The Open Sky is the Limit
Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Raj Warrior
It’s not every day that we get an invite from Ferrari to join them in the United Arab Emirates to spend some quality time with their latest addition to the test drive fleet. After all, when you are talking about sports cars valued at a quarter of a million dollars or thereabouts, you aren’t likely to find too many opportunities.
Yes, we accepted the invitation and were put up in rather opulent style and then handed over the keys to the 488 Spider parked on the porch of our hotel.
The 488 Spider was launched officially at last year’s Frankfurt Motorshow. And in June last year, we were driving the GTB variant on the track at Fiorano as part of a global press reveal. That in itself indicates how important the Spider is to the product equation of the V8 engine powered 488 series.
Visually the car stays true to most of the signature themes of the 488, including the elaborate aerodynamic modelling of the front lower valance, the overt fenders, LED equipped headlamps, the mirrors out on stalks as well as the styling around the air intakes for the rear bay (including, one must add the oddly styled door handles that increase the airflow efficiency into the engine bay by more than enough to justify the effort).
The difference, as is the case here is all to the rear of the driver. The 488 Spider has to take on the mantle previously worn by the 458 Spider and it does this by sticking to the by now tried and tested formula of a retractable hardtop made of lightweight aluminium. This allows the hard top to deploy and stash away in some rather limited real estate over the car’s engine, while keeping the profile tight.
Visually, with the roof up, you may confuse the head-on view with the GTB. May, but it’s not likely if you do a double take. Of course the major difference from the rear is that the large fastback pane of glass covering the engine has disappeared, leaving the twin flying buttresses along the sides that now have a sculpted channel in between. The join lines between the panels of the retractable hard roof are visible from the side but only just and the rear on view is rather more interesting than on the GTB.
Treading its own visually distinct path, the Spider also has the wherewithal to deliver as a lifestyle choice. The roof does its jig in under 14 seconds (even in motion at upto 30 km/h) and weighs in at only 25 kgs. Additionally, once the roof is down, the cabin gets a glass windbreak that isolates the cabin to the level that you can hold a regular conversation while doing highway speeds as well as listen to the music on the radio. We took the car out on a hot and tepid Dubai morning and spent the whole of the morning cruising around with the air-conditioner at full blast and the roof down. It was cool enough in the cabin but you don’t want to do that with the cloud cover gone.
The commonalities between the Spider and 488GTB are rather strong and striking. Almost nothing changes in the cabin other than the provision of the roof switch. The car gets Apple’s CarPlay as standard and on pairing your iPhone with the system you are presented with the usual graphic welcome and layout.
And the whole of the rest of the car stays true to the successful formula. It’s made of various types of aluminium alloy sheets with 11 different grades used to make up the spaceframe. From the data available it looks like the torsional stiffness of the Spider is the same as the Coupé despite the latter being an integral unit. It’s amazing how the engineers have managed this – no doubt by strengthening the sills and around the A-pillar.
The beauty about the Ferrari cabin is of course how everything is centred in on the driver’s wheel and instrument binnacle. The centre console is completely secondary and may not exist in your umwelt
The engine too is the V8 turbocharged unit that powers the GTB. 3,902cc of volume coupled with the twin scroll turbo and some rather ingenious engineering around the intake and exhaust piping have made for an engine that does more than enough justice as the replacement to the larger volume outgoing unit on the 458. The peak power on offer is 670PS with a torque of 760NM. Performance figures are a flat 3 seconds for the standing 100km/h with the standing 200km/h attained in 8.7 seconds. Top speed is claimed to be 325km/h although we didn’t try that.
However, we had local auto journalist and all round good guy Gautam Sharma on board, who came along for logistics support and he did try to flog the maximum he could out of the car in the few isolated stretches we found.
The V8 engine is paired with an F1 style seven speed transmission with a rather tall gearing up on the seventh gear. The control unit tries to send the car into a fuel saving drive mode, especially when you’ve left the manettino in Sport mode. Once you bump that up to Race you don’t get the over eagerness to shift up.
But for the times that engine prefers trundling along in the seventh gear, the mapping has reserved peak torque just for that – that’s why quite unlike a regular turbocharged engine’s torque curve, here you get the torque rising in little steps to max out above 3,000rpm.
What this seeks to do is to balance the needs of the sensible side of the luxury car along with the outright sporty nature of the Spider.
Whether you leave the manettino in Sport or Race, the feeling is the same although there’s a difference in degree of thrust. The engine loves being revved and we can fully comprehend the reason for the performance figures on the car. It matches the GTB in almost every department.
The beauty about the Ferrari cabin is of course how everything is centred in on the driver’s wheel and instrument binnacle. The centre console is completely secondary and may not exist in your umwelt as you floor the accelerator and speed away.
The progression through the gears is almost comical in its simplicity. Tap, tap, tap and you are already at highly illegal speeds, while the tachometer very happily invites you upwards to the 7000rpm redline. With a slightly bad stretch of road ahead all we had to do was hit the damper control with the left thumb and go off the gas pedal for a heartbeat. Even the position of the turn indicators is just perfect.
We’ve had the privilege of throwing the GTB around a hard corner with side slip control at its best , allowing us to slide into a trun at very high speeds while maintaining our intended path. We didn’t want to try the system on the Spider on public roads, but know what its capable of with the electronic bodyguard on-board.
We’ve been asked this question before, at an event where another sports car was being highlighted and our answer is still pretty much that if we had the money to spend, the sports car in this category that we would most likely buy would be the 488. With the Spider the appeal has become just a little bit more intense. And can you blame us for it?