Certainly not everyone is destined to own a vehicle displaying the highly recognizable and prized Ferrari “Prancing Horse” shield for many reasons – the two primary issues being that their production is quite limited, and they are also quite expensive, putting them out of reach for the average consumer. I had personally never wanted to own a late model Ferrari, that is until having experienced the joy of piloting several examples, the latest of which was the 2017 Ferrari 488 Spider.
Last year, I had the opportunity to review the Ferrari 488 GTB, successor to the 458 Italia, which falls into the super coupe category. It was, and is, a fabulous and impressive representation of automobilia exotica. What super car on this level could possibly be better? Enter the 488 Spider – a retractable drop top Ferrari that transforms from coupe to two-seat roadster and back in a mere 14 seconds each way. Ferrari points out that the retractable hardtop weighs 55 pounds less than an equivalent soft top would.
When one mentions the name Ferrari in an automotive conversation, no one questions the mystique and legend associated with the iconic marque. It is immediately recognized and revered. Its rich racing history brings to mind vivid images of speed and power. The company name comes from founder Enzo Ferrari, who earlier established the Scuderia Ferrari in 1929, a company whose purpose was to race Alfa Romeos until 1938, engaged in the manufacture of machinery during World War II. Enzo didn’t actually build the first Ferrari automobile, the 125 Sport – a 1500 cc 12-cylinder car which Franco Cortese debuted on the Piacenza circuit on May 11, 1947, and two weeks later drove to victory in the Rome Grand Prix. Since their first win, Ferrari’s racing craft with the Prancing Horse symbol has enjoyed thousands of successful forays in track and road races globally, building the exclusive and legendary status that the company enjoys today.
Many individuals have never aspired to own a Ferrari, but they are more often than not, souls who have never experienced what Ferraris have to offer in terms of exclusive and elegant motoring. Even simply sitting in a Ferrari is likely to instantly alter one’s perspective. Ferraris are indeed legendary automobiles, an iconic representation of what a super sports car can and should be. Modern Ferraris are divided into two distinct categories – sport and touring. Other smaller sub categories are extreme Grand Touring Ferraris and race model Ferraris, although any and all Ferraris are race capable.
Like other sports cars that play in the supercar arena, the 488 GTB and 488 Spider have moved from normally aspirated propulsion, as found in the 458 Italia, to turbocharging – actually, to be more precise, twin turbocharging. The power source is a mid-mounted 3.9-liter (3902 cc) 90-degree twin turbocharged V8 engine that cranks out a very healthy 661 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, while also developing 561 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm in seventh gear. The 488 Spider roars from 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 203 mph.
The car’s motive force reaches the rear wheels via a seven-speed F1 dual-clutch transmission (sans clutch pedal) with column mounted paddle shifters. Reverse is activated by a button positioned in the center console.
Describing the visual impact that the 488 Spider delivers to one’s senses is synonymous with describing a super model – both display graceful and alluring curves and contours, and both are drop dead gorgeous and possess a high degree of sexiness. The car is a work of art that nearly defies verbalization. Its emotionally stirring and elegant styling is also purposeful, having been executed to satisfy specific functional needs. Starting up front, the nose directs airflow to the underbody, with the dual-profile front spoiler increasing the effectiveness of the radiators. The headlight assemblies are set into the fenders outside the contoured bonnet cover and contain projector beams as well as LED lighting. A small square Ferrari badge appears above the front fascia and just below the front hood line vent.
The 488 Spider’s profile displays a ground-hugging stance with the pronounced front fenders rising above the primary hood surface and reaching back to the integrated rear fender, spoiler lip and taillight assembly. Large sculpted side air intakes begin in the door and move back into the fender line, scooping and directing cooling air into the engine bay. The sharply angled windscreen meets the roof, which is followed by speedster-like headrest fairings, divided by the large, flat engine cover, flanked by cooling vents, just ahead of the ‘blown’ rear spoiler, that uses the difference between low- and high-pressure surfaces, enhancing downforce without inducing added drag, working in conjunction rear diffuser, which features active flaps to increase its effectiveness at higher speeds.
There are also vents inboard of the new taillights that aid in the cooling of the radiators for the transmission and differential, in addition to getting rid of turbulent, drag-increasing air from the car’s rear. The wheel wells are tight around the five-twin-spoke light alloy wheels shod with staggered width 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport high performance tires. Iconic Prancing Horse Scuderia Ferrari shields appear at the trailing edge of the front fenders and a chrome Prancing Horse symbol is centered just below the rear spoiler.
According to Ferrari, the 488 GTB and 488 Spider produce 50 percent more downforce than the 458 Italia, while generating less drag. The rear image of the car is one of exceptional width, skillfully incorporating all of the functional elements in an artful form. There are lower vents outboard of the split dual exhaust that are positioned just above the vertically straked rear diffuser, with a centered vertical rectangular box containing 12 individual LED circular lights that serve as a rear fog light, inspired by F1 rear brake lights.
Entering the carbon fiber laden cockpit, the exterior’s elegance continues with refined attention to detail, fit and finish. Controls and switchgear are driver focused and the sport seats are works of art in and of themselves, while providing form-fitting and supportive comfort. The three-spoke steering wheel, executed in carbon fiber and leather, serves as the car’s command center, containing controls for the directional signals, horn buttons depressed and embossed into the leather, headlight flash button, damper control for “Bumpy Roads,” wiper controls, engine start/stop button and the Manettino dial for selecting various control modes – from left to right: Wet; Sport; Race; CT Off; and ESC Off. Two driver information displays flank the tachometer, with other control buttons and switches positioned on the outer edges of the IP cowl and center console.
My test 2017 Ferrari 488 Spider arrived from the City of Angels in the rain, via a closed trailer with a Blu Corsa metallic exterior (a brilliant electric tone) and a Nero leather interior trimmed with contrasting Filo Speciale Blu Medio accents and double stitching. The base price was set at $272,700. Optional features and equipment elevated the final tally to $392,784. – nearly $40,000 more than the 488 GTB example that I reviewed last year. Options included the AFS System, aluminum brake calipers, carbon fibre driver zone +LEDS, a carbon fibre central bridge, exterior sill kick plate in carbon, carbon fibre dashboard inserts, Daytona style seats, Ferrari Telemetry, the suspension lifter, horse stitched on headrests, colored mats with logo, High Emotion Low Emission, Scuderia Ferrari shields, front and rear parking cameras, front and rear parking sensors, Passenger speed display, Sport sill cover, special exterior paint color, 20-inch forged – painted alloy wheels, white rev counter, fully adjustable electric seats, Premium HiFi system, colored special stitching, Michelin Hi-Performance tires and upper part in colored leather.
Piloting the 2017 Ferrari 488 Spider delivers an enlightening and exhilarating experience once inside, with the top up or down. It is, by the way, truly like flying. Ingress and egress are less-than-graceful exercises for taller individuals with long legs, especially with the top up, due to the car’s low height. There are a few things to know before taking off, such as how to start the engine, how to engage forward gears, which mode to set and how, and more.
The Race mode proved to be the most rewarding in terms of performance – throttle and shift mapping, exhaust note and damping are all enhanced. CT Off, second to the right on the Manettino dial turns off traction control, while leaving electronic stability control in place will only intervene at very high thresholds. ESC Off eliminates all stability control except ABS. A more docile operation is delivered in the Sport mode.
Gear changes are executed with the F1 steering column mounted paddle shifters, or one may select a fully automatic mode via a button mounted in a separate control panel mounted in the center console. Located in the same panel is the button for reverse gear as well as a Launch button for Launch Control, which I didn’t engage for lack of a proper scenario and location.
The 488 Spider also features Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control system, which allows sliding the car around, with the comfort in knowing that an electronic safety feature still exists. The new system works in conjunction with the active dampers, the E-Diff and the F1-Trak traction control system, enhancing not only the car’s stability, but also the driver’s confidence.
Nail the throttle in Race mode, and acceleration is blistering in automatic mode, rapidly and smoothly shifting through the gears. Steering is spot on and responsive and braking is stellar.
In the final analysis, while the Ferrari 488 GTB Coupe is a force to be reckoned with, that is better looking and exceeds the capabilities of the 458 Italia, (which is still a highly desirable automobile). What could possibly be better? The 488 Spider of course, with its retractable hardtop, the same elegant styling cues and the same capable super performance. In my opinion, the best Ferraris are two-seat open cars, and the 488 Spider is a superb example.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Ferrari 488 Spider
Base Price: $272,700.
Price as Tested: $392,784.
Engine Type and Size: 3.9-liter 3902 cc (238.1 cu. in.) DOHC, 32-valve twin turbo-charged, dry sump V8
Horsepower (bhp): 661 @ 8,000 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 561 @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: Seven speed F1 dual clutch automatic with paddle
Drive Train: Mid-mounted engine / Rear-Wheel Drive.
Suspension: Front – Double wishbone with adjustable magnetorheological shocks.
Rear – Multilink with adjustable magnetorheological dampers.
Brakes: Power-assisted Brembo extreme design braking system – four-wheel Carbon Ceramic CCM3 vented discs, Front=15.7 x 8.8 x 1.4-inch with 6-piston calipers / Rear=14.2 x 9.2 x 1.3-inch with 4-piston calipers and ABS, EBD with Ferrari Pre-Fill, F1 Traction Control, E-Diff3, FrS SCM-E and SSC.
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport245/35 ZR20x9” front / 305/30 ZR20x11 mounted on 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length Overall: 179.8 inches
Width: 76.9 inches
Height: 47.7 inches
Curb Weight: 3,362 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 22.7 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 15 mpg city / 22 mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: Not listed but extremely aerodynamic.
0 – 62 mph: 3.0 seconds – Top speed: 203 mph.