2019 Ferrari 488 Pista First Review
Ferrari’s 488 GTB had perhaps one of the toughest design mandates possible in supercardom. It had to replace one of the most loved Ferraris of modern times, the 458. And, try as it might—Maranello’s flat-plane crankshaft made the carryover and it revs hard till 8,000 or so rpm—it still lacked some of the personality of its fire-breathing predecessor. Oh, the GTB boasted substantially more horsepower than the 458 but it didn't quite have the personality. Faster, yes, but not nearly as sonorous.
So, I suspect then, that even though the power upgrades Ferrari is trumpeting are dramatic—50 more than the GTB—I suspect that the improvements to the Pista’s joie de vivre will be more important to the tifosi. So, here’s what’s new about the latest, track-ready 488, why it’s so technically advanced compared with the GTB and, perhaps most importantly, how super it really is.
The Pista is really fast.
Now you might be thinking that I’m just stating obvious, what with the 488 being a Ferrari and, well, a supercar. But we’re talking extra super-duper fast here, as in barely two seconds slower around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track than Maranello’s own 949-hp LaFerrari. The 7.6 seconds it takes to scoot to 125 miles per hour are just 0.2 seconds slower than Porsche’s 918. I’ll remind everyone that both of those hypercars feature hybrid powertrains and more displacement. By any measure, the 488 Pista is quick.
Rated at 710 horsepower, it boasts 50 more horsepower than the GTB. Torque is up modestly—567 lb-ft versus 560 lb— mainly because all of the Pista’s extra oomph occurs at high rpm, the GTB matching it pony for pony till about 6,500 rpm. That extra urge at elevated rpm is immediately apparent. Not only does F154CD version of Ferrari’s twin turbo 3.9-liter V8 rejoice at engine speeds when the GTB starts to fall flat, but it also zings there with far more alacrity, as if it has a lighter flywheel (which it does) and bigger turbochargers (which it doesn’t).
Reduced turbo lag
To reduce turbo lag, Ferrari has taken a unique approach. the Pista incorporates new cam timing, which bleeds off a little incoming charge at the end of the exhaust stroke. This, along with new intercoolers, a new intake tract and improved air intakes at the front skirt. This cools the intake charge sufficiently so that the 488 can run higher compression, jam more fuel into the combustion chamber at the beginning of the intake stroke, and run more boost, all without suffering the detonation, a limiting factor for high-performance turbocharged engines. It even has individual speed sensors for each turbocharger that ensure that both of the titanium-aluminum turbines are turning at the same speed and that they are always maintain a minimum speed for optimum throttle response.
There are also more detail changes inside the engine that give the Pista its “personality.” Basically, the F154CD, in Pista guise, has undergone a radical internal Weight Watchers program. Everything that moves inside has been shaved, hollowed or otherwise lightened. The crank itself is down some 1.2 kilograms thanks to the elimination of the central balancing webs. The flywheel is down another 1.5 kilos. Titanium connecting rods are 220 grams lighter each. The intake valves are now hollow. It adds up to a reduction in intenal rotational inertia of 17 percent, which, I suspect is responsible for the Pista’s 458-like eagerness to rev.
Ferrari claims that there’s eight decibels more of its vaunted exhaust music directly audible to the driver. All speed and no drama would make the 488 a dull ride. Credit tubular, rather than cast, exhaust manifolds with equal-length runners for part of the more musical exhaust note. The manifolds are much thinnner than the GTB’s headers, which guarantees that said music is heard. For those lamenting the loss of the 458’s Wagnerian exhaust, rejoice. The Pista is almost as operatic.
As for the rest of the Pista’s comportment—like ride and handling—our test was thwarted by a squalling snowstorm that would have done the northeast proud. Yes, in Italy. Yes, in the spring. It was so cold, in fact, that Ferrari’s public relations mavens insisted that the Pista would have to run on winter tires, the Michelin Sport Cups specifically designed for it are simply too stiff in these cold climes to serve as anything other than giant hockey pucks. In other words, while I got a good sampling of the Pista’s engine dynamics, the same can’t be said for its road-holding.
What I can say is that the Pista’s suspension is decidedly firm, but thanks to magnetorheological adjustability, the damping was not overly harsh on some surprisingly bumpy Italian roads (it’s been a harsh winter overall it seems). Also, Ferrari’s latest Side Slip Control system did an admirable job of containing all that power in conditions better suited to dog sleds and snowball fights. For more than that, you’ll have to wait for our full-fledged road test later this summer, hopefully with seasonal driving conditions.
What we can say is that the Pista is the 488 invigorated. In fact, I will pay it the highest possible compliment I can to a turbocharged supercar: It’s almost as much fun to drive as the 458.