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Car reviews - Ferrari - 488 - Spider

Our Opinion

We like
Stunning looks, monumental performance, decent storage space, serene top-down cabin
Room for improvement
Viciously expensive options

26 Sep 2016

BEFORE flipping the 488 Spider’s lid and going for a blast in one of the most eagerly awaited convertibles this decade, let’s get the ugly subject of money out of the way.

Officially, the model costs $526,888 before on-road costs, which is already a lot of cash for a car in this segment when you consider that Lamborghini will sell you the soft-top version of the Huracan for $470,800, McLaren will put a 650S convertible on your driveway for $511,000 and the Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is $477,700.

Then you get stuck into the frankly outrageous options list as someone had with our test car adding items such as a different wheel design for $13,240, a snazzier stereo – that’ll be $10,450, a $9200 carbon-fibre steering wheel and, the most ridiculous of all, Rosso Corsa Metallizzato paint for a whopping $22,000.

That’s right, Ferrari is charging the cost of a Honda Civic for the metallic version of its signature colour. Does that seem a little hard to stomach?With all of the options tallied up, our car racked up a frightening subtotal of $639,938, ballooning the on-road final figure to $674,158. Driveaway price? More like a stagger-away price.

But do you know what? While the Ferrari 488 Spider does everything extremely well, easily its most impressive quality is the way it makes you completely forget about the price.

First of all there is the way it looks. In a word the Ferrari is enchanting but when you get its top off the 488 Spider is downright nubile.

We would love to give you a comprehensive review of what the cabin is like for extended cruising trips and how effectively the folding panel roof insulates against noise, but such is the pleasure of piloting the 488 roof-open that we spent almost the whole day alfresco.

The tin-top is an impressive piece of engineering in itself and it is hard to work out exactly where it folds away, and for the short time we spent with it closed, the roof does provide a cosy cabin and eliminates a minimal amount of apparent scuttle shake when the roof is open.

We have only experienced the 488 GTB on a racing circuit when we tested a set of Pirelli P Zero rubber to destruction at Estoril earlier this year, so it is hard to compare the coupe to its convertible cousin on the road.

However, we firmly believe Ferrari’s claim that the Spider has lost none of the stiffness of the GTB’s chassis by dissecting its roof.

Cornering at warp speed cannot upset the convertible’s rock-solid composure and fills the driver with the confidence to fully appreciate the divine chassis, lightening steering response and talon-like grip.

The 488 Spider is beautifully agile but it is not all chassis and no substance.

Its party piece sits behind the seats and has a pair of turbos bolted to it.

Clever engineering and electronics have virtually eliminated turbo lag but a wonderful loud whistle reminds you that the pair of turbines are nestled in there – as does the sensation of nearly 500kW smashing you in the back with unbelievable force.

We absolutely love Ferrari’s Variable Torque Management which limits peak torque in lower gears but progressively opens the taps in higher cogs for a more linear acceleration. The system is immensely effective and creates the illusion of limitless power.

Keep your foot buried and keep hauling on the right shift paddle and the 488 accelerates with the same savagery in every gear, rather the anticlimactic feeling of running out of puff that cars can exhibit without the clever system.

Flick the steering wheel mounted, F1-style drive mode selector to Race and the dual-clutch transmission will swap cogs with the same aggression as the power delivery. The feeling of Ferrari acceleration is frighteningly addictive.

Thankfully the 488 is equipped with one of the most impressive braking systems we have ever experienced. The pedal feel is so firm and resistant that the first few prods feel as if there is little capacity at all, but with continued pressure the Ferrari scrubs speed with immense efficiency. The stink of hot carbon-ceramic is intoxicating and another reminder you are in something far from conventional.

We love the exhilaration of flashing through Victoria’s countryside with the smells of spring and hot brakes filling the cabin, but the absent roof also allows more of the glorious V8 noise in as well.

Sceptics that feared turbocharging would rob the Ferrari of soul can rest easy because the 3.9-litre V8 makes all the right sounds. Thrash it out to the 8000rpm redline and you cannot help but smile.

On less exciting roads, we flicked on the cruise control, engaged the bumpy road suspension setting and relaxed. It may be hard to believe that one of the most engaging and capable sportscars on the market can be placid, but the 488 Spider is surprisingly easy to live with in traffic or on the freeway. It even has a 230 litre luggage space and more behind the seats.

There is no ignoring that the 488 Spider is massively expensive, but sledgehammer performance and beauty to match the hefty pricetag is redemption indeed.

When you get its roof off and point your right toe, the unpleasant business of money could not be a more distant thought.

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