Taking the Pist [COTY2018] : Ferrari 488 Pista Driven [review]

batch TGS83 p078 083 COTY2018 Ferrari 488 Pista

The 488 Pista isn't just about maximum attack, it can hang loose for maximum fun as well.

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There's always room for a special edition Ferrari in our annual round-up, especially after we had the chance to put it through its paces both around the Fiorano Circuit at Ferrari's home in Maranello, as well as the winding roads in the region. Since the time of the Challenge Stradale, every iteration of the brand's hardcore, special edition mid-engined rear-drive V8s (be it Berlinetta or drop-top) has never failed to impress.

(Click HERE to read about the Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia & 458 Speciale)

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Part of the reason could be due to the fact that Ferrari isn't in the habit of dropping 'special edition' cars at the drop of a hat (well, at least not yet), so when one does come around, you know it's going to be a class act... and the 488 Pista is no exception because it is a crucible for Ferrari's race-winning know-how in terms of lightening measures, engine performance, aerodynamic efficiency and dynamics.

(Click HERE to read our First Drive impressions of the 488 Pista)

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Like Porsche's RS models, there's an indefinable quality about Ferrari's lightened, harder-edged variants that makes them so much more than the sum of their parts.

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Even parked, the 488 Pista exudes an aura of latent potency (for extreme tarmac violence), as the battle-ready sportscar wears the aerodynamics derived from the brand's 488 GTE and F1 race-cars, which includes the front S-duct, as well as rear spoiler and diffuser profiles.

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We like how Ferrari has accomplished its aero results without recourse to big bodywork and outré protrusions, so the 488 Pista retains a sleek, clean silhouette, with subtle touches that only the avid tifosi will spot. Don't be one of those 'petrolheads' who 'hates' on exotics for the principle of it, least of all if you've never driven one in anger. True petrolheads will be able to see the beauty in all genres, be it top-shelf exotic or bargain-bin underdog.

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Improving aerodynamics and handling are just two parts of the equation, because the Pista has also undergone a strict weight-loss regime with the result that it tips the scales at 90kg less than the 488 GTB – basically it binned everything that didn't "spark joy", just so that the dynamic results would spark joy in driving enthusiasts.

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Also, there's a hike in the 3.9-litre's engine performance over the GTB to 720hp and 770Nm. Like its forebears the 458 Speciale, 430 Scuderia and Challenge Stradale, the Pista's cabin is a motorsports-inspired cave of wonders to really put you in the mood for driving, with snug sports bucket seats, racing harness and plenty of carbonfibre and Alcantara.

(Click HERE to read about the Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia & 458 Speciale)

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If there's one thing Ferrari gets right, it's creating the right ambience to put one in the mood for a serious driving session. From the moment you strap yourself into the seat with the harness and move to thumb the red steering wheel-mounted starter button, all clutter is cleared from your mind #KonMari-style as you prepare for the mechanical onslaught of Ferrari's award-winning turbocharged engine.

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This is Ferrari's first special series mid-engined V8 to go turbocharged, a big departure given how many fans are enamoured of the angsty naturally-aspirated engines of its predecessors. Such cars are about emotional connection, and merely being fast and expensive doesn't necessarily cut it. Furthermore, this emotional quality isn't something you can tick-off a checklist, or even vote on by committee, because such an intimate covenant between man-machine is personal.

(If you missed it, click HERE for our Intro to COTY2018)

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The V8 harumphs to life with more boisterous gusto than you'd give a turbo'd engine credit for, and when you put your foot down, you quickly feel the differences between GTB and Pista. Engine response has been sharpened to a fine edge and the dual-clutch upshifts are punctuated by explosively evocative 'bang-bang-bangs' that are pleasantly reminiscent of the 430 Scuderia's single-automated gearbox (the Speciale smoothened everything out too much), a car we still feel sets a superlative standard for the series.

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There's a perfect, natural weight to the steering and brake controls, and the razor-sharp steering dramatically dives-into the corners on turn-in, as it is always eager for a blood-letting. You often read about the really engaging cars becoming an extension of the driver’s body, and the 488 Pista falls into this category.

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Newly developed for the car is the FDE, for Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, which works with the Side-Slip Control in the CT Off driving mode, which is one stability control level down from the no-nanny ESC Off. Balancing a mid-engined rear-drive sportscar on the hair-trigger's edge between grip, slip and the armco requires skill and practice, and some folks may have more money than time to spend driving.

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FDE is engineered to make the drift limits of the Pista attainable and predictable, yet will wait in the wings to intervene when the sensors detect you're reaching both yours and the car's limits. Bear in mind, this fail-safe isn't there to gather up the drift for you, you'll need to work at it.

(Click HERE to read our First Drive impressions of the 488 Pista)

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However, it makes the oversteer situation more progressive for non-pro drivers, so think of it as creating a more conducive dynamic environment in which you can clearly think about steering and throttle position, all to the rapture of your adoring audience as you slither sideways in a spectacle of smoke and shredded rubber.

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(Photo: Lionel Lim)

It's often easy to think of such focused sportscars as merely scalpel-sharp tools to chase fastest track times, but the 488 Pista demonstrates that with great power does come responsibility... both to ensure the owner can go fast and hard, as well as to take the 'Pist' from time-to-time.

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

FERRARI 488 PISTA
Engine 3902cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 720hp/8000rpm
Torque/rpm 770Nm/3000rpm
Transmission 7spd F1 dual-clutch
0-100km/h 2.85secs
Top Speed >340km/h
Fuel Consumption 11.5l/100km
CO2 263g/km

David Khoo
Author: David Khoo
David is a big petrolhead who has been dabbling in the car trade since 2001 and currently oversees Top Gear Singapore. His stories often take an eclectic slant from the predictable, and he's able to craft a compelling read that lets you see the cars (often old!) in a new light.