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Living the Dream for a Day – Ferrari 488 Spider [+Videos]

I’m going to start this article differently. One of the biggest misconceptions about this job is that clients are going to toss you the keys to a Ferrari like this on your first working day… Fat chance.

In the early 90’s when I started this career full-time, I spent the first six months behind a desk, learning the trade and writing stories from press releases, as well as the odd rehashed overseas magazine article. I kid you not, SIX months.

It wasn’t easy back then, we didn’t have the mighty and all-knowing Mr.Google and Mrs.Wikipedia to help us with any research we had to do. It was all down to leg-work and elbow-grease, scouring old magazines and car manuals for info. Photos? We scanned prints…

In fact, my very first test-car was far from anything remotely exotic. It was a red Jeep Cherokee 2.5, imported back then by MBF-Jeep. It would be more than a year before I even got into a Porsche and a few more before I saw the inside of a Lamborghini. And that’s the main problem with motoring journalism these days isn’t it?

Anyone and his brother can start a motoring blog online with absolutely zero experience in the motoring industry, save for perhaps an interest in the subject matter, and viola, overnight they think they’re a bona-fide Motoring Journalist, and expect to be treated as one. Well, here’s a wake-up call…

You can forget about it right now if you think you’re going to get behind the wheel of something like this tomorrow, just because you started a motoring blog today. In this industry more than any other, you need to pay your dues by putting in your time to prove yourself first, before anyone’s going to trust you with a car that costs thrice as much as your house. Get real.

If I’ve come-off sounding a tad spiteful, forgive me; it’s only because of late I’ve encountered too many hot-shot, flash-in-the-pan, fly-boys whose egos far outweigh their driving talent, writing skills and motoring acumen, and who only want to get into this business so that they can show-off to their friends.

Guys like this don’t last very long in the this industry, and usually end up getting into trouble, which of course makes it a lot harder for the rest of us who’ve chosen this as a career, and have been doing this job longer than they have been alive on this planet.

I’m befuddled by this misplaced sense of ‘entitlement’ actually. Perhaps it’s because we make what we do seem easy and immensely enjoyable that’s to blame; for which they’d be half right. It is a fun industry to work in, I’ll not lie about that, we love what we do, but easy? No way. Take this Ferrari 488 Spider for example. Was it fun? Of course it was. No one pays RM2.2 million for a boring car. But was it easy? No way.

For me, it’s the same as when I test-drove the Rolls-Royce Wraith. No, really. I did. And it was pointless. Why? Well, simply because no one, absolutely NO ONE, buys a Rolls-Royce either from seeing an advertisement for it, or from reading a review of it, like the one I wrote. No one. If anyone wants a Rolls-Royce, well good-golly-gosh-darn-it they’re gonna buy a gawdayum Rolls-Royce, and no amount of external influence for or against it will make an iota of difference in that decision.

Which brings us (finally) to this Ferrari 488 Spider, the drop-top sibling to the GTB. Just like wagons, Malaysians have never really taken to convertibles, despite there being more of the latter offered than the former. In fact, speaking of the former, I can’t think of any other car company actively selling wagons anymore apart from Volvo.

But as far as convertibles are concerned, it’s probably because of our inclement weather, whereby it’s either blisteringly hot one moment, or coming down in buckets the next, or the fear that a thief is going to cut open the rag-top to get inside, that’s hindered the progress of convertibles in this country. In that respect, the advent of the folding metal hard-top was a God-send. It made the car heavier of course (50kg in this case, over the GTB), but also safer; at least in the minds of consumers.

I’m a huge fan of convertibles actually. I guess also being a biker and loving that sense of ‘openness’ and freedom has permeated my psyche when it comes to cars too, and I was genuinely down-trodden to return the 4th generation Mazda MX-5 after reviewing it.

The first thing anyone would notice about this Ferrari though, is of course how it looks, and as far as that’s concerned, the designers have done an amazing job with the 488 Spider. It’s one of those cars that you can just stare at for hours on end and not get bored of looking at it. Every design element on the car is functional; from the inlet scoops to the hidden rear spoiler that melds beautifully into its hind-quarters, it truly is an almost poetic case of form meeting function. Here’s a short video of my introduction to the 488 Spider:



Now, can I mention its only drawback from the beginning, even before anything else? Do allow me to do so because it’s the ONLY thing I don’t like about the Ferrari 488 Spider. I can’t see its engine. That’s it.

Image from AutoExpress

It may sound trivial, but when an engine looks as good as this (above), I’d want to see it all the time if I’m standing next to it. However, unlike its 488 GTB sibling (above), the glass engine cover you see there is replaced by a clam-shell, which houses the 488 Spider’s retractable hard-top.

Now apart from that itty-bitty little-niggle (sorry, I can’t even bring myself to call it a problem) the Ferrari 488 Spider is every bit as amazing as you’d expect a car like this to be. The steering-wheel mounted ‘Manettino’, which boyishly mimics the one in Ferrari’s F1 cars (the kid in you will LOVE this) allows the driver to select from various driving modes, and of course I found ‘Race’ to be the most intoxicating.

Speaking of that steering wheel, it does look remarkably similar to the one found in Ferrari’s F1 cars, and even has a shift-countdown LED light at the top of it; red lights come on sequentially, and when the last one illuminates, you flick the right flappy-paddle to up-shift. No guess work, you get optimum shifting every time. Bliss.

As low-slung as the car looks, and it is very low to the ground, the 488 Spider uses a trick also found in the Enzo, whereby it’s possible to lift the car a few inches off the ground (above) via a button on the dash. This will be especially handy for elevated car parks, and speed humps.

Speaking of suspension, just above the steering-mounted Start/Stop button, there’s one with a shock-absorber on it. This button is another God-send, especially for our roads, because it instantly softens the Magnetorheological damper suspension system all-round to soak-up the harshest bits of asphalt, of which as you know we have plenty.

I know you’re gonna ask what the heck that is, so I’ll put it as best I can. The magnetorheological damper system in the 488 uses iron-particles in a synthetic hydrocarbon oil. Using an electrical charge of varying intensity, the particles can be manipulated to either stiffen or soften the ride, by varying the magnetic field within the monoshock-tube that has one piston with two magnetic coils. Got it? Me neither. Ok, it’s magic. Let’s just leave it at that.

Here’s the car, top down, on the Karak Highway, I could really get used to this:


Engine wise (above), like its sibling the GTB, the 488 Spider is powered by 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that produces 670bhp and 760Nm of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch F1 inspired sequential gearbox with paddle-shifts.

The result is a 0-100kmh time of 3-seconds, and a top-speed of 320kmh. If that isn’t enough, this next bit is going to blow you away. It’s amazingly easy to drive. No, really, and I mean that in the best way possible. Of course, should the need arise (and it will, frequently) there’s more than enough grunt to keep things very interesting for a long time to come, but balls-out driving only lasts a while, and there’s nothing worse than a highly-tuned car that’s whining and droning away when you’re not in the mood.

In that respect, something amazing happens with the 488 Spider when you want to calm things down. It reverts to a docility that beggars belief. I had to do this a few times to believe it myself actually. Snapping into the last cog in the gearbox, seventh, and reducing speed to the highway limit, the revs drop below 2,000rpm, something snaps shut in the exhaust system and miraculously, it gets so quiet it almost seems like the engine has shut-off in lieu of an electric drive-train…

But it’s not a hybrid, and of course it hasn’t. It’s just become Dr. Jekyll from being Mr. Hyde. This then really begs the question that I posed when I reviewed the (then) new Lotus Evora. No one has ever considered a Ferrari like this as a daily-driver, or even one to use for outstation road-trips, but could the 488 Spider really be up to that task?

The short answer is yes. Believe it or not, the second half of the day with this car was to see how it handled daily-driving, so I intentionally got caught in traffic jams, and also hit the highway at its designated speed for some time. The 488 Spider (roof up this time) handled both situations brilliantly. There wasn’t a hint of complaint, there was no droning of engine noise permeating the cabin, and in normal cruising, it wasn’t even burning a hole in the petrol tank.

The ‘boot’ up-front is deep enough to swallow a couple of cabin-size bags, which means a weekend trip out of town won’t necessitate having to buy everything you need when you get to your destination either. Your office briefcase (do people still use those?) will have no problems being housed safely.

While I would have preferred an aircon blower with mid-range between positions 3 (too low) and 4 (typhoon), the car just puttered along silently on the highway, its revs barely over idle. I reckon the only gripe buyers may have is that there isn’t any room for a golf bag. But why anyone would wanna waste time playing golf when they have a car like this to drive is beyond me anyway.

However, along comes a tunnel, and suddenly the horns visibility sprout from your forehead, you hit the ‘manual’ button for the gearbox, snap down a couple of cogs, and just revel in the aural eroticism of it all, like this:


Amazing isn’t it? So there you have it. Another pointless review. It’s not my first, and I really do hope it’s not my last. As I said in the beginning, this is what we do. This is what we have spent years honing our skills for. To get to a point where you’re given a car like this to review, when it’s fully known on both sides of the fence that no review is even necessary for a car like this.

It won’t come overnight, but it will come, eventually, if you stick with it. There is no fast-track, there are no short-cuts. Work. Work until you never have to introduce yourself. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to do a pointless review like this yourself someday. Peace. – Chris Wee.

Ferrari 488 Spider Specifications and more info here: 488 Spider.

Ferrari 488 Spider Photo Gallery…