The all-new Ferrari 488 Pista is the most powerful V8 in the Prancing Horse's history. And that's quite something, if you consider that it has built its fair share of powerful V8-engined cars in the past. Ferrari's first hypercar - the F40 of 1987 (also the last car developed under the watchful eye of Enzo Ferrari before he died in 1988) had a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that produced 478 bhp. At the time, conventional wisdom suggested that cars would never get any faster. Conventional wisdom - as is so often the case - was mistaken. In 2003, the 360 Challenge Stradale had 420 bhp. In 2007, the F430 Scuderia had 500 bhp. In 2013, the 458 Speciale had 600 bhp. And now the 488 Pista with its 3.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 generates a scarcely believable 711 bhp and 770 Nm of torque. That's an additional 50 bhp and 10 Nm when compared with the 488 GTB. Clearly, this is a car for those of you who demand that little bit extra! 0-100 kmph takes just 2.85 seconds - versus 3 seconds in the 488 GTB. In 7.6 seconds, you'll see 200 kmph come up on the speedo. Suffice to say, this is a fast car! Well, it does have the word 'track' in its name, since Pista means track in Italian.
Ferrari put the 488 on a strict diet to produce the Pista - yielding a weight savings of as much as 90 kilograms. The engineers have saved 18 kilos in the engine alone. The Pista takes great inspiration from Ferrari's tin-top racers - the 488 GTE that competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Ferrari Challenge contender that takes part in their one-make series. For additional weight saving, the Pista gets a carbon fibre bonnet and bumper. Like the GTE, it also gets a lithium battery. There is an optional set of beautiful carbon fibre rims that yield further weight savings. These wheels even have a special aerospace coating on the inside to dissipate the heat from the wheel wells that's generated during braking. The 488 Pista also gets a carbon fibre spoiler, a carbon fibre rear bumper and diffuser. The engine gets 50 per cent new components, despite the fact that the 488 GTB motor has won the International Engine of the Year award in both 2016 and 2017. Well, this motor has since claimed the 2018 title as well.
he engine air intakes have been shifted from the rear fenders to the rear spoiler area. As a result, the plenum volume has been reduced and the runner length has been shortened, which has made the intake more compact and efficient. The connecting rods are now titanium, and other engine internals, such as the flywheel and crankshaft have been lightened as well. This not only results in more power and less weight, but also a faster revving motor too. And boy does it rev fast! The manifold of the exhaust is also race car-like and is made of Inconel pipes, rather than cast iron like in the GTB. This not only unlocks more power and reduces weight, but it also leads to a better exhaust note.
The only giveaway that this is a turbocharged motor from the driver's seat is the spooling of the turbos that you hear under acceleration. Otherwise, Ferrari's variable torque management does its job perfectly and ensures that this feels like a naturally aspirated motor. It gives you constantly increasing acceleration in each subsequent gear. Max torque is achieved at 3000 rpm in 7th gear. Max power is reached at the 8000 rpm redline. Let's just say that power is always available instantly, and it's there all the way to the redline. In fact, it builds so fast that I even hit the redline when we finally made it to the Fiorano test track. The only match for the motor, fortunately, comes by way of the transmission. In this tune, this 7-speed dual-clutch 'box feels like the best gearbox on the planet at the moment. It's just so responsive that it's almost telepathic. You just have to think about a gear change, and it's there. And I love the huge paddles that are fixed to either side of the steering column. It's a good thing that they're as accessible as they are, because you find yourself reaching for them more often than not. You see, under acceleration, the motor builds revs so fast that the right paddle comes to great use. While, conversely, under braking, it stops with even greater urgency - so, more often than not, you're banging down the gears via the left paddle under braking.
The brake servo has been taken from the racecar parts bin as well, because of which the brake pedal is firm and has limited travel as well. But, at the same time, it's also progressive. The overall grip levels are so high, that it's only under heavy braking that you get some sense of the ultimate traction provided by the Michelin tyres. It took two years of development for Michelin and Ferrari to perfect these Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which have been developed specifically for this model. The huge tread block on the shoulders of the tyres make them appear almost like semi-slick racing tyres. But the engineers from Michelin claim that the grip in the wet hasn't been compromised, since they've developed a new tyre compound that enhances both grip and stability - thereby ensuring that the tyre can evacuate water when need be.
Well, we were about to find out - the hard way! After cruising through the towns and villages around the Ferrari factory, as well as putting the Pista through its paces in the hills around Maranello, it was finally time to head to the track. Before we get to the track, we have to mention the amount of work that's been undertaken on the aerodynamic development of this car. The engineers not only had to generate extra downforce, but they also had to tackle the additional drag that goes along with it in order to maintain and improve overall aero efficiency.
The radiators in the Ferrari 488 Pista are raked rearwards like in the WEC racecar
Of course, the first thing that strikes you when you look at the Pista is the rather prominent S-duct in the front. This is a Ferrari patented technology that's derived from Formula 1, and this is its first application on a road car. At the front of the car, there's a small wing that creates a low-pressure area and accelerates the flow into the duct. This then flows over the top of the bonnet and onto the front of the car - yielding greater downforce in the front, with no additional drag. The Pista also has two large radiator openings in the front. Now the radiators in the 488 GTB are placed facing forward, while in the Pista they're raked rearwards - as they are in the WEC racecar. As a result, cooling efficiency is improved by 10 per cent. But, more than that, there are power gains to be had since the hot air flowing from the radiators no longer enters the intercooler intake on the top of the rear fenders. Better thermal management, in fact, leads to up to an incredible 20 per cent of the 50 bhp gain over the GTB. The huge diffuser at the back is taken from the racecar as well. It gets active aero too, with three movable flaps that stall the diffuser to limit drag at low speeds. While at speeds over 120 kmph, or under load, the diffuser is activated to generate additional downforce.
But, what happens when you finally hit the track? The track session started with two laps as a passenger with the very unassuming Ferrari test driver - Raffaele De Simone. Now, I've been fortunate to have been in many fast cars with plenty of very talented drivers, but this was something else. Under acceleration, my heart felt like it would leap out from my chest cavity. Even though we had pushed it on the road somewhat, on the track the acceleration, braking, and the grip, it all takes you by surprise. Rafa, of course, couldn't help himself from demonstrating Ferrari's newest party trick - FDE, or Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer. In CT-Off, the system kicks in so that you can be a hero. Unlike a regular ESC system that engages as soon as it detects slip, by cutting power, or by using the brakes, or by doing both - which, of course, slows you down in the process - FDE activates progressively and earlier, allowing you to heroically powerslide out of corners without feeling like it's cut in at all. It almost has the effect of modulating the throttle for you - but in a subtle enough manner that it goes almost undetected and it maximises your exit speed. Naturally, however, if you get in over your head, it'll kick in to keep you quite aggressive to ensure you remain on the straight and narrow.
After Rafa's demo, it was finally my turn to head out onto the track. But, nature had other plans - as thick black clouds came rolling in from the mountains. The heavens opened virtually as I pulled out of the pits. So, with heart and wipers both racing, I made my way onto the track - hopeful that the Michelin engineers were right about the wet grip being intact. By the time I completed my out lap, it was a torrential downpour! I stayed away from the white lines and kerbs, since the painted surfaces tend to be the slipperiest in the wet. My confidence built slowly, until I got to the back section of the track that is. I overshot the apex at the hairpin, and as I tried to put the power down almost aquaplaned off the road in a straight line - we were now virtually swimming. As I exited the last corner, and attempted to put the power down again, the tyres - new compound or not - were totally helpless.
The rear snapped. An arm-full of opposite lock got it swinging back the right way, but as I was preparing to catch it from becoming a proper pendulum, the electronics kicked in and just sorted it all out as though it had never happened. Of course, I was both amazed and relieved to say the least. The next lap was no better, and I decided to call it quits - hoping that the sun would shine again and I could have another go. Fortunately, the rain stopped and I got my pair of laps in the dry - and, boy, what a couple of laps they were. Of course, I was still being cautious, but I managed to push just enough to be able to revel in the speed, grip and composure of the Pista. One of Ferrari's aims when developing the Pista was to ensure that it's easy to push to the limit. Well, it appears that this objective has been well and truly achieved. Speed is just there, anytime you want it. And so is composure and predictability, in a way that very few other machines have.
The Pista genuinely does feel like a racecar for the road. But it's also usable and refined. Sure, they've gone to some lengths to save weight - they've even removed the glovebox - and they've added a set of hip-hugging seats and four-point harnesses to hold you firmly in place, but, at the same time, it's extremely enjoyable on the road as well. If, in the past, I've complained that modern supercars are too clinical, I take it back. Sure, the Pista too is clinical, but it's so incredibly fast that it makes it all worth it. More than that, it doesn't isolate you from the driving experience, it involves you - it flatters you. The biggest problem with the Pista is that once you've driven it there's simply no going back. It's hard to imagine a machine being more precisely or better engineered than this. So is this, then, the best car I've ever driven? Well, I'm afraid so! There's nothing left to say, then, is there? Other than the fact that the Pista will run you 4.91 crores when it's launched in India in November. So, you better reach deep into your hip pocket - if you want to have anything at all to do with the pinnacle of the motor car as we know it, that is!