New for the latest model year, the Ferrari 488 Spider is essentially an updated version of the 458 Spider. With head-turning style, neck-snapping acceleration, and that indescribable but incredibly potent Ferrari allure, the 488 Spider -- and its hardtop sibling, the 488 GTB -- are among the most desirable rides on the market.
The heart of the horse
The 488 Spider trades the 458's naturally-aspirated 4.5-liter V8 engine for a Maserati-derived twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 engine that delivers 661 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 560 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm, figures that represent generous increases over the outgoing model. The eight-cylinder is also found under the hood of the California T.
All of that power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual gearbox that manages to be both smooth and incredibly quick - shifts are achieved in four-tenths of a second. A built-in torque torque management function helps get the power to the pavement.
Performance is impressive, with the zero-to-60 mph sprint dispatched in just three seconds flat -- on par with the hardtop model -- on the way to a 205-mph top speed. Even more note-worthy is the Ferrari's handling: the car feels like it's hard-wired to the driver's synapses, responding to control inputs with lightning alacrity yet remaining extremely forgiving (assuming the stability control isn't shut off) for less advanced pilots.
Helping to make the 488 Spider sublime driving dynamics possible is a rigid, lightweight aluminum chassis that features advanced alloys and aerospace industry manufacturing and bonding techniques. The suspension is composed of a twin wishbone/multi-link setup, and an electronic rear differential helps apportion power so as to make the best of use of available traction. Standard carbon fiber brakes are extremely fade-resistant and effective at bringing the Spider down from extra-legal speeds.
Inside, the cabin is a postmodern collection of abstract shapes and flowing lines. The look isn't for everyone, but materials and craftsmanship are first-rate. In order to free up real estate for the large paddle shifters, Ferrari has done away with steering wheel-mounted stalks and relocated a host of secondary controls to the steering wheel. This quirky setup is a bit of an acquired taste. The 488 also benefits from an improved infotainment system.
Thankfully, important details like the driving position and pedal placement are superb, and the manettino - a steering wheel-mounted dial that controls traction, stability control and differential settings - is simple and prominently placed.
The convertible is fitted with an evolution of the 458 Spider's power-retractable hard top, a setup chosen because it's more convenient and lighter than a traditional cloth soft top. At the simple push of a button, the top neatly folds back onto the engine cover in two overlapping sections, a process that takes a full 14 seconds.
Should buyers want to personalize their 488, Ferrari offers an extremely wide range of options ranging from different leather upholsteries to carbon fiber trim to faux-suede touches.
Though some will only be satisfied with a sports car wearing the legendary Prancing Horse badge, it nonetheless bears noting that the 488 Spider can be cross-shopped against the sweet-sounding McLaren 650S Spider and the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder which packs a naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10.