by Sebastian Cenizo
The Ferrari 488 Pista Spider - almost every single word in that sentence sounds magnificently Italian and expensive. Starting at around $350,000, the second observation is 100% accurate. With GTE racing pedigree and parts carried over to the road car, it's worth the money for those who want the fastest drop-top Ferrari supercar on sale today. Bearing the company's multi-award winning 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, the Pista Spider produces a stratospheric 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. With power being sent to the rear wheels via an F1 seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, this is a race car for the road that features multiple aerodynamic enhancements, and little in the way of creature comforts. Nevertheless, it's compliant enough for use on back roads, and when the weather is fine, you can take in as much noise as possible by dropping the roof. Despite its inherent added mass, the 488 Pista Spider laps Ferrari's famous Fiorano test track in just 1:21.5 - barely two seconds slower than the company's groundbreaking LaFerrari hypercar.
In the interest of weight-saving, the 488 Pista Spider is 88 pounds lighter than the 488 Spider. To that end, the infotainment system and its speakers, the glovebox, and other unnecessary features have been stripped out. The crankshaft, flywheel, connecting rods, and even the exhaust manifold have been changed too, with titanium and Inconel being used for the last two items respectively. This contributes to an increase in power of 49 hp, while the body has been significantly reworked too, resulting in 20% better aerodynamic efficiency. This is more than just the 50th Ferrari that can give you a view of the stars at night - it's a proper racecar that just happens to allow you to catch a tan too.
Carbon fiber construction is a big part of the 488 Pista Spider, with the front bumper and hood being molded from the stuff. Besides their saving in mass, they've been redesigned to enhance aerodynamic efficiency, with an S-duct improving front-end downforce. The by-product is a much more aggressive front end that makes the LED headlights look even more menacing. The car rides on 20-inch wheels, with pricey carbon fiber variants available to save even more weight. The flanks of the car bear gaping air vents that feed the intercoolers exclusively, with the regular 488 Spider's engine intakes moved to the more curvaceous rear spoiler. The rear bumper also features a design borrowed from the LaFerrari FXX K hyper racecar to help clean the air better, while a more aggressive rear diffuser sits below a pair of exhaust outlets and also houses an F1-style fog light. Every angle is smooth and yet sharp at the same time, with the whole car looking both angrily fit for purpose on a racetrack, and gorgeously sensual too. If you want even more exoticism, Ferrari will happily add carbon fiber to numerous panels, including the front splitter, rear diffuser, and side skirts. Even the Ferrari emblems on the wheels can be backed in carbon rather than the traditional yellow.
Everything on the 488 Pista Spider has been revisited and refined. The Pista is slightly lower, wider, and shorter in length than its more benign 488 counterpart. Length measures 181.3 inches from end-to-end, with the wheelbase at 104.3 inches. Width is 77.8 inches with the height measuring just 47.5 inches. Curb weight is down from 3,362 lbs in the regular Spider to 3,274 lbs in the Pista Spider.
The 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 in the 488 Pista is a magnificent engineering masterpiece, and has proven to be one of the greatest turbocharged power plants of our generation, winning Engine of the Year for an unprecedented four years in a row. Despite the award now considering electric cars too, the engine has held on to its title, beating Tesla's electric powertrain, Porsche's 3.8-liter turbo, McLaren's 4.0-liter twin-turbo, and even Ferrari's own mighty 6.5-liter V12. With more aggressive camshafts, titanium connecting rods, shorter intake runners, a lighter crankshaft, and an Inconel exhaust manifold, the engine produces an explosive 710 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. Paired with Ferrari's F1 seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the 488 Pista Spider rockets from 0-62 mph in just 2.85 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 211 mph. Its astonishing acceleration is helped by a phenomenal launch control system that shoves you in your seat so hard that you'd think the car is all-wheel-drive like its Lamborghini Huracan Performante Spyder rival. Despite the kick-in-your-back gear changes at full tilt, the transmission is sedate at lower speeds, if a little slow to react. However, the beautiful noise of a 458 Speciale Aperta is long gone, and the 488 Pista Spider, although still sounding very pleasing, is somewhat muted, its noise hiding how fast you're actually going.
This is where the Ferrari shines once more. The steering is sharp and direct, rarely requiring you to shuffle your hands over the wheel. Despite this, there is a pleasing weight and plenty of communication from the road. In a world where we're subjected to numb, overly-assisted and downright game-like steering from even the likes of BMW, the 488 Pista Spider is so good, it brings a tear to the eye of those who get to experience it just once. Adaptive magnetorheological dampers are standard, with the ability to change between soft and sporty at the touch of a button. Wet mode on the manettino drive-mode selector is always soft and dials back the power, while CT Off (for the traction) and ESC Off (deactivating traction and stability) keep the dampers fixed in their stiffer settings. Sport and Race allow you to change between the two. Despite the focus on speed and rigidity in this car, the adaptive dampers do an excellent job of absorbing mid-corner bumps, undulations, and pockmarked tarmac. When you're giving it the beans, the sixth generation of Side Slip Angle Control works with the electronic LSD and the traction and stability systems, as well as Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer to help you control drifts rather than force the car straight. However, the brake pedal is exceptionally firm, although not unmanageable, at city speeds.
Not that it matters, but the 488 Pista Spider's official EPA figures reflect that it scored 15/19/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 26.5-gallon gas tank, the Pista Spider should return an impressive range of around 450 miles with mixed driving. By contrast, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante Spyder returns 13/19/15 mpg, and the McLaren 720S is the best of the three with 15/22/18 mpg.
The Pista version of the two-seater 488 Spider is set apart from the lesser model by more expansive use of the beautiful suede-like material known as Alcantara. Dual-zone climate control allows the passenger to set the air conditioning to their preference, but all other functions are handled by the driver, with most controls residing on the steering wheel that is lashed with carbon fiber. A large tachometer dominates the view, while other vitals are displayed on small screens on either side of the central gauge. Infotainment, navigation, and speakers are all stripped, but Ferrari will put them back in for a fee. The shift paddles are new carbon fiber items and have been borrowed from the 488 Challenge race car.
Cargo area is not what you'd call expansive, with the front trunk, or 'frunk', measuring just six cubic feet in volume. This is two cubes down on the original 488 Spider, thanks to that aerodynamic S-duct encroaching on available space. Nevertheless, the space is deep, and you can fit a pair of overnight bags in there without too much trouble.
In the cabin, the glovebox has been deleted, with shallow door nets doing duty in place of traditional pockets. You could fit a wallet or two in each, but not much else. A cupholder is also included, with a secondary one ahead of it if you choose not to store your key in the slot there. A pair of shallow storage areas in the center console is also included, where you can put your phone.
As a track-focused vehicle, most of the usual amenities have been dispensed with, making this Pista Spider a spartan vehicle even for a Ferrari. Nevertheless, start/stop technology is standard, along with dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. You also get cruise control and automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and heated mirrors. More time and money has instead been spent on the performance-enhancing features of the car, like launch control, an electronic LSD, and the sixth generation of Side Slip Angle Control.
How about the infotainment system? Well, that's gone in the base car. In this car, you have to pay extra to reinstate a Burmester sound system and get Bluetooth, aux input, navigation, and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. With this back in place, the display on the right of the rev counter doubles as a means of controlling the infotainment system. For around $6,000 you can upgrade the audio experience to a JBL system. Android Auto is not available.
The Ferrari 488 Pista Spider has been free of recalls, but it's coupe sibling had an issue in February of 2019 for a fuel vapor separator that may crack and leak. An airbag ECU malfunction also presented itself on the coupe in June of the same year.
A three-year/unlimited mileage bumper-to-bumper warranty is standard, including powertrain and corrosion coverage. Roadside assistance is also included for the same period, as is a seven-year/unlimited-mileage maintenance plan.
Considering its expense, it's no wonder that the IIHS and the NHTSA have not received the 488 Spider to test for crashworthiness. Instead, you must rely on the advanced traction control system and stability control programs, and should you bin it in any case, a pair of front- and side-impact airbags are in place. The buttresses of the Spider also double as reinforced roll hoops.
The Ferrari 488 Pista Spider is a marvelous machine, with superb handling, wonderfully intuitive steering, and an award-winning engine that is more powerful than ever. Everything about the Pista Spider, from its styling, to its interior materials, its engine, and its driver-focused cockpit all point to a hardcore racing machine with genuine competition pedigree. With over 700 horses on tap and a stability control system that can make anyone's driving heroic, this is a phenomenal machine. However, the caveat to the most powerful mid-engined production V8 Ferrari ever is that there's no aural drama, no sonorous wail, no symphony of naturally aspirated singing. Despite their best efforts, Ferrari's forced entry into forced induction makes the Pista Spider a slightly demure and dull machine to listen to. Besides that, it's expensive and you get almost no creature comforts. Nevertheless, its capabilities, as well as its ability to cruise on regular roads in admirable comfort, mean that this is a piece of heavy artillery that comes with a warm blanket. It's stupid fast as well as civilized, and having the roof come off makes it even more special, not less so.
If you have to ask, you can't afford it. Pricing starts around the $350,000 mark, and when you consider that the previous hardcore drop-top V8, the 458 Speciale Aperta sold for around $320,000 new and is now worth over a million dollars, this car could be a wise investment. Granted, the Pista Spider is not a limited-run model like the Speciale Aperta was, but there still won't be too many examples of these floating around.
|488 Pista Spider||
3.9-liter V8 Gas
7-Speed Dual Clutch
There's only one trim variant of the 488 Pista Spider, but numerous options can be had. We'd stray from the carbon fiber wheel option, as these would be devastatingly expensive to replace should your curb one or hit a pothole, but we would opt for the surprisingly comfy yet supportive carbon-backed seats. Although this likely wouldn't be your only car, it is a convertible, meaning that you should be able to enjoy just cruising with it. Therefore, we'd spec features like the infotainment and navigation systems in, and definitely splash out on the exterior carbon accents. If we're doing that, the interior may as well get the same treatment too. Heavily specced with choice materials and a few amenities, the Pista Spider would be an attractive choice at a Sotheby's auction in a few years' time.
If you're looking for a high-powered and specially-developed version of an already brilliant Italian drop-top, the Huracan Performante Spyder could be worth considering too. Italians are confusing, with Lambo naming their drop-top with a Y instead of Ferrari's I, but maybe we can argue that this is just another Y-accent tying into the styling. Nevertheless, both mid-engined supercars make use of a seven-speed dual-clutch, but they couldn't be more different. The Performante Spyder uses a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 and sends its power to all four wheels. The Pista Spider, on the other hand, employs turbocharging on its 3.9-liter V8 and sends power to the rear wheels only. The Lambo produces 630 hp versus the Ferrari's 710, but both vehicles get from 0-62 mph in around 2.9 seconds. As good as the Ferrari is, the Lambo's noise can't be beaten, and with a base price almost 50 grand lower, the Huracan Performante Spyder is a forged carbon-encrusted bargain.
The $315,000 McLaren 720S Spider looks very similar to the Pista Spider on paper. A 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 sends power through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox to the rear wheels. Power and torque figures are almost identical, with 710 hp and 568 lb-ft. The curb weight of the 720S Spider is just 39 lbs lower than that of the Pista, with a top speed just one mph higher. With a superior carbon-fiber monocoque and the McLaren Super Series designation, the 720S Spider is just as special as the Fezza, if not more so - you can use it on the road while experiencing more convenience as you can spec a surround-view camera along with standard adaptive LED headlights. Overall, the McLaren is a blistering machine that is arguably even more of a technological marvel than the Pista, and with three sub-trims available, you can make it more luxurious and comfortable than the Pista Spider could ever hope to be, all while retaining the same exceptional performance. We'll take the British underdog here.