Ferrari 488 Pista review: Chris Harris drives 711bhp special Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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First Drive

Ferrari 488 Pista review: Chris Harris drives 711bhp special

Published: 06 Jun 2018

What is it?

Depending on your outlook and financial status, it’s either the latest mid-engined wonder by Ferrari, crammed full of tech and astoundingly powerful. Or it’s another special series Ferrari to lock away with your other unused special Ferraris and tell people about on an Internet forum. Anyone who buys this car to not use and instead flips it for financial gain is, to coin an ancient Somerset phrase, ‘a total bellend’.

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711bhp, really?

Yep, the 700bhp+ club just gained another member. The 360 Challenge Stradale, the first of these special V8 engined Ferraris had 420bhp, and it wasn’t slow. This car has 711bhp, the small matter of 568lb ft of torque, and will hit 125mph from rest in 7.6sec. It will destroy a McLaren F1 to 170mph.

The regular 488 GTB was already incontinence-fast, but at times emotionally unrewarding - so what matters here is what has been done to make the whole thing more exciting.

So what have they done?

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There’s SSC, FTB, ESC and twenty other weirdly named systems which we’ll geek-out over in the Top Gear magazine article (due later this month), but for now, just be aware that this car drives far differently to the base GTB.

The engine has lighter internals, a new intake with shorter runners and titanium rods. It is more closely related to the Challenge race car than the GTB. Crucially, it also runs a little higher compression and does away with the base car’s soft rev limiter that tapered power away well before hitting the 8k limiter.

Combined with what must be the fiercest up and down shifts ever felt in a dual-clutch transmission, the result is an engine which goes a long way to appeasing those who felt that turbocharging was the wrong solution for this car. It’s a staggering powertrain, immensely powerful and flexible and now much better sounding in the car and offering real incentive for the driver to use that 6k-8k rev window.

Talk to me about the chassis.

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Now isn’t the time to delve into the tech too deeply, but here’s the basics. Side Slip Control now uses an additional channel of braking information to make taking the PIsta to its limits even more accessible. And it is the easiest hilariously fast car to drive fast that has ever been made. The electronic interventions are so smooth and helpful that it’s only when you switch them all off you realise how much of the heavy-lifting they’ve been charged with. Freed from the safety-net, this thing is plain wild - spooling fifth and sixth gear slides at Fiorano and making me laugh out loud. It flatters the average driver and fascinates the more experienced hedonist, and that’s the mark of greatness. Special mention must go to Michelin for its fantastic Cup 2 tyre.

Is it perfection?

No. The cabin is looking old and littered with too many materials and textures. The exterior, with many aero additions, is - to my eyes - more successful but still fussier than a Speciale. The noise is still at times average and the controls work with that frustrating numbness we’ve come to simply accept from this generation of Ferrari road cars.

It’s barely any less comfortable on the road than a GTB, and the bucket seats are, at best 6/10.

The phrase ‘last of the normally aspirated’ is being used to justify big premiums for cars that are just that - unsullied by forced induction and apparently purer as a result. But this Pista, and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, are doing a fine job of exploding that mantra. This is dynamically the best car Ferrari has ever made, and its powertrain sits at the heart of the success.

How sad that it is destined to be squabbled over as a commodity for boastfulness and greed.

Photography: Rowan Horncastle

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