We have entered the fifth decade of the mid-engined V8 Ferrari.

In 1975 Maranello replaced the V6 Dino with the 252bhp 308 GTB; last year, at its Geneva show press conference, it unveiled the seventh descendant of that line: the 661bhp 488 GTB.

The 488 is hugely significant for various reasons.

It is our reigning Britain’s Best Driver’s Car champ in left-hand drive form, so we’ve written about it a fair bit already, but only now comes the chance to judge the car in right-hand drive form, on road, track and weighbridge and against our tape measure and timing gear.

The build-up to the car’s launch was dominated by one key technical change: a twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 derived from the one first used in the California two years earlier.

It makes for sizeable gains in peak power and torque relative to the atmospheric V8 in the 458 Italia and delivers the required improvement in fuel economy and reduced emissions.

The logic of the car’s nomenclature is also new. The 488’s predecessors have flip-flopped between different rationales for their numerical identities since departing from the one that seemed to make the most sense: the first two digits of the name representing engine size and the last the number of cylinders, hence 308, 328 and 348.

Ferrari departed from that logic with the F355 but returned to it with the 458 Italia. And now it has departed once more, choosing ‘unitary displacement’ (or volume of one cylinder) to define a model name, as it once did with its V12 cars.

Perhaps this car should be called 398 GTB, with an extra character allowed somewhere to represent those turbos.

But Ferrari has rarely replaced one of its cars with another of lesser apparent numerical ‘value’ and credited its customers with the intelligence necessary to understand that less may be more, as seems to be the case with this downsized 488.

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Volvo XC60
    Car review
    28 June 2017
    Volvo aims its reinvigorated crosshairs at the medium-sized SUV ranks
  • First Drive
    27 June 2017
    Ford says the all-new Fiesta has extra polish and more space. We drove the ST-Line X 5-door 1.0T Ecoboost to find out how it shapes up
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer Design Nav 1.5 Turbo Ecotec 140 2017 review
    First Drive
    23 June 2017
    Low-rung estate model offers great value for money, albeit with little shine or excitement
  • Audi SQ5
    Car review
    23 June 2017
    New performance SUV has it all to do in a class of talented rivals. Is it up to the task?
  • Audi RS5 Coupe 2017
    The new Audi RS5: larger, lighter, quicker, cleaner and cleverer than the six-year-old model it replaces
    First Drive
    22 June 2017
    The RS5 gets a new twin-turbo V6 engine co-developed with Porsche. But that's just the start of its overhaul