First Drive: Ferrari 488 Spider

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A convertible Ferrari is a special thing as it allows the driver to be closer to the beating heart of every Prancing Horse – the engine.

However, with the introduction of a couple of turbos, has the excitement that was so celebrated in this car's predecessor - the 458 - been lost? AOL Cars jumped behind the wheel to find out...

What is it?

There's something special about a Ferrari drop-top. The thought of cruising through the Italian countryside with the wind in your hair and your ears exposed to the glorious sound of a V8 singing behind you is surely on every petrolhead's bucket list.

Ferrari has cut the top from the 488 GTB to create the Spider. It's marginally heavier than the coupe, but dynamically you probably won't notice.

What's under the bonnet?

The engine is the big talking point thanks to downsizing and the addition of those turbos, which rob the V8 of that glorious Ferrari wail.

Thankfully, what the 3.9-litre engine loses in the falsetto it more than makes up for with a deep baritone note that, coupled with the brutal manner in which the 650bhp and 760Nm of torque are delivered, gives the 488 a more aggressive, purposeful personality.

It'll be up to each individual driver which they prefer – screaming V8 dripping with stereotypically Italian character or a deliciously aggressive power delivery. We can totally understand 458 Spider owners who decide to hold on to their cars, but there's no denying the 488's powertrain is utterly addictive in the way it drives.

What's the spec like?

Naturally, the Spider is well-specced as standard, but the real fun comes from the long option list. There are carbon-fibre parts aplenty, a telemetry system developed for the LaFerrari and a high-end audio system to name just a few.

Our 488 Spider came with an incredible £80,000-worth of extras. Highlights include £7,104 for the gorgeous Blu Corsa paint job, £5,472 for the carbon-fibre rear diffuser and £6,144 for the Daytona carbon-fibre racing seat.

First Drive: Ferrari 488 Spider

First Drive: Ferrari 488 Spider


Any rivals?

There are relatively few rivals in this sector of the market, but the Ferrari has some extremely capable cars to contend with.

The McLaren 650S Spider has dramatic styling and is an absolute joy to drive, but the Woking-based manufacturer has always struggled to inject Ferrari levels of personality into its cars.

Then there's the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder and Audi R8 V10 Spyder. Both are pretty much the same underneath and share an engine, but the Audi takes itself much more seriously. In fact, it's so easy to drive it could be used daily, while still packing enough performance to scare you.

The Lamborghini is the only car here that can awaken your inner child like the Ferrari can, and while its stunning V10 engine will make you yearn for natural aspiration once more, it just doesn't handle as dreamily as the 488.

What's it like to drive?

Out on the road, it's just about the most perfect example of how a properly engineered car should handle. The pedals are firm enough to make modulation easy without giving your right leg a workout, and the steering is brilliantly direct. Every degree of input is exquisitely meted out, giving you confidence in the front end even when the road's a bit greasy.

At first, the brutal power delivery will force an involuntary retraction of your foot from the throttle, but confidence grows quickly. The car is supremely planted and while you can't mash the throttle mid-turn as you can in the all-wheel-drive Audi R8 V10 Spider, the rear tyres are willing participants in any high-speed tomfoolery.

AOL Cars Verdict

The Ferrari 488 Spider is a masterpiece dominated by that engine. At the top end it lacks some of the character of the old car, but there's such a deep reserve of torque available you'll be too busy enjoying the drive to care.

There's so much grip that making the most of all that power is easy, and you'll never notice any dynamic deficiency between this and the coupe out on the road.

Purists might lament the introduction of the turbochargers, but drive with an open mind and the 488 Spider is an absolutely stunning machine. It might have lost a little aural excitement, but for pure driving abilities it's on top of the game.

Model: Ferrari 488 Spider
Price: £204,411 (£282,728 as tested)
Engine: 3.9-litre V8 petrol
Power: 650bhp
Torque: 720Nm
0-60mph: 2.8sec
Top Speed: 203mph
Economy: 24.8mpg, 260g/km