don’t doubt is entirely achievable.

It’s not just how much power there is which is astonishing, it’s the availability of it, at seemingly any speed in any gear, evidenced by Ferrari’s claim of class-leading throttle response times of just 0.8 seconds in third gear at 2,000rpm.

Turbo lag – the term given to the time lapse between flooring the throttle and the turbos delivering their surge of forced-induction grunt – is non-existent. It’s extraordinary in that it almost feels like a non-turbocharged car, with only their omnipresent whooshing reminding you of their presence. Does it feel as effortlessly linear as a naturally aspirated engine? No, but equally there are no uncouth step-changes in power delivery.

Racing car-style automatic transmission

Only one gearbox is on offer in the 488: a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. If you’re about to bemoan the lack of a traditional, open-gated manual, then don’t – this is a superb, race-honed transmission.

Left to its own self-shifting devices, up- and down-changes are both swift and smooth, but there’s a real joy to flicking the steering column-mounted paddles. Not only are they a tactile delight and positioned perfectly with a satisfying weight to their action, they allow you to access instantaneous performance by dropping a cog or two.

Gearchanges are eye-wideningly rapid, each marked by the briefest of lapses in the engine note before the the motor screams back up the rev range. It’s a clever system too, with torque increasing in each of the seven ratios as you blip through them.

So what of these efficiency claims? Ferrari’s done much to reduce friction and wastage in its new V8, reducing component mass wherever it was able – turbocharger components made from a titanium-aluminium alloy are just one example. Compared with the 458, claimed fuel efficiency’s only improved by 0.9mpg – hardly likely to inspire Greenpeace to write a congratulatory letter to Ferrari’s management.

  • Revised suspension delivers agility and composure
  • Electronics permit safe rear-end playfulness
  • Five driving modes and adaptive dampers

With 670hp being fed through the rear wheels, you need to respect the Ferrari 488 to make the most of its handling prowess. Do so and even the most mutton-mittened of drivers will be able to revel in the GTB’s talents.

Five driving modes

First up on the Ferrari trick list is the steering wheel-mounted – and F1-aping – Manettino switch allowing the driver to switch between five pre-ordained settings. Wet represents the 488 GTB in its safest form with all the electronics in their most watchful state of alertness, but it’s Sport where you’re likely to find yourself most of the time, the Ferrari feeling a little freer in its movement and responsiveness.

This can be dialled up further still in Race mode where the 488 becomes even more playful, thanks in a large part to Ferrari’s Slide Slip Control (SSC2). Here the car’s electronics actively encourage the rear end to slide wide, but in a controlled fashion, constantly taking measurements from the levels of traction, relative wheel speed on either side of the car and the demands upon the adaptive suspension. Not only will you look heroic power-sliding out of a corner, you’re doing it knowing the car’s still monitoring what you’re up to, ready to rein in the antics before it goes wrong.

The final two settings – CT Off (traction control turned off) and ESC Off (all remaining stability electronics powered down) are best reserved for on-track action and, even then, more appropriate for experienced drivers. You have been warned…

Improved adaptive suspension

We were impressed by how the previous 458 Speciale rode and handled, so it’s welcome that its suspension – albeit in enhanced form – is the standard offering in the 488.

Unsurprisingly, the ride is firm in its ordinary setting, yet manages not to be harsh. For many of Britain’s back roads you’ll need to switch it to what Ferrari amusingly calls “Bumpy Road”, permitting a much greater degree of compliance over uneven surfaces. You don’t get luxury saloon type bump absorption – you’d be disappointed if you did – but you will experience a level of damping sophistication that would be the envy of most other car companies.

Staggering cornering ability

How quickly the Ferrari 488 can tackle corners is astonishing, with grip aplenty from the 305mm-wide rear tyres in Wet and Sport mode. There’s nimbleness thanks to the steering having just two turns lock-to-lock, but it’s impressively communicative, relaying instantly how much bite the front end has as you press on. It’s all very reassuring.

Not only does the sophisticated suspension play a role in how well it navigates bends, ensuring body roll is kept to a minimum, the race-honed aerodynamics and downforce effectively suck the 488 GTB down to the road, further reducing the likelihood of it breaking away into a spin.

Impressive stopping power

Such extraordinary performance requires brakes that are more than a match and can slow the 488 down equally impressively. The standard-fit Brembo Extreme Design units certainly have a name that sounds appropriate and stopping distance some nine percent shorter than the 458 Italia back up the bold moniker.

Powerful brakes need to be complemented by the correct choice of rubber, with specially developed track-style Michelins fitted as original equipment.