by Sebastian Cenizo
Ferrari is a brand that is arguably as recognizable as Coca-Cola. It's the ultimate supercar company, and although some may take issue with its impressive marketing and merchandising strategies, Ferrari still makes cars too, and brilliant ones at that. One of the latest is the F8 Spider, Maranello's answer to the McLaren 720S Spider and the Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder. With a 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 born from the multiple-award-winning powerplant in the preceding 488 Spider, this 710-horsepower rear-wheel-drive drop-top is the ultimate compromise between hair-ruffling performance and Italian style. As good as it is, it's difficult to deny that the 720S is arguably the best supercar in this bracket, so is the Fezza a worthy alternative or should tradition be dispensed with in the pursuit of bragging right supremacy?
The F8 Spider is sold as an all-new model, but despite its extensive styling changes, it's more an evolution of the 488 Spider (which was something of an evolution of the 458 before it) than an all-new variant. Still, it does borrow much of the 488 Pista's engine technology and weight-saving. This gives it incredible power and ability on the track, but acceleration and top speed times are not much better than on the Pista. That's not to say that the F8 should be viewed as a half-baked attempt at a new car; it's more that the cars that came before it were so good that there wasn't much that needed changing. Still, those that have experienced the F8's predecessors may notice subtle changes, like a slightly smaller steering wheel and a new interior.
3.9-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
As this is the drop-top version of the F8 Tributo, the F8 Spider has the same LED headlights on either side of an S-duct that debuted on the Pista. Complex grilles and ducts are complemented by a subtle lip spoiler, while the profile features another large intake on each side of the car, which is also the best angle to view the gorgeous 20-inch wheels. At the back, the taillights are once again in a quad layout, something last seen from Ferrari in this segment on the F430. A huge diffuser houses dual-exit exhaust tips, while a curvaceous active spoiler finishes off the look.
The F8 Spider has the classic dimensions of a mid-engined supercar with a wide footprint and a low stance. The entire car measures just 181.5 inches in length while the width is 77.9 inches. Height is 47.5 inches while the wheelbase is 104.3 inches. All of these measurements are identical to those of the coupe, but mass is where is the difference lies. On the coupe, the dry weight is under 3,000 pounds, but on this Spider, the dry weight is rated at 3,086 lbs.
The engine in the 488 won International Engine of the Year from 2016-2019 and was also voted the best engine of the past two decades. That should tell you that the 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 in this car, an evolution of the one in the 488, is simply incredible. Unlike other turbocharged engines, this one truly feels like there is absolutely no turbo lag. It responds from way down in any gear, just like a naturally aspirated engine would, and its output matches that of the larger V8 in the 720S, with 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. It puts this to the ground via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that feeds the rear wheels and responds just as fast as the engine, allowing the F8 Spider to get from 0-62 mph in just 2.9 seconds. Top speed is also impressive at 211 mph, although the lighter 720S Spider is a tenth quicker to 62 and a smidge faster with a top speed of 212.
There's no point in having a powerful engine if you can't fully enjoy it, but the F8 Spider is adept at putting its power to the ground and at making you look like a driving god. One of the most enjoyable features is called Side Slip Angle Control, which effectively helps you control a drift, while Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer will individually brake a wheel to tighten your line as you go through a corner. Speaking of braking, the carbon-ceramic setup is remarkably responsive and fade-free, even after countless hard stops. The only downside to the way the F8 Spider handles is also a strength: there's a little bit of chassis flex that becomes apparent if you hit a bump mid-corner with the roof down, but in a car like this, you want a little more play because it enhances comfort, and if you're not comfortable in a convertible, what's the point of having one?
The EPA has not yet released estimates for the F8 Spider, but the figures should be very similar to those of the F8 Tributo. That car manages 15/19/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. If the Spider achieves similar figures, its 20.6-gallon gas tank should return around 329 miles with mixed driving. Although the naturally-aspirated Lamborghini Huracan is even worse, McLaren's 720S Spider manages figures of 15/22/18.
As you'd expect, the F8 Spider is only habitable by two individuals. That low ride height can make getting in and out a little tricky if the roof is in place, but the driving position and overall support and comfort of the seats are all good for a supercar. If, however, you opt for the available carbon-backed seats, you may find that comfort takes a back seat to rigidity. Still, the view in most directions is pretty good, although that adaptive spoiler does block some of your view out the letterbox rear window when the roof is up.
As you'd expect, there's not much space in the frunk of the F8 Spider, with a lot of space taken up by that clever S-duct. The storage area offers just seven cubic feet of volume, barely enough for a helmet and some racing overalls, although we doubt that racing on track is the main reason you'd buy a drop-top supercar.
In the cabin, there's enough space behind the seats for an overnight bag or two, and you get a pair of cupholders in the center console. There's also a small glovebox, but that's about it.
As you'd expect in an Italian supercar, most of the advanced features of the car are related to improving its performance. However, you do still get dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, push-button ignition, and power-folding heated wing mirrors. There's also the usual rearview camera, and a pair of digital displays inside the instrument cluster for showing various parameters including speed and temperature. The car also benefits from adaptive magnetorheological dampers and an adaptive rear spoiler as standard, but there isn't a whole lot else.
Infotainment on the F8 Spider is courtesy of Ferrari's Human Machine interface and is controlled exclusively through the buttons on the steering wheel. However, you can opt for a seven-inch horizontal touchscreen display ahead of the passenger, who can access media and navigation and also view the car's speed and rpm. However, although you can have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the sound system is not that great and there isn't much you can do about it. Still, it responds quickly enough and the interface has an appealing aesthetic.
The F8 has thus far been free of recalls, but it may be worth noting that its predecessor, the 488, suffered a recall in 2019 for a fuel vapor separator that could crack and leak.
Should anything go wrong, the F8 is covered by a transferable plan that sees it looked after in terms of maintenance for the first seven years at no charge, so long as annual or 12,500-mile service intervals are adhered to. You also get a limited and powertrain warranty for the first three years of ownership, with no mileage limit.
As with most other exotic vehicles, the F8 Spider and its Tributo hard-top sibling have not been subjected to crash testing by the IIHS nor the NHTSA. However, should you lose control, even with the advanced traction and stability management programs looking out for you, frontal and side-impact airbags can cushion the blow. Anti-lock brakes and a rearview camera are also included, but that's about it.
The Ferrari F8 Spider is a mesmerizing piece of engineering. The engine alone is almost worth the asking price, and the incredibly clever traction and stability systems that enhance your driving experience are just as good. The steering is a joy to use and the gearbox responds with a speed that suggests telepathy. Not just that, but the thing looks utterly gorgeous. The only real complaint worth mentioning is that the engine note isn't anything special. With companies like McLaren, that doesn't really matter, but from a thoroughbred Italian stallion like this, you want to feel the hairs on the back of your neck prick up when you so much as blip the throttle, and that is absent from the experience here. Turbocharging this car sucks only for this reason, and although the car isn't muted, it's not exactly sonorous. Nevertheless, despite the 720S being marginally quicker and sharper, the F8 Spider is still a tremendous supercar, and having the wind in your hair makes the experience even more special.
Pricing for the F8 Spider starts at around $275,000, which is more than ten grand cheaper than the Lambo Huracan Evo Spyder, but that's before you add any options. There aren't a lot of choices, but they aren't cheap either. We expect a fully loaded model to easily exceed the $325,000 mark without much difficulty. For reference, the 720S Spider starts at $315,000, so the Fezza seems like a bit of a bargain in this company.
If you're shopping for a car like this, then money should be no object. Thus, we'd select a eye-catching paint finish, like Rosso Fiorano. We'd also opt for a set of forged wheels, the carbon exterior package, and the titanium exhaust tips. Since this car would be used more for leisure than competition, we'd shy away from the carbon-backed seat options and rather put that money into the passenger's performance and media touch display. This would be as rounded a selection as possible and would offer a good balance of style, comfort, and convenience.
Although it may seem contradictory for a convertible to be considered a hardcore track racer, that's exactly the idea behind the 488 Pista Spider, a car descended from the 458 Speciale Aperta. The Pista shares the same sort of twin-turbo 3.9-liter V8 with an Inconel lightweight exhaust and 710 hp. The acceleration time from 0-62 mph exactly matches that of the F8 Spider, but the newer F8 is faster on the top end, with a limit of 211 mph while the Pista stops accelerating at 205 mph. What it lacks in top speed it makes up for with a more rigid setup and a greater focus on the driving experience. Essentially, both cars are equally impressive, but the F8 is the one that you'll enjoy using from day to day while the Pista should be your weapon of choice if you want to take your Ferrari convertible to the track.
The McLaren 720S has been widely recognized as the ultimate supercar in its class, and the open-top version is no less impressive. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces almost identical figures to the Fezza, with 710 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. From 0-62, it's a tenth quicker and its top speed is one mph higher, but that's not where the difference really lies. The rotating driver info display, the stiffer chassis as a result of a carbon tub rather than the F8's aluminum one, and an all-round sharper drive combine to make the 720S Spider the perfect drop-top supercar, but it is considerably pricier than the F8. Still, if money is a problem, you likely aren't shopping in this category anyway.