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Meet the 488 GTB — the soul of a Ferrari, without the wail

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 29 June 2015

By ANDRE LAM in Maranello, Italy
Pics by Roberto Carrer and Lorenzo Marcinno

THE 488 GTB with its turbocharged engine midships represents something of a paradigm change for Ferrari engineers whose traditional starting points were normally-aspirated V8s and V12s.

Ferrari has tried the mid-engine route before with legendary F40 (1987-1992) but we knew the writing was on the wall for its normally-aspirated V8s since last year’s turbo-enhanced California T.

But for the most part of this century, Ferrari’s normally-aspirated V8 and V12s reigned supreme, permanently etched into our memories. We came to this event to mourn the passing of Ferrari’s normally-aspirated V8s and with some trepidation of what the new twin-turbo V8 would bring.

Others will ask what’s the big deal since McLaren, Bugatti and Porsche have long been using turbos but is this really like comparing the extinction of the manual gearbox in favour of an automated one? What does a turbo have that a normally-aspirated V8 cannot deliver and more importantly is it really a big deal?

Let’s start with what the old engine cannot do. Normal aspiration cannot make significantly more power without more displacement and more fuel consumption (hence higher CO2 emissions).

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Ferrari was at the technological limits of power and fuel efficiency with their 127hp/litre 570hp V8 for the 458. Ferrari was thinking along the lines of a game-changer, a quantum leap (670 hp, 172 hp/Litre) without resorting to hybrid technology and this meant turbocharging was the way to go.

What the turbocharged motor had to do was match the old V8 for throttle response, power delivery progression and deliver the same spine chilling battle cry at 8000 rpm.

Pumping out a hundred more horses from 3.9 litres with turbocharging is a no-brainer. To reduce turbo lag is more difficult so the engineers specified super lightweight turbos with low friction ball bearings. However the real challenge was to match the breathing needed for 8000rpm at full power. This meant tiny turbos were out and large turbos were needed but which brought along the potential for increased lag.

Trying to keep the wail of the old engine also posed a difficult challenge as the turbos use up the exhaust shock wave energy to spin the turbos, diluting the sound.

What we found was that the sound of the 488 was different but no less entertaining — deeper, less shrill, but purposeful nonetheless.

The effort to reduce turbo lag has been far more successful. By carefully shaping the torque curve in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears to resemble that of a powerful normal aspirated engine has resulted in well-disguised turbo lag.

Power delivery is very close to a big capacity normally aspirated, high-revving V8 with the ability to spin to 8000 rpm (though it is still short of the 458’s incredible 9000 rpm).

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While culling the torque at low rpm has the effect of mimicking a normally-aspirated engine, it also presents less of a strain on the traction and stability control systems at low speeds.

The 488 GTB betters the 458 by nearly half a second, needing 3 seconds from 0-100 km/h and blazes past 200km/h in an amazing 8.3 seconds.

The 7-speed DCT which was the big news in the 458 is glossed over almost without fanfare but it does come with significant revisions.

Shift times of the control mechanism have been cut significantly to allow rapid multiple-downshifts to match its remarkable deceleration by sequentially dropping three or four gears in the short time needed by the marvelous carbon ceramic brakes to wipe away the car’s speed for a corner.

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In Race Mode the shift programme is also really good at reading the driver’s style to deliver perfect shift points during hard driving. More importantly, it has gained a small measure of refinement in Sport and indeed Wet Mode as well which makes for smoother progress in town driving.

The package comes together magically on the track where the massive power is delivered effectively through the excellent DCT gearbox and laid down by superlative Michelin Super Sport rubber.

But Ferrari is not just about going fast in a straight line — it needs to be quicker than anything in the corners. The 488 GTB is blessed with an aerodynamic package that maintains its clean looks but is pinned to the ground with downforce in excess of 200kg at 200 km/h.

Its latest Side Slip Control 2 and F1-Trac stability systems work their voodoo in such an invisible way, one is lulled into thinking all supercars are this stable and anyone wealthy enough ot own one could pilot the 488 GTB like a race driver.

It was not too long ago that anything that had over 400hp at the rear wheels was considered a “widow-maker” but even with 670hp the 488 GTB possesses greater poise than less powerful cars such as the F430.

Even their test pilots admit that they have to try hard with the stability system off to beat their own lap times set with Race Mode on as it is now the least intrusive of any system they have created yet remains safe enough for normal drivers (though advanced driver training is still highly recommended).

News that this Ferrari has a turbocharged engine really brings negative preconceptions that are going to be hard to shake off because for the longest time, Ferrari championed the normally aspirated cause.

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In reality it is the easiest thing to forgive because it hardly feels like a turbo engine and the leap in performance it brings, is simply phenomenal.

Couple that with an excellent chassis, the 488 GTB is a worthy replacement for the 458 – even if it is missing the long-loved Ferrari wail. It’s probably best not to think of the 488 GTB as a turbo at all.

Specifications:
Price: tba
Engine: 3902 cc, 32-valves, V8, twin turbo
Transmission: 7-Speed F-1 DCT
Power: 670hp at 8000rpm
Torque: 760Nm at 3000rpm (3rd gear)
0-100 km/h: 3.0 seconds
Top Speed: 330 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 11.4 litres/100km (combined) CO2 : 260 gm/km

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