by Karl Furlong
As a replacement for the much-loved Ferrari 458, the 488 GTB is another breathtaking mid-engine supercar from the Italian manufacturer that remains at the apex of automotive desirability. Along with its exotic looks, it's the 488 GTB's heart that captivates, thanks to 661 horsepower from a 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8. With a 0-62 mph acceleration time of just three seconds and a phenomenal quarter-mile time of 10.45 seconds, the performance on offer is intoxicating and, where mid-range grunt is concerned, even more effective than with the 458's bigger, naturally-aspirated unit. The usual array of aerodynamic wizardry keeps the GTB planted at high speeds and the interior is all about exotic materials and an uncompromising focus on the driver. Ferrari has not only made an even faster exotic, but the addition of turbocharging hasn't diluted the 488 GTB's appeal as a raw, spine-tingling driving machine.
The 488 GTB effectively replaces the 458 and gets its own styling and suspension tweaks. However, the big news is undoubtedly the move from the 458's naturally-aspirated, 4.5-liter V8 to the GTB's 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8. This makes it the first mid-engined production Ferrari to feature turbocharging since the legendary F40. At 561 lb-ft, the turbo motor's peak torque figure is way up on the older V8's 398 lb-ft. Other than this, the newer 488 and the older 458 share similar interiors and don't actually look all that different.
The 488 GTB is classic Ferrari in its appearance and that can only be a good thing. That said, improving on the 458 - one of the most gorgeous Ferraris ever - was never going to be easy, and we're not sure the 488 does this. From the long, slim headlights to the dual exhaust outlets, deep side scoops, and the road-hugging proportions, it's still a stunner, though. The turbocharged engine is also on full display thanks to a glass rear window. Further enhancing the sporty appeal are 20-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, and plenty of aerodynamic features to improve downforce - for example, the rear diffuser features variable flap geometry depending on driving conditions and the GTB has a mostly flat underbody.
Low to the ground and with a wide stance, the 488 GTB measures 179.8 inches in length, 47.8 inches in height, and 76.9 inches in width excluding the side mirrors. With minimal ground clearance, care will need to be taken when encountering speed bumps or steeply angled driveway entries/exits. Curb weight is 3,252 pounds, making the 488 GTB just over 20 lbs lighter than the 458.
It may surprise you that red isn't the only color option, so closely are Ferrari's cars associated with this fiery shade. There are several red shades to choose from, however, including Corsa Red, Fiorano Red, and Scuderia Red. For those with a non-traditional taste, there is a wide color palette to choose from with over 20 shades like California Blue, Giallo Modena (yellow), Grigio Silverstone Metallic, and Ivory.
The 488 GTB's performance is dramatic, to say the least. The 3.9-liter turbocharged engine's peak outputs of 661 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque (all sent to the rear wheels) make for a 0-62 mph time (100 km/h) of just three seconds and it'll top out at over 200 mph if you can find somewhere to do it legally - and if you're brave enough. The quarter-mile is done and dusted in only 10.45 seconds. Most impressively, perhaps, is how even the fitment of turbos hasn't dulled the comical appeal of revving this Ferrari to its limiter. And unlike some other turbocharged cars, it's worth hitting the limiter as the engine continues building a surge of power all the way to the red line - there's no breathlessness at the top-end. The V8 also makes a delicious howl, perhaps not as melodic as the old V8, but still thoroughly engrossing. If we haven't been absolutely clear yet: the move to turbocharging has been a resounding success.
While Porsche continues to face criticism for its latest generation of turbo-fours used in its smaller Boxster, Ferrari must have known that it couldn't risk alienating its fan base when transitioning from the 458's magnificent 4.5-liter naturally-aspirated V8. They haven't, and the 488 GTB's new 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 is a masterpiece of power and drivability - it's hard to argue with 661 hp and 561 lb-ft. That torque figure is way up on the older V8's 398 lb-ft and endows the GTB with neck-snapping mid-range urge. It goes without saying that acceleration off the mark is blistering and tends to evoke some colorful expletives from those experiencing it for the first time, such is the force with which the Ferrari builds speed. Overtaking grunt is instant and violent, but perhaps the V8's mightiest achievement is the absence of discernible turbo lag and the ease with which it revs past 7,000 rpm. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission plays its part too and shifts with alacrity, easily matching the urgency of the engine's power delivery. And what about engine sound? Well, it's definitely a bit more industrial than the older V8, but remains hugely characterful.
As standard, the 488 GTB is fitted with an adaptive suspension that is firm but surprisingly compliant considering the car's handling prowess. And handling remains what this car is all about, with ultra-quick steering responding keenly to even minor driver inputs, along with feel through the wheel that's missing from most modern cars - the dreaded center dead spot also doesn't apply here at all. Side Slip Control forms part of the advanced traction control system and allows you to execute as many endless drifts as you want, provided you can afford to replace those tires. It's also all remarkably approachable, a combination of the brilliantly tuned chassis and the clever electronics working together to provide a telepathic driving experience where the 488 seems to be responding to your thoughts. Exceptional body control, perfectly weighted controls, and an engine/gearbox combination that seems to always be in sync amount to another towering achievement. The 488 GTB is a near-flawless driver's car.
You're not buying a Ferrari 488 GTB expecting it to be light on juice, so its EPA-rated economy figures of 15/22/18 mpg should come as no surprise. That being said, highway consumption represents a marked improvement of five miles-per-gallon over the 458 Italia and, considering the 488's extra power and torque, it's a great result. The GTB has a 20.6-gallon gas tank and, when full, it should manage a combined cruising range of around 370 miles.
A low-down seating position suits the purpose of the 488 GTB and the seats are super supportive. It's a typically racy interior, with loads of suede, leather, carbon fiber, and metal trim adorning the dashboard and door panels. A centrally-mounted tachometer takes pride of place ahead of the driver, but there's no central infotainment screen - Ferrari obviously thinks this would detract from the driving experience. Rather, most information is displayed via a digital readout alongside the rev counter. The steering wheel houses a red engine start/stop button and a 'manettino' dial for the various driving modes. While the setup is a bit fiddly, at least the driver and passenger have a decent amount of space in the cabin to make the 488 GTB entirely livable.
Back seats would go against the 488 GTB ethos of light weight and maximized performance, so the driver only gets to share the special experience with one other passenger. There's enough space in the cabin for two people thanks to adequate headroom and legroom, but choose wisely when it comes to seating options as some of the sportier offerings are really firm. The other issue is rearward visibility that suffers as a result of the mid-engine design and sharply angled rear window. Ingress and egress require a bit more effort due to the Ferrari's low stance but isn't a serious handicap.
The modern Ferrari is no longer saddled with a cut-price interior and flimsy switchgear. Although perhaps not assembled with the same precision as a Porsche, the 488 GTB's cabin features an attractive mix of leather, Alcantara, and suede materials. You can also choose seats in full leather without the suede inserts if you so wish. As with the exterior, there are a host of color options that go beyond the popular red/black combination - Cream, Charcoal, Sand and Blue are just some of the available options. Further options include an Alcantara steering wheel with a customized color choice, carbon-fiber racing seats, and more carbon-fiber trim pieces dotted around the interior.
The Ferrari's frunk offers up to 8.1 cubic feet of space, which actually isn't terrible considering the 488 GTB's performance focus. You can get one large suitcase or a few soft bags in there, while you can also order custom Ferrari-branded luggage to make the most of the available space. Interior storage space is minimal - there are slim door pockets, a lockable glovebox that isn't especially large, and some space behind the front seats to stash smaller items.
There's just one trim level, but this doesn't really matter when you can customize the GTB to your heart's content (but to the chagrin of your bank balance). As standard, you get features like cruise control, climate control, leather sport seats, heated exterior mirrors, external LED lighting, keyless entry, and push-button start. There is a range of no-cost options for the seats - you can have them with manual adjustment, electric adjustment, and/or heating. The steering wheel looks like something out of a gaming arcade with its mass of buttons and switches - some love it, and some don't. And, although airbags and a rearview camera are fitted, don't expect to find driving aids like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert at all - in this car, the driver does all the work, which is probably how it should be.
It's clear that infotainment systems aren't really a priority for Ferrari. Unlike in almost every other modern car, there is no large central display. Rather, this area features an air vent and several controls that have been angled to be as close to the driver as possible. Instead, information is displayed on two tiny screens on either side of the central rev counter. It's all rather fiddly to use, but again, it's not what this car is about. The secondary audio system (the primary one being the V8 engine itself, of course) features six speakers along with Bluetooth connectivity, MP3 compatibility, a 30 GB internal hard-drive, a USB connection, and an auxiliary input jack. Apple CarPlay is available, but Android Auto isn't. The standard navigation system features voice-activation.
It's never easy to assess the reliability of a low-volume sports car like the 488 GTB, but this is a complex machine so it's in your best interest to follow a strict preventative maintenance schedule. There are a few problems on record, with a 2019 recall by the NHTSA being issued for a fuel vapor separator that may crack and leak fuel, increasing the risk of a fire. The same recall affected 2018 models, along with two additional issues: one for an airbag ECU that may malfunction and another particularly concerning one for a passenger frontal airbag inflator that may explode.
The 488 GTB is covered by a three-year basic warranty with unlimited miles - the same coverage is provided for the drivetrain and for corrosion. Maintenance is for seven years regardless of mileage covered.
The NHTSA and the IIHS have a distaste for crash-testing exotics that cost in excess of $250,000, so to the relief of enthusiasts everywhere, no Ferrari 488 GTB has yet been hurled into a wall of cement. It does mean that safety is an unknown, although one can reasonably expect that the Italian manufacturer has built a car that can effectively protect occupants in the event of a crash.
The 488 is fitted with four airbags: two in the front and one on either side. It also gets electronic stability control, driveline traction control, tire pressure monitoring and a rearview camera. Along with a rear parking aid, that's pretty much it when it comes to safety.
The Ferrari 488 GTB is a phenomenal performance machine. While the move from the 458's naturally-aspirated V8 to a turbocharged unit initially received a mixed response, the 488 puts all those concerns to bed when you take it for a drive. This is a force-fed engine that combines the best of a turbo (brilliant mid-range thrust and oodles of torque) with the best of a naturally-aspirated unit (razor-sharp throttle response and an extreme appetite for revs). The rest of the GTB's package also thrills, from its impeccable chassis dynamics to its wonderful steering and surprisingly composed road manners when you aren't wringing its neck. The interior is mostly a success with appealing materials and enough space, although the infotainment system is only average. Other than that, this is a car that's foolishly easy to love and that feels special even when pitted against formidable rivals from Lamborghini and McLaren.
There's only one 488 GTB and it will set you back to the tune of $262,647. This price excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination/handling charge of $3,750. It also excludes any options, and it's remarkably easy to spend in excess of $350,000 on a 488 GTB.
Discounting the Spider and Pista models (reviewed separately), there's just one Ferrari 488 GTB available. The headline numbers are towering, with 661 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque available from the mid-mounted 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard and power is sent to the rear wheels. The rear diffuser features a drag-reduction system that is electronically controlled, and the Side Slip Control system controls the traction/stability control along with the adaptive dampers.
While the styling isn't a huge departure from the 458 Italia, the 488 GTB has its own character and features 20-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, giant front air intakes, large side scoops, and twin exhaust outlets at the back. The driver-focused cabin is available with several distinct seating designs from leather to racing seats, plus you get climate control, a rearview camera, a driving mode selector on the steering wheel, cruise control, four airbags, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rear parking aid. Customization potential is vast, from your choice of brake caliper colors to carbon-fiber trim, Daytona leather inserts, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and even a special luggage set.
3.9-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
If you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it. That's the approach one should have when perusing the 488 GTB's range of options. Most of the optional extras are cosmetic or intended to elevate the GTB's performance even further. Among the available features are memory adjustments for the seats/mirrors/steering wheel, two-tone exterior paint, a sport exhaust pipe, a carbon-fiber seat shell, headliner upholstery in leather, a power-adjustable steering wheel, Daytona carbon fiber racing seats, and both front and rear parking sensors. Carbon-fiber can be equipped to nearly every part of the 488's cabin, and while it can be great fun speccing your ideal GTB, nothing comes cheaply.
The GTB is a meticulously crafted supercar right out of the box, so the bulk of the extras will differ depending on your particular tastes. We'd avoid the racing seats as they're extremely firm, opting instead for a combination of leather/Alcantara on the standard items. We're going to go for one of the red color choices as this is Ferrari at its best, and that is about it. The basics are so right in the 488 GTB, that adding on a bunch of extras seems superfluous.
Possibly the only way to create more of a commotion than pulling up in a Ferrari 488 GTB is to have a Lamborghini Huracan drive up next to you. The extreme Huracan LP610-4 has a 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10 that has its own sensational (and even louder) soundtrack and over 600 horsepower to provide similarly shattering acceleration to the 488 GTB. They provide their performance in different ways, but both are electrifying. Dynamically, the LP610-4's all-wheel-drive system serves up endless grip but feedback is not as satisfying as it is in the Ferrari. For less money than the 488, you can get the LP580-2 with RWD. In both cases, we're talking about two of the best driver's cars on the planet and needing to choose between them seems sinful. We'll leave that impossible task up to you.
The latest McLaren 720S is an incredibly powerful track car. Like the Ferrari 488 GTB, it features a twin-turbocharged V8 that manages a wild 710 horsepower along with 568 lb-ft of torque. This makes it even quicker than the 488 GTB, with the 720S covering the quarter-mile a tenth of a second quicker than the GTB thanks to its lighter weight (made possible by a carbon-fiber tub). The 720S also has a system to control the level of oversteer (like the Ferrari's Side Slip Control system) and both are precise driving tools with limits that you'll rarely ever approach. Although the McLaren is faster, we'd give the Ferrari the edge for having the more engaging powerplant of the two. The Ferrari's looks are also more classic to our eyes than the McLaren's, despite the latter's dramatic dihedral doors - for those reasons, the Italian stallion is the one we'd choose. But can you really go wrong with either of these supercars? Absolutely not.