I recently had the opportunity to drive the new Ferrari 488 Spider, which is one of the very best cars I’ve ever driven. Then again, it had better be, considering the one I drove had a sticker price of $350,000.
Yes, you heard right: Someone entrusted me with a brand-new $350,000 Ferrari. That someone was Barry Habib, an entrepreneur and professional speaker located in New Jersey, who handed me the keys and told me to enjoy. When I used those keys to start the car, I noticed the mileage reading had not yet crossed 300. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a trusting individual.
And so now we must discuss the Ferrari.
Although my attached video gets into all the quirks before I talk about the driving experience, the thing that mainly won me over, in terms of the 488 Spider, was the driving experience. Superlatives don’t even begin to cover it: The way this car drives is virtually unmatched by any vehicle I’ve ever driven in my entire life, period.
Acceleration is the 488 Spider’s most immediately obvious benefit. This car makes 660 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque, and it does zero to 60 in around 3 seconds. But acceleration is about more than sheer numbers: The 488 Spider’s power delivery is unbelievably, wildly, hilariously thrilling. There’s a lot of power from the beginning, and then more, and then more, and then in the span of a few tenths of a second, you’re thrust forward like a rocket ship.
After you’ve floored the accelerator in a 488 Spider for a couple of seconds, you can’t help but breathe heavily. Your senses are heightened, your body is on alert, and you feel like you’ve just ridden a roller coaster. Then you do it again, because why wouldn’t you?
But I was expecting the 488 Spider to be fast. What I wasn’t expecting was the power to feel so natural, so linear and perfectly delivered. Here’s what I mean: When the 458 Italia gave way to the 488, Ferrari purists lined up to shout about how the 458 was the “end of an era” of naturally aspirated Ferrari models, since the 488 is turbocharged. I, too, assumed adding a turbocharger would change, if not harm, the character of these cars.
I was wrong.
Modern turbocharging technology has come a long way since the “slow… slow… slow… then FAST FAST FAST!!!” world of 1980s turbocharged cars like the Dodge Omni GLH and Ferrari F40. This car has been engineered quite brilliantly, with the turbocharger delivering power exactly as you’d expect, and precisely when you’d want it. The turbocharger won’t randomly activate midcorner and send you into a tree, like a 1980s 911 Turbo. It doesn’t make the driving experience more dangerous, but rather enhances it. After driving this car, I can now confidently say I was wrong and the purists have nothing to worry about: I prefer the turbocharged future to the earlier naturally aspirated Ferrari models.
But, of course, the 488 isn’t all about acceleration — though that’s the car’s biggest difference over the 458. The 488 also boasts obscenely precise handling with practically zero body roll, to the point where you really have to start wondering how they did it. (Then you remember the car’s MSRP is $350,000.) Few cars feel more stable and more capable around corners than this one — and with just a few minutes in this car, you start to feel like a professional.
When you compare the 488 to the Huracan, however, I think the Lamborghini has one advantage: Its steering is just a little quicker. This gives the Huracan a slightly twitchier feel when you’re on the highway, but it also helps the Lamborghini feel like a smaller, more tossable car. The 488’s slightly slower steering rack means you feel a little more planted and stable on long straightaways — but you don’t quite feel like you do in the Lamborghini, where you can point it anywhere, at any speed, and it will follow. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Beyond the driving experience, the 488 Spider has a lot of memorable features and gadgets, all of which are outlined in the video. My favorite items are the “pit speed” button, which allows you to set a maximum speed limit when you’re on pit row at a track event, the screen on the passenger side that gives various vehicle readouts, and the window behind the seats that rolls down. It’s ostensibly for air flow, but let’s be honest: You use it to hear the exhaust. Also, it pains me to imagine that anyone could order this car without the little LED lights in the steering wheel that activate as you climb through the rev range, almost encouraging you to keep the throttle pinned down.
I’m still on the fence about whether the Ferrari 488 Spider is the single best car I’ve ever driven, or simply among the best — but it’s certainly on the list. More importantly, when you combine the acceleration, the handling, the cool features, the new gadgets, the look, the brand name, and simply the experience of Ferrari ownership, I believe the 488 Spider is absolutely worth every dollar of its massive asking price — to a larger extent than the vast majority of cars I’ve ever driven.
Also published on Medium.