What is it?
A few months ago, I polled some car people on what their dream three-car garage would be. The answers were satisfyingly eclectic, but after a raft of spaces taken up by Range Rovers, Audi RS6 Avants (because we all need something like those) and Porsche 911s various (because ditto), there was a notable standout model: the Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta. That’s an exotic, mid-engined, low-volume V8 supercar with an open top and a naturally aspirated engine that revs to the heavens. This is its successor, the Ferrari 488 Pista Spider, which is a mid-engined, low-volume V8 supercar with an open top. But with turbochargers. Mechanically, it’s all but the same as the 710bhp 488 Pista coupé, which I’d say is the best of today’s supercars, although with a 100kg weight penalty as a result of fitting a hardtop that electrically whizzes up and down, even when you’re driving at up to 30mph. The 488 Pista coupé is up to 90kg lighter than a regular 488 GTB, depending on options, which the folding hardware then offsets. We weighed a fully fuelled 488 GTB at 1555kg, so think similar here (Ferrari’s claim is 1485kg) – respectable for a car with a 3.9-litre twin-turbo engine, a dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a folding roof.
© Autocar Ferrari 488 Pista Spider 2019 reviewWhat is it like?
The 488 Pista coupé’s defining characteristic is none of those mechanical elements, though; rather, it’s the fact that it’s a mid-engined exotic that feels almost as docile as the Toyota GT86 at its limit. It’s an exceptionally capable car (211mph top speed, silly cornering speeds) but also a very approachable one.
© Autocar Ferrari 488 Pista Spider 2019 reviewMuch the same is true here, only inevitably slightly blunted because of the weight gain, and it’s weight gained high of the car. So coming from the coupé, it feels like getting back on your bicycle having strapped a bag onto it: the cues and inherent character are still there, just with more muted reactions.
It’s only a few weeks since I drove a 488 Pista coupé, and I’d say the Spider steers with a touch more weight, but the rapid off-centre reaction and fast ratio is still there. The ride is good – easily comfortable enough for everyday driving, whether you’re in the firmer or softer of two (easily selected) damper modes. Enough to make you think this isn’t a hardcore car – until stones and grit start pinging loudly from the underbody due to the removal of soundproofing.
With its roof down, the 488 Pista Spider feels pleasingly open, yet there’s precious little wind buffeting. Body rigidity doesn’t remain quite as true to the coupé as in a McLaren roadster (the Ferrari has an aluminium structure, McLarens carbonfibre), but only when the suspension is heavily loaded and the road is very poor do you notice any minor loss in rigidity.
© Autocar Ferrari 488 Pista Spider 2019 reviewAnd while numbed, the handling is nine-tenths as rewarding as the 488 Pista coupé’s, which means it’s at least as rewarding as anything else in the same sphere.
If you were on a track, you’d pick the lighter coupé every time, but there’s still bags of fun to be had in the Spider on twisting roads. Body control is great even in the ‘bumpy road’ setting, the brakes are sound and the electronics that govern slip are brilliantly integrated and have modes as simple to select as adjusting the air conditioning.
Wet and Sport mode allow precious little slip, but turn things through to CT Off (no traction control) and on deserted hillside hairpins, once you’ve seen the road is clear, you can harmlessly spin up the tyres and make some noise.
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Should I buy one?
Ah, the noise. Ferrari hides turbos – both their noise and response – better than anybody else. You’d know this car is turbocharged by the torque as much as the sound, which is very powerful and quite gratifying. But it doesn’t wail like the 458 Speciale’s engine, and as it echoes from the hillsides, you do know it.
© Autocar Ferrari 488 Pista Spider 2019 reviewSo the 488 Pista Spider may not push the 458 Speciale Aperta from those dream car positions. But really, don’t doubt what a terrific modern supercar it is.
Ferrari 488 Pista Spider specification
Where Modena, Italy Price £287,850 On sale Now Engine V8, 3902cc, twin-turbo, petrol Power 710bhp at 8000rpm Torque 568lb ft at 3000rpm (in 7th gear) Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1485kg Top speed 211mph 0-62mph 2.85sec Fuel economy22.1mpg (WLTP) CO2 289g/km (WLTP) Rivals Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder, McLaren 720S Spider