Stuart Moir got even more than he bargained for when he took the Ferrari 488 GTB for a spin
Driving down one of the busiest streets in Joburg, in what is undoubtedly the most beautiful car on the road, ticks another item off my test-drive bucket list. But bucket-list dreams are easily realised in the Ferrari 488 GTB. The flashy, rosso corsa (racing red) silhouette quietly trots along the tarmac, until finally the traffic frees up and I can unleash this prancing horse into a thundering gallop, courtesy of a gentle press on the accelerator pedal. Of course, the bystanders can’t help but whistle and wave.
The smile on my face only grows bigger with every rev of the 3.9ℓ, turbocharged V8, and the harmonious exhaust tone seems to whip the watching crowd into an even greater frenzy as I gallop off on to the highway…
Let me go back to the beginning.
My experience of the 488 GTB actually began a few hours ago, when I arrived at Scuderia South Africa, eager to put the new model to the test. The sun was just cresting the buildings and the clear sky spelled good things to come.
Few things in the world can compare to the aesthetic splendour of a Ferrari, and the 488 is no exception. Eye-catchingly beautiful, it was designed by the Ferrari Style Centre and is something completely new for the brand. Strong, sculptured lines accentuate this model’s sportiness, while it retains the classic design elements that’ve made the marque an icon. It’s only after taking a slow, appreciative walk around the stunning vehicle that you begin to understand just how elegant the design really is. Every carefully sculpted wing and groove play their part in making this machine revolutionary.
I was seated next to the instructor in the low-slung 488 as he briefed me on the specs, highlighting the crucial elements. To be honest, I wasn’t really listening. I was transfixed by the beauty of the interior. The detailed red stitching, the sloping air vents and textured finish are all flawless. Thankfully, my ears are trained to pick up certain words, such as ‘very fast’ and ‘life-changing experience’.
Briefing complete, I was finally free to enjoy the Ferrari at my own pace. I gently pressed the red start button on the steering wheel and flicked the paddle shift to select first gear. Suddenly, I was in control of one of the most powerful and progressive supercars in the world.
I exited the boomed area slowly, before turning the corner and sending the red flare down the road. The instructor wasn’t exaggerating, the 488 GTB is super-quick! Zero to 100 km/h in three seconds – and it can hit a top speed of about 330 km/h.
An exuberant performance that’s fully exploitable, regardless of driving conditions, is guaranteed. The 488 GTB’s personality is perfectly represented by the seductive, deep soundtrack – the signature of all Ferrari engines. In fact, the designers and engineers have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that the distinctive exhaust tone is present in this car.
The speeds are impressive, but more impressive is how the car responds to inputs. The seven-speed F1 dual-clutch gearbox is sublime and every gear change results in a glorious gargle from the exhausts before powering me forward at even greater speeds.
The updated version of the Side Slip Control system, besides integrating with the vehicle’s F1-Trac and E-Diff, now also controls its dynamic behaviour during complex manoeuvres, creating a more stable drive, even for non-professionals.
A combination of sophistication and pure brute force: few words can describe the experience of piloting such a machine. I’m having the time of my life, interacting and feeling the car’s capable dynamics. But, no matter how hard I push, trying to find the limit, the 488 GTB seems to have more to offer.
Sport mode is fun, dynamic and tame – well, as tame as a Ferrari can be. I decide to flick over to Race mode, freeing up the mechanics slightly and allowing the engine to hold higher revs for longer.
It’s like awakening a sleeping monster – the Ferrari dials it up a notch, becoming somehow even more responsive. I can hear thunder; see the sky darkening, three bolts of lightning in the distance. Then silence, disturbed only by the growl of the 488 as I rev the fuel-thirsty V8 motor engine.
The rear tyres squeal as I pull the car around, each desperately trying to find grip for the 492 kW/760 Nm powertrain. Helping to stop the onslaught of power is the traction control, which is working overtime until the Ferrari pulls off the line and I’m racing against the clock trying to get this stallion back to its stable before the notorious highveld storm can do it any harm.
The first drops of rain begin to hit the windscreen, but thankfully I am almost back at Scuderia, where I reluctantly hand over the keys and bid goodbye to the car of my dreams.