Ferrari’s new Pista has a ballistic performance to boast, coupled with some entertaining driving manners.
For true driving enthusiasts, there’s always something to like about go-faster cars spun off from existing models.
Of course, nostalgia and brand image play a significant role in tickling the emotions of buyers looking for an extremely special supercar like any from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren or Porsche, as such.
Sometimes, though, it’s the basic recipe that actually counts more in pumped-up editions like the Huracan Performante or 911 GT2 RS. By saying that, we’re talking about more power, less weight, sharper driving experience and, but probably to a lesser extent, wilder looks.
And when news broke out about Ferrari’s new 488 Pista, essentially the go-faster thing of the regular 488 GTB, fans were about to be treated with another round of Italian exotica from the Maranello stable of V8 mid-engined supercars.
Just take a look at the dietary regime Ferrari has given to the Pista: bump up the power of the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 by another 50hp and trim the car’s overall weight by 90kg.
This should sound like seriously more performance from a donor car that’s already deemed outrageously fast. Never had any of the Pista’s predecessors enjoyed such a substantial boost in power.
The 458 Speciale, for one, was only around 30hp more powerful than the 458 Italia yet managed to cut the 0-100kph time by half-a-second.
But glance at the acceleration time of the Pista and it isn’t completely rosy after all. With a 2.9sec figure, the Pista is not only just a tenth of a second quicker than the Speciale and 488 GTB but is on par with the meanest-yet Huracan and 911.
Which is why Ferrari had to go the extra mile and precisely quote the Pista’s time at 2.85sec. You now begin to wonder whether the development of the pure internal combustion engine is about to reach its pinnacle in an age of emission standards that keep on getting more stringent.
But it isn’t the end of the road for more performance. Engine engineers have hinted to us that some kind of electrification may come to the rescue in the next-generation model, most likely by 2020, to not only play along the performance game but also CO2 legislation (the limitedly produced LaFerrari has a hybrid powertrain).
The Pista is best enjoyed on the race track.
But after a go in the Pista at Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit in Italy recently, it must be said that figures aren’t everything. Subjectively speaking, at least, because it appears that the Pista’s trump card is shown at the top end of its performance breadth.
Yes, driving off enthusiastically in the Pista from standstill is barely any different from not only the Speciale but also over the Performante, which has a lesser 640hp of power but four driven wheels for enhanced grip when accelerating hard from rest.
But it’s when you’re already on the move that the Pista beckons. The ability to pick up power from bend to bend is simply awesome, sometimes savaging, especially when you hit the engine’s sweet spot of somewhere between 5,000-8,000rpm.
It’s here where you feel the Pista’s performance advantage. That’s probably why Ferrari is keen to holler the 0-200kph time of 7.6sec, which happens to better the Performante’s by 1.3sec. So yes, the Pista clearly has better mid-range punch (and possibly a better lap time if there was a face-to-face showdown on the same track).
The twin-turbo V8 sounds loud all the way up to its 8,900rpm redline.
Once again, there’s more to that. While the 488 GTB already relentlessly revs throughout its engine speed range, the Pista does it so quickly that you have to pay attention in preparing to shift a gear up when maxing out at 9,000rpm (8,900rpm redline, to be precise in Ferrari’s way).
The sensation is outright intoxicating, not to mention about the louder noise the Pista generates at all times, even when firing up the bi-turbo V8 from a cold start. Okay, the sound may not be as musical as in the Speciale, which is the last of Ferrari’s V8 mid-engine supercar to use natural aspiration.
But it sounds equally thunderous but slightly monotone as in the Performante, which happens to have a non-turbo V10. When it comes to aural thrills, it seems AMG’s 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 is still the one to beat and is currently doing good service in the Merc GT, as well as in the Aston DB11 and new Vantage.
There’s lots of suede leather and carbonfibre trim in the cabin.
But what separates the Pista from the Performante is the way it handles which might be a deciding factor for some punters of high-performance cars like these.
Bar the GTC4 Lusso, the Pista is purely rear-wheel drive like in any other Ferrari currently on sale. And with the latest iteration of Ferrari’s side slip control, the Pista has the handling adjustability that average drivers can now access more easily.
Mind, you’ve still got to push the Pista hard to its limits, thanks to the increase downforce it has and the fitment of sticky Cup 2 rubbers from Michelin. According to a Ferrari engineer, an Italian brand (like Pirelli) wasn’t chosen because the French maker is more responsive when working together during development. Together with generous amount of traction, the Pista maintains a decently smooth driveline when driven quickly on the track’s racing line. Changing gears in mid-corner, for one, doesn’t upset the car’s handling.
But once you’re in the so-called Race mode and leaning hard on the car, you can feel how the car invites you to control the drift after the rear end is unsettled. In fact, Ferrari’s driving ace Raffaele De Simone is very encouraging in making the motoring journos drive at the Pista’s limits and see how easy it is to handle the car.
So while the Performante is more about grip and tidy cornering abilities, the Pista has some of that rear-drive handling flair to actually make it more fun to drive at times. Take your pick.
While the Performante (and GT2 RS) employ outlandish-looking rear wings to not only boost visual appeal but also downforce via active aerodynamics, the Pista uses a very subtle one instead. There are still some active elements on the Pista’s body surfaces but on a lesser scope than in the Performante.
Ferrari says it wants to maintain driving fun and elegant looks with its current crop of cars which is why the F50 was the last model to boast a big wing on the rear. Once again, it’s for you to decide whether wings are your cup of tea.
Marked levels of road noise can be heard when driving around the hilly roads of Maranello.
There was also the chance to drive the Pista on the country roads of Maranello. It proved to be an easy car to handle, even in tight town areas. Some say the steering in the 488 GTB is a little too quick, but this setup certainly suits the Pista and adds up to driving agility both on the road and track.
As well, the Pista feels amply quick and pokey at real-world speeds with the engine revving at no more than 5,000rpm. And thanks to modified turbos with rev sensors, the V8 feels virtually responsive as one without forced induction.
Thanks to the availability of adjustable suspension, the Pista rides sufficiently well. However, road noise was quite pronounced, even at speeds without triple digits. Whether that’s down to the plastering of our disguised prototype remains to be seen (strangely, our drive took place after the Pista’s public premiere at the Geneva motor show in late February).
The pared-downed interior, meanwhile, is just what you can expect from a road-legal track car (BTW, Pista means track in Italian). There’s plenty of carbonfibre and Alcantara leather in the minimalist cabin, where you’ll also find bucket seats with four-point seatbelts (the normal three-point type can be specified) and metal footplates placed on the carpet-less floor. Yes, it feels properly racy inside.
Could the Pista be the latest supercar to be had at the moment? For many obvious reasons, yes, be it for its appearance (it looks nicer than the 488 GTB when parked side-by-side undisguised in Ferrari’s factory), super-quick revving V8 and enjoyable handling.
It feels genuinely cohesive to drive and nicely balanced around a race track, a place where buyers are encouraged to take the Pista occasionally because it does feel splendid there.
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