Ferrari has produced some fantastically memorable open-top V8 sports cars since it peeled back the metalwork from the 308 GTB, but the outgoing 458 Spider was a thunderous best-yet effort. Its shadow has only lengthened since we learnt that its replacement would have to have turbochargers mated to a slightly smaller flat-plane crank 90-degree V.
Maranello’s concern, practically bullet pointed in powerpoint, is that Spider buyers may be even more sensitive to the stifling effects of turbines than the GTB’s audience. ‘Open-air hedonists’ Ferrari calls its devotees, and the 458’s engine note and rampant drama were clearly ticked top of their feedback forms.
Personally, I’m with them; I drove the Spider all too briefly two years ago, on a breathless summer evening which turned to night and then day again before I finally emerged from it a happy husk, dried out and baked through by the double-heated breeze and swirling 9000rpm undercurrent.
If the subjective chest-swelling aura of the new 3.9-litre V8 lump is in question, its objective productivity is not. The 458 was already hugely fast, and its output has been improved by 100bhp - a large number utterly eclipsed of course by the 560lb ft of peak twist gleaned by forced induction, and carefully metered out by a Variable Torque Management system depending on the gear ratio. The drivetrain, complete with its quicker shifting seven-speed double-clutch ’box, is a direct carryover from the GTB; the architecture around it, though, is not.
Clearly, there’s the roof. This is much the same retractable hard top that the 458 wore, meaning it essentially peels off and backflips into a slender compartment behind your head. It still takes 14 seconds, and despite the massive windbreak effect it must briefly produce, it’ll operate up to speeds of 30mph. The requirements of its stowage means there’s no peekaboo engine porthole, although Ferrari repeats the claim that it is so lacking in extraneous bulk that a cloth alternative - i.e. the one they fitted to the F430 Spider - works out about 25kg heavier.
The weight of the new roof though is less significant than the impact of its removal as a load-bearing element on the car’s space frame. Unlike its direct rival, the McLaren 650S Spider, the 488 has no carbonfibre tub to stick everything too; instead Ferrari has again had to bolster it the old fashioned way - with additional structural reinforcement at either end - and with a reworking of the aluminum alloys used in the chassis. The latter helps save weight; the former does not, and is predominately the reason for a 50kg weight penalty versus the GTB; the same difference previously experienced by 458 Spider owners compared with the Italia.