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© Letherington Photography

Dream Drive: The Ferrari 488 GTB

Kevin Haggarthy takes The Ferrari 488 GTB along the fabulous country roads of North Wales, on the boundaries of Snowdonia and the Cambrian Mountains
© Letherington Photography

"Whilst Ferraris look amazing and sound great, their prime purpose is to be driven and enjoyed"

As Ferrari often quote in their official paperwork, “Driving a Ferrari is a very special occasion.”


Too right. And whilst I have been fortunate to have owned some and driven many, that special feeling you get each and every time you make your first acquaintance with a new one never goes away.

And so it was with this new 488 GTB. It’s a facelifted turbo charged successor to the 458 – the latter being one of the most complete and successful Ferraris ever made during its six year production lifespan.

© Letherington Photography


And so it was with this new 488 GTB. It’s a facelifted turbo charged successor to the 458 – the latter being one of the most complete and successful Ferraris ever made during its six year production lifespan.

Lifting the ante

As you’d expect, the 488 lifts the performance ante once again. The new car gains a staggering 50 per cent improvement in downforce, achieves the 0-62 mph sprint in 3.0 secs, compared to the 458’s 3.4 secs, and peaks at 205 mph to the 458’s 202 mph. The power hike is up from 562 bhp to 661 bhp in the new car and torque is up too from 398lb to 560lb. At this level it hardly matters, I know, but new owners will want these boxes ticked; and put all these components together and combine them with improvements to handling and the adaptive ride suspension, then add even faster gear-changing capability, and you see the 488 is a rather different animal to the 458.

Testing the 488

Whilst Ferraris look amazing and sound great, their prime purpose is to be driven and enjoyed, and this is what Ferraris do best of all.

Weekend posing around town was out. Instead we decided to spend our time with the car tackling the fabulous country roads of North Wales, on the boundaries of Snowdonia and the Cambrian Mountains.

On a blustery Friday we collected the 488 from Ferrari UK HQ in Slough. It sat like a fighter jet outside the reception, poised and ready. Apart from its beauty were a few reminders of the virtues that have contributed to the original 458 being one of the best mid-engined supercars to grace the planet. First up is quality; the 488 is a perfectly finished jewel of a motor inside and out. Second, accommodation; the cabin is spacious and comfortable for two, and there is a surprising amount of boot space for a car of this kind with this level of performance. The 488 took two cabin sized suitcases of driver and cameraman padded out with camera gear, whilst the netted shelving behind the seats proved particularly useful for maps/paperwork and the like. The 488’s dash design is a technological work of art yet doesn’t detract from the emphasis on driver focused information, an enduring feature of Ferrari interior design.

Look Dad, there’s a Ferrari!

With luggage and camera gear in place the 488 GTB Experience began. The Sat Nav calculated the quickest route for the 215 mile jaunt to our hotel location in Betws-y-Coed via the M6, M54 and A5. A long motorway journey is a good way of getting to know a supercar, giving you ample opportunity to slowly acclimatise yourself to its potential.

On this otherwise boring commute the 488 immediately commands your attention, be you driver, passenger, or onlooker. Once this red projectile rockets up the slip road to join the motorway, everybody knows a Ferrari is around. You will both see it and hear it, and if you are lucky enough to be its driver or passenger, the rocket-like acceleration pins both bum and head to seat in a storming crescendo of Ferrari mechanicals – and you just know that someone around you is saying, “Wow! Look Dad, there’s a Ferrari!”

You are of course in the fast lane in an instant, doing everything in your power to stay at 70 mph (and that’s hard). Yet there are hardly any overtaking challenges because when most other drivers ahead see a red Ferrari looming in their rear view mirror they move over straight away, bowing in deference or holding back to give you the thumbs up. The only drivers who didn’t celebrate our Ferrari joy were a couple of Aston Martin drivers who showed absolutely no interest. I wonder why? Oh well, it only took a couple of flicks of the paddle shift and they too were a distant memory. Never was straight-line driving more fun. We arrived at the Waterloo Hotel in Betws-y-Coed with the 488 filthy dirty (it looks great dirty by the way) and we couldn’t wait to test it some more the next day!

The EVO triangle

You just cannot be based in Betws-y-Coed and not drive the infamous EVO triangle. For car buffs in the know it is a common test location for EVO car magazine; you branch off the A5 at Pentrefoelas onto the A453, climbing uphill until taking a right onto the B4501 that takes you back down to the A5 again. These are roads largely unperturbed by traffic, with a magic combination of undulations, bends, cambers, and fast straights.

Oh my God, this is where the 488 GTB shines! On these roads you can exploit the car’s limits, and the harder you push it the better it gets. The acceleration, grip and surface compliance of the suspension is astonishing; braking and cornering proved so great that the cameraman gave up trying to shoot from inside the car and just sat there laughing as the 488 performed the equivalent of the world’s greatest helter-skelter ride.

Yet behind the wheel of the 488 you are in control. Its 661 bhp has been carefully developed not to scare but to enable all that power to be used and enjoyed by the ‘average’ driver. It’s not intimidating, it doesn’t frighten you, but boy is it fast. Floor the throttle through first, second, third and – if you dare – higher and the tail will step out as it scrabbles for traction, but no more so than you want it to; and that’s the key – it’s exploitable and you don’t need to be a driving genius to enjoy it. The clear handling improvements on the 488 have been achieved through technology that predicts the slip angle of the car and governs its controllability. All you need as the driver is responsible common sense in using the tremendous speed where it is sensible and safe, but that’s a given for any car isn’t it?

We must have driven the triangle at least six times in succession and each time we learned a little bit more about the car; the control, the power, the braking, the adaptive suspension, the sheer speed within which you can flick up and down the gears…and oh that noise…

Fans of the naturally aspirated engine should note that we haven’t said anything about the twin turbo-chargers detracting from the in-built tractability and progressiveness of its non-turbo charged predecessor. That’s because there is no need; all the fun and capability is still there. Turbo lag? What’s that?

Mid-engined perfection

Yes, the Ferrari 488 GTB is that good. Do we have any criticisms? Only one little tiny one; the headlights on main beam do not light up the road as well as some of their competitors of similar performance. On balance we can live with that, for with the 488 GTB Ferrari have raised the bar yet again, making this car the closest we have seen yet to mid-engined road car perfection.

- Kevin Haggarthy


Images – © Letherington Photography


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