Ferrari 488 Pista prototype driven: raising the bar yet again

Ferrari 488 Pista prototype driven: raising the bar yet again
Ferrari 488 Pista prototype driven: raising the bar yet again

We test the prototype of what may be the ultimate track-oriented, road-going supercar

Do you want to go on the ‘pista’? In Italian – as of course you well know – ‘pista’ means ‘track’. Like in the Pista di Fiorano which is in Maranello which tells you it’s a Ferrari racetrack/test track.

And it’s there that we get the first ride in a car which is aimed to follow in the tyretracks of the 458 Speciale and the 430 Scuderia in being the finest driving machine of its time. And its time is coming.

Ferrari 488 Pista prototype

Speaking of time, the 488 Pista doesn’t need much of it to hit 62mph from a standing start. In fact just 2.8 seconds will do. To achieve that Ferrari has gone down the classic route – more power, less weight. It starts with the 3902cc V8 you’d find in the 488 GTB but that twin-turbo unit was viewed as being too anaemic at just 661bhp. So now power is 711bhp.

Weight has dropped by 90kg, improving the 488 GTB’s power to weight ratio of 448bhp per tonne. Now it’s 513bhp per tonne.

We get to sample this on the pista, although why the car is still camouflaged is a mystery, seeing as it’s been shown in its glory at the Geneva motor show in March. But here it is in tasteful camo, and we’re not allowed to show you the cabin either. Let’s just say it’s like the 488 GTB but with added Alcantara and leather – not necessarily additions we’d associate with a 90kg weight loss.

Ferrari 488 Pista prototype

However, there is more use of carbon, even if aluminium still plays a big part. There are 20-inch carbonfibre wheels for example, the first time on a road-legal Ferrari, and quite a few panels are now carbon, such as the front and rear bumpers, spoiler and so on, all of them showing the latest improvements to the aerodynamic package.

Lightweight engine internals from the 488 Challenge have also come on board, making the engine lighter but also more responsive. You’ll hear it more too through the lightweight exhaust, a really thrilling and sharp howl as the revs rise.

You’d expect higher gearing, given the improvements in power and low weight, but gearing remains the same. That tells you the response is going to be even more brutal. You have to moderate your throttle movement by the millimetre, but even so there’s a vast swell of linear power that builds and builds with impressive speed.

Ferrari 488 Pista prototype

There’s not a hint of turbo lag, just a great and building sledgehammer of power that’s so ferocious that even on a track it took us a while to adjust. Midrange torque is unnerving yet the V8 revs so lightly and freely that if you’re in manual transmission mode you’re more than likely to hit the wall of the rev limiter at 8000rpm far more often than you’d imagine.

Unless you’re a seriously talented driver, you’re going to need the Slide Slip Control if you switch to heroic mode. It allows it all to get lairy but then it brings it back under control before you have a bumper meeting shrubbery moment. There’s a touch of understeer at slower speeds but then that dials out to offer a totally neutral feel with quick, accurate and communicative steering that is pin-sharp.

Ferrari 488 Pista prototype

But while that’s extremely exhilarating, it’s not so extreme that you can’t drive this road-legal car on the road. The ride is of course firm, but it’s not hard, and if you leave it all in auto mode it helps smooth out the ferocious response to a level that would allow you to enjoy a quick road without feeling the need at the end of it that you needed to get back on the pista.

Speaking of bars, Ferrari just set it even higher.

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