When you have a car that's as good as the Ferrari 458 was, it's easy to imagine all the things that could go wrong in developing its successor. Just heaping on more power would be the natural inclination, but blindly adding more oomph is a great way to ruin an equation.
Forced induction also seems like an inevitable next step, but slapping a couple of turbos onto one of the sweetest V8s ever produced could just as likely end in disaster.
In other words, you'd be forgiven for expecting the 488 GTB, Ferrari's 458 follow-up, to be something less than stellar. But, I'm very glad to report that is not the case. The 488 is everything you could want, nothing more, nothing less.
By and large, the 488 fits right in Ferrari's middleweight supercar design template, with a mid-mounted V8 driving the rear wheels plus seating for two in a package wrapped in low-slung and aggressively styled bodywork. It's a formula that's worked for 40 years now, and the new GTB doesn't break it.
But that's not to say the 488 doesn't change the variables. This time that V8 gets some help inhaling thanks to a pair of turbochargers, enabling the 3.9-liter engine to deliver 661 horsepower. That's very nearly 100 more than the 458, a car that nobody in their right mind said was slow.
That bodywork has been significantly refined as well. Though the cars look very similar, the 488 has 50 percent more downforce than the old 458, despite having less aerodynamic drag. Ferrari's designers used a series of tricks to pull that off, including ducting air from the massive fender vents through the rear of the car out between the rear tail-lights. An active rear diffuser that lowers at speed also helps keep things flowing.
And then there are the driving dynamics, all tied together by the most advanced electronics package this side of LaFerrari. That includes the latest Side Slip Control system, SSC2, tuned to more subtly intervene and keep you feeling like a professional while also keeping you out of the ditch. With this new version, SSC2 extends its reach into other systems in the car, able to tweak the electronic differential and the active dampers, meaning the GTB responds and adapts as a cohesive unit, helping you go faster.
Most importantly, you almost never feel it.
On road and track
While I tested the 488 on the road in a variety of conditions, my time on-track was almost entirely spent in the wet. This of course didn't help my lap times, but driving in the rain is an excellent way to really feel a car's balance. Since the limits are reduced, they're easier to find and exploit.
And when pressing the limits, the GTB's performance is spectacular. The car communicates available grip levels through the lightning-quick steering, quick enough that catching any unexpected sideways action from the tail under hard acceleration out of the chicanes was never a problem -- but still a thrill.
And then there's the power. At Lime Rock Park, a beautiful little bull ring of a circuit, I was easily doing more than 140 mph by the end of the front straight, and that's despite my taking the final, downhill sweeping turn with an ample amount of caution. That's remarkable for a roadcar on road tires and a wet track.
What's even more remarkable is how good it is as a roadcar. Most cars this capable on the track are a snooze on the road, but that laser-sharp steering is just as much of a delight at (near) legal speeds through twisty corners. And, while the engine is of course loud and fantastic, there's a distinct lack of unpleasant road noise in the 488 compared to other cars in this class. Thanks to that, and the adaptive dampers that provide a tolerable ride on the streets, the GTB is a surprisingly civilized way to get from A to B.
That's helped by a stellar cabin that is both comfortable and purposeful. Materials are top-shelf everywhere you can touch and see, and though it's all very minimalist, you'll not find anything wanting. Except, perhaps, if you're an Android user. Apple CarPlay is on offer here, something iPhone owners will surely appreciate, but Android Auto is nowhere to be found. That's about the only knock against the minimal but functional infotainment system. Active driver safety systems like adaptive cruise and lane keep assist are lacking, but given Ferraris didn't even have any cruise control until just a few years ago, that shouldn't exactly come as a surprise.
It's truly difficult to find a flaw with the Ferrari 488 GTB. This is the rare supercar that is as enjoyable to drive on the road as it is on the track. And, despite the copious amounts of extra power Ferrari has heaped on here, it never feels uncivilized.
However, all that polish will cost you. Starting price on a 488 GTB is just over $240,000, and as ever with cars like this, just a few ticks of the options box can and push that number way up. Our car, as configured, cost a cool $358,393. As ever with Ferraris you'll need to pay to play, but know that if you do you'll be receiving something truly special.