It’s hard to beat driving a Ferrari in Italy. And it’s definitely hard to beat a Ferrari 488 Pista, in Italy—as we learned over a scorching-fast day on Ferrari’s home circuit and the splendid roads of Emilia-Romagna.
Only two production Ferraris have put up faster times on the company’s fabled Fiorano road course: One is the LaFerrari, in a 1:19.7 record set by company test driver Raffaele de Simone. The other is the F12 tdf, the hardcore version of the F12.
The 488 Pista has circled Fiorano in 1:23.5, trailing the formidable LaFerrari by just 1.8 seconds. Not bad, especially when you consider the Pista’s $345,300 price, versus $1.4 million for the LaFerrari hypercar.
As the successor to a long line of mid-engine “Special Series” Ferraris—including the life-changing 458 Speciale—the 488 Pista has big shoes to fill. To fill those loafers to bursting, the Pista brings the biggest power gains, and the most intensive transfer of Ferrari racing technology, of any Special Series model yet.
This is the strongest eight-cylinder Ferrari to ever rocket out of a showroom, with 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque from just 3.9 liters of twin-turbo V8. That’s a 49-horsepower jump from the standard 488, with seven additional pound-feet to boot. Coincidentally or not, the Pista precisely matches the horsepower and torque of the McLaren 720S, with its barely-larger, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. Curb weights also seem a toss-up: The Pista shaves 200 pounds from the already-svelte 488 GTB, resulting in a claimed dry weight of just 2,816 pounds. If that number is accurate, that’s 13 fewer pounds than McLaren’s carbon-fiber-intensive 720S. The resulting supercar is a track-day showboat and a license-shredder on the street: Ferrari claims 0-62 miles per hour (100 kph) in a conservative 2.85 seconds. I suspect enterprising testers will achieve the shorter 0-60 mph run in 2.7 seconds, maybe less. The 0-124 mph sprint (200 kph) takes a ridiculous 7.6 seconds. That’s 0.7 seconds quicker than the old 458 Speciale—the latter one of the best, most-beloved sports cars I’ve ever driven. Top speed rises to 211 mph, up from about 206 in the standard 488.
However you do the math, or judge the physics by seat-of-pants feel, the 488 Pista is a new definition of insanity for a mid-engine Ferrari. Check out the video, and see if you agree.
The Ferrari spun me into its seductive web in Italy, where I lapped the Pista at the company’s legendary Fiorano test circuit then pushed it nearly as hard in the Emilia-Romagna countryside, where this hopped-up 488 delivered as much pure, soulful entertainment as any car I’ve recently driven.
Supercars and superhero movies are alike in another way: Neither would exist without big budgets and cost overruns. The 488 Pista's $345,300 base price represents a hulking $92,000 premium over a standard 488 GTB. Two track specials down, one to go: With Ferrari and Lamborghini having served up their respective Pista and Performante, the ball blazes into McLaren’s court. Will the upcoming Long Tail version of the 720S one-up Ferrari, Lamborghini, or both? Does it matter? That LT will surely deliver its share of British bragging points—including a superior power-to-weight ratio—over its Italian rivals. (Here’s hoping that ride quality is improved over the previous 675LT, whose body-taxing manners made it a dubious proposition as a daily driver).
But the real takeaway is that supercar fans, like superhero geeks, are living in a Golden Age of options and over-stimulation.