Few motoring dynasties in modern times rival what Ferrari terms its ‘V8 Special Series’. You know the cars: 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia, 458 Speciale… mid-engined machines developed for the track, closely related to their racing brethren. Now there’s the 488-based Pista. Its twin-turbo V8 is now rated at 711bhp – the most powerful V8 in the firm’s illustrious history. Makes the dear old F40 seems rather flaccid, doesn’t it? And consider too that the Pista is up to 90kg lighter than the standard car, with a dry weight of 1280kg.
In fact, so thoroughly developed is the Pista that it’s easier to view it as a roadgoing Challenge car (for Ferrari’s one-make race series) than a faster 488 GTB. The engine produces an additional 50bhp, but weighs 18kg less alone, with stronger, lighter internals and ever-sharper throttle response. The cooling system is completely revised, with the big holes on the flanks now feeding the intercoolers and the air intakes moved near to the rear deck, while the evolved aerodynamic package – obvious from the new nose, with its F1-inspired S-duct, and the larger rear wing – offers a 23% increase in downforce with no extra drag.
It says much for the sophistication of the Pista that it’s hardly any more demanding on the road than a GTB. Sure, the engine is louder in the cockpit, the bucket seats are hard in the base, and the ride is a little firmer, but the latter is still spookily good even over poor surfaces and the extraordinary twin- clutch ’box flicks from one ratio to the next instantly. The power of the engine, on the other hand, is anything but everyday. Even on a light throttle it surges forward with frenzied conviction; to use everything the engine offers, even for a moment, takes time to build up to, and space.
It is far too fast for the road, of course: 0-62mph takes less than 2.9 seconds, apparently. Nevertheless, this motor is a marvel, pulling viciously hard from low revs and never giving up until a plateau before the 8000rpm redline. It’s just a pity volume doesn’t equate to musicality, because the sound is a little one-dimensional – a V8 blare overlaid with the hiss of compressed air.
The real genius of the Pista is how it makes this extreme performance so accessible. It’s a car you soon build a rapport with, in spite of the intimidation factor, revelling in the quick steering, the balance of the chassis and the fantastic body control. The company’s latest suite of electronic chassis aids includes the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, which has an eerily telepathic ability to let a driver oversteer the car naturally while maintaining ultimate control over the situation.
With a less charismatic engine than its forebears and such an excess of performance, the Pista bizarrely feels less of a road car and more apt for the track – despite offering more on-road civility than ever before. It’s a beautiful contradiction, nonetheless, and one of many facets that proves Ferrari is currently at the very top of its game.
UK version 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista road test