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710 hp, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, 17 relatives I need to beg for a loan

June 12, 2018

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When first settling into the footwell of the Ferrari 488 Pista, it feels awkward. My feet veer right to reach the pedals and, more importantly, even with my right foot hard pressed against the center tunnel, my throttle foot still snags the corner of the brakes. The pedals are that close to each other. This is clearly my fault. I own and am wearing the wrong shoes. Had I laced up something more minimal, it’d probably be fine. 

Time to go shoe shopping because a Ferrari, especially this Ferrari, is the kind of car that transcends blame. If something doesn’t feel like a perfect fit, it’s your fault. To be perfectly clear, I wear normal shoes, no bulkier than a running sneaker, size 12. And I’m also not kidding. The 488 Pista delivers such a pure, exhilarating driving experience that I am willing, no, I want to conform to it, not the other way around.  

You know it at first sight. The 488 Pista at a glance looks just like the GTB, on which it is based. But different details start popping out. The lower front of the car extends farther compared to the GTB to make room for a differently oriented radiator, as well as a swoopy multilayered set of horizontal panels with a channel between them that Ferrari calls an S-Duct, which is an integrated aerodynamic device. Out back, engine intake ducts are now just in front of the rear spoiler, which is 1.2 inches higher and 1.6 inches longer than that of the GTB. Big triangular-shape ducts are still in front of the rear wheels, but they solely aid cooling. Beneath the spoiler, the diffuser is easily identifiable underneath massive twin tail pipes. The Pista is low and wide and squat and aggressive and gorgeous.

The trend continues inside. The seats do move fore/aft, the seatbacks tilt and are height adjustable, but it looks like a race bucket welded to the frame. The belts are four-point with a buckle in the center and two shoulder straps, each with a Ferrari badge incorporated right around chest height (sadly, U.S. bound cars use 3-point belts). Ferrari made the steering wheel from carbon fiber and wrapped it in soft leather. The shift paddles are stationary just in front, upshift on the right, downshift on the left. Wheel rim thickness is race car perfect and several controls rest near the prancing horse at the center, including the manettino, turn signals, headlights and windshield wipers. Oh, the engine stop/start too, and excitement ramps up when you press it.

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Eight decibels louder and 50 hp stronger than the 488 GTB’s, the 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 starts with a raspy snarl then quickly settles into a steady hum. There’s no point in resisting the overpowering urge to hear it reach its 8,000-rpm crescendo and feel the crazy-hard pull. A 300-hp car presses you into your seat. The Pista makes 710, so, yeah ... Seriously, it’s hard to smile when you smash the gas, despite the strong urge to. Yep, 0-62 mph goes by in 2.9 seconds; you're passing 124 mph in 7.6. Keep your foot in it and Ferrari claims a top speed of more than 211 mph.

Torque also ticks up 7 lb-ft compared with the GTB to a massive 568 at 3,000 rpm. But that’s where things get interesting because that peak only comes in the Pista’s highest gear: seventh. Otherwise, torque is limited via the powertrain computer (mainly by managing boost levels) such that full twist isn’t available until 6,750 rpm. And at that engine speed, it’s about 553 lb-ft. First through third gears get the lowest levels of torque, after which the levels slowly ramp up in fourth, fifth and sixth gears until you get the full amount in seventh. 

Ferrari says this gives a more naturally aspirated feel. And power delivery does feel linear, but it’s a hard truth to wrap your brain around because Ferrari, on purpose, gives the driver less torque than it could. That said, darn it if they aren’t correct. Turbo lag is easy to feel if you floor it in seventh gear at 2,000 rpm (sixth, too); otherwise, Ferrari has come further than any other engine builder (aside from its competitors in F1, perhaps) to give a turbo engine naturally aspirated feel. It’s immense. A turbocharged V8 screamer, with very close to naturally aspirated response. No, it doesn’t sound as good as a 458 Speciale, since that car shrieks to 9,000 rpm, but it is close, which is high praise.

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The Execution

All that matters little on a racetrack, where revs stay high anyway. My first turn of the wheel came at Ferrari’s famous Pista di Fiorano in Maranello. Fiorano features a supertight hairpin and quick kink, but is mainly made up of medium-speed sweepers, which makes it a wonderful place to experience a new car. Thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Pista is another left-foot braking car, which I like. And it's a good thing because all inputs and responses are very quick and direct, requiring quick reaction. 

Before setting off, a helmet is required, and wearing one highlighted another fault of mine: My torso is clearly too tall. Even with seat height adjusted to its lowest settings, I didn’t have enough headroom with a helmet on. A little slouching sorted that one out, but this fix will cost a little more than a new pair of shoes.

The manettino has five settings: wet, sport, race, CToff and ESCoff. Wet is obvious, and sport keeps stability control quite sensitive. Race, however, livens things up considerably, and it's a good way to feel out a new venue. Electronic nannies are still around, but they generally stay out of the way, Women's Rain Boot Yellow Original Hunter Tall ifyou keep things tidy. In fact, there was ample room to find the limits of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 K2 tires. 

This Ferrari is loaded with all sorts of exotic materials and different alloys. The engine, for example swaps steel connecting rods for titanium and uses a material called Inconel (nickel, chromium and iron) for the exhaust manifolds. And the body, too, is plain riddled with carbon fiber. All in all, the Pista weighs almost 200 fewer pounds than the GTB -- 3,053 pounds total, Ferrari claims. 

For that reason, beyond clipping apexes at neck-straining speeds, lapping the Pista is a great core workout since your own body isn’t as quick to transition from right to left as it is. And grip only increases in faster corners -- the Pista makes 529 pounds of downforce at 124 mph. That’s fewer than a GT3 race car, but considerably more than most any road car, including the very aggressive Porsche 911 GT3 RS

The next manettino setting after race is CT-Off, or traction control off. CT-Off further reduces stability control to something called Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, or FDE. You can also call it drift mode since the system applies brakes but doesn’t take away torque. When the driver mats the gas midcorner with 90 degrees of steering lock and breaks the rear-axle loose, it keeps a spin from happening but doesn’t arrest the drift. It’s a little gimmicky but great for the cameras. ESC-Off takes away all protection and is for those with either a fat reserve of talent or multiple annuities.

The Pista handles any kind or corner or series of corners well. Brakes, too, are carbon ceramics and massive -- 15.7-inch rotors in front, 14.2 inches in back -- and provide impressive feel. However, initial bite isn’t quite as high as I expected. Applying more pressure brought appropriate build-up of deceleration, but they didn’t inspire quite as much as confidence as those on the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Full disclosure: More time in the Ferrari would probably prove feel to be as good, just different.

Power, on the other hand, takes about two seconds to fall in love with. Applying throttle is full-on race car immediate. Anywhere other than a B-2 bomber airstrip, you have power in reserve. Straights go by in a heartbeat and stepping out the rear is never more than a stab of gas away. The Pista takes time to get used to, but once you do, the experience is exciting, exhilarating and, yes, life changing.

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Despite what Ferrari named it, the Pista (which means "track") is also magic off-track. Sitting low, you are both physically and emotionally closer to the road. It takes a little while to get fully comfortable in the Ferrari, but that’s only because you're climbing to upper echelons of driving nirvana. Every crack of the throttle or turn of the wheel, every twist and bump in the road feels incredible and all other thoughts drop away. It’s like an automotive sensory deprivation tank. Everything else disappears. This is the Human Machine Interface we should all strive for. 

The Takeaway

Base price for the 488 Pista is $349,050. Clearly, this car is for the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of income earners. To own one, you need a fat trust fund, a business or two or maybe a three-letter-long job title that starts with a C. Otherwise, this is dream car territory. 

Is it worthy of dream car status? Beyond the specs and the stunning looks, the 488 Pista delivers a sense of next-level performance. Every dab of throttle is immediately responded to, just like the steering and brakes; everything happens in fast-forward. Life events happen faster in dreams, too. So, yeah, the 488 Pista fits the bill better than just about anything. I’ve started to dream already. And, in reality, my budget for lottery tickets just quadrupled. 

Robin Warner - Robin Warner is Managing Editor at Autoweek. He once tried and failed to become a professional race car driver, but succeeded in learning about debt management and having a story to tell. A former engineer, Warner loves cars for their technology and capability.
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On Sale: September 2018

Base Price: $349,050

As Tested Price: $349,050

Powertrain: Twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8, 7-speed dual-clutch, RWD

Output: 710 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 568 lb-ft @3,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,053 lbs

0-60 MPH: 2.9 sec

Pros: Amazing car with a pure driving experience and monster motor

Cons: Amazingly expensive, close pedals in foot box, less headroom than ideal

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