First drive: Ferrari 488 Pista

By GEORGE WONG | 19 July 2018


It's a warm day in June and nearly dinner-time. With a bunch of Asian motoring scribes huddled in a room, Ferrari engineers set to work to impress upon them the motive marvel that is the 488 Pista.

Charts, numbers and jargon flew across the screen faster than you could blink. A Michelin rep chipped in to sell the virtues of the Sport Cup 2 tyre that has been custom made for the Pista. Parts specially created for the car were on display for the visitors to touch and feel.

Such was the evening in Maranello, Italy, a day before the road and track drive of a supercar that has fans and clientele all abuzz.

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In Ferrari’s 488 hierarchy, the 488 GTB and 488 Spider are the mainstays followed by the Pista, an even sportier version of the berlinetta.

For the record, the Italian sports car maker has also crafted other 488-based cars like the exclusive 488 Pista Piloti Ferrari for motorsports customers; the J50 limited edition for Japan; and the one-off SP38 Deborah for a customer.

What’s missing is an open-top 488 Pista Spider, which we are told, will be coming.

The Pista – whose name means “Track” in Italian – is a special series model in the same vein as the Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale of yore, designed for extreme performance and track car-style handling.

The award-winning mid-engine 488 GTB was already a formidable supercar, with its biturbo 3.9-litre V8 mill grabbing the International Engine of the Year award for three years in a row since 2016. How to make a supercar even more super?

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It’s about leveraging on Ferrari motorsports know-how to make an extreme road car that’s equally at home on the track.

The usual route: lighten the car, boost powertrain performance, improve aerodynamics and cooling as well as revise driving dynamics. And so the Pista was born.

The Pista, on paper, is impressive.

Overall weight is a little under 1.4 tonnes, 90kg less than the GTB.

It reels out 710hp at 8,000rpm and torque is higher at all engine speeds, peaking at 770Nm at 3,000rpm (but only in seventh gear and 10Nm more than the GTB), making its V8 the most powerful ever from Ferrari.

It has the best specific power output in its class at 183hp per litre.

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The car is furiously fast, clocking in at 2.85s from 0-100kph and 7.6s from 0-200kph. Top speed exceeds 340kph. Huge carbon ceramic disc brakes quickly shave off acceleration from 100kph to standstill in just 29.5m.

A lot of work went into making the Pista a better car.

Around half the engine parts have been changed. Cylinder heads and pistons have been redesigned to cope with the extra 50 horses.

It has learnt a few tricks from the 488 Challenge and 488 GTE competition cars.

Titanium connecting rods, carbon-fibre intake plenums and the change in crankshaft and flywheel material lighten things up. Elsewhere, lighter seats and use of lithium battery and optional carbon fibre wheels shave off more weight.

Improved cooling was another priority. Front radiators were repositioned with revised ducting to cool the engine. Air flowing into the engine now come from the rear spoiler area where they are connected directly to the plenums instead of from the flanks.

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The ducting revision means higher volume and cleaner air flow to the engine, thereby contributing to the increase in power.

With air intakes relocated from the sides to the rear, it frees up more space to install bigger intercoolers. Front bumper and bonnet were revised and an S-Duct, inspired by F1, is introduced for the first time in a road car, helping to minimise lift when going fast.

Other aero refinements are flashy and functional at the same time.

Stripping out some sound insulation and the use of lightweight Inconel exhaust manifolds inject 8dB more engine sound into the cabin.

Seats are snug and cosy, with all the controls that matter within easy reach.

Laced with carbon fibre and Alcantara, the interior is driver-focused with even the glove box removed.

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The responsive engine bellows as you gun the accelerator and is not quite as shrill in its vocals as a naturally aspirated engine. It sounds good all the same.

On rough road patches as found outside Maranello, setting the dampers at its softest setting makes the ride surprisingly pliant.

The 20-inch Michelin mixed tyres stick like glue to asphalt and the suspension is firmer than the garden variety GTB.

The Pista feels planted and there’s plenty of feedback from the steering so it’s easy to place the car in corners time after time. And the absence of turbo lag is a pleasant discovery.

With so much low-end torque, the Pista can be driven in a laid-back manner with the 7-speed dual clutch shifting on your behalf.

Shift quality in Sport setting, or even in full automatic mode is great but switch to Race mode for a more race-car feel either on track or public roads.

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As a RWD car with plenty of torque, oversteer is easy to incite with traction control disabled but the Pista is quite forgiving.

The Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, built into the integrated SSC 6.0 (Side Slip Control) system takes even the less experienced driver by the hand through a controlled drift within a narrow yaw angle window, adding to the fun factor without looking as if the Pista is out to kill him.

There was an occasional squeaking noise from the front left wheel at highway speeds, which Ferrari explains away as stone chips that could have got stuck between the brake calliper and the disc.

The only downside to the drive was that we were just warming up with four laps around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track before we had to wrap it up with the carbon-fibre wheeled-Pista (the batch for public roads wore standard alloys).

Expect to pay more for this pista-ready package of intense thrills. It will set you back by some RM3mil once it’s available in Malaysia, come early 2019.

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Ferrari 488 Pista (2)
Ferrari 488 Pista (3)
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Special Michelin tyre made for Pista
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Pista at Fiorano test track which is just next door to Ferrari headquarters in Maranello.
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Ferrari HQ, Maranello, Italy, near Bologna
The briefing the day before the drive as mentioned in the first paras of this story
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Pista parts
Start of media drive in which CarSifu was the sole Malaysian representative
Pista in Italian countryside
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Options added to a Ferrari are stated in this plate attached inside the front luggage space.
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SPECIFICATIONS

Ferrari 488 Pista

Engine: 3,902cc, twin turbocharged V8, mid-engine
Maximum power: 710hp at 8,000rpm
Maximum torque: 770 Nm at 3,000rpm (in 7th gear)
Transmission: 7-speed F1 dual clutch
Features: Four airbags, ABS all round, Manettino drive-mode switch, paddle shifters, Electronic differential (E-Diff 3.0), F1 traction control, Side Slip Angle Control (SSC 6.0), Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, Inverted radiator cooling system, S-Duct, Inconel exhaust manifolds, magneto rheological suspension, 20-inch Michelin mixed tyres
Acceleration (0-100kph): 2.8s
Acceleration (0-200kph): 7.6s
Top speed: 340kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 11.5l/100km
Kerb weight: 1,385kg
Weight distribution: 41.5% front, 58.5% rear
Fuel tank capacity: 78 litres
Luggage capacity: 170 litres
Price: RM3,013,238 (estimated, inclusive of taxes before options)

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