In Italy, there are only really three things that matter. The Church, football (the European kind), and Ferrari.
And just like when a new pope is selected following a papal conclave, similarly there is much consternation and anticipation from the auto press and the Ferrari (RACE) faithful alike, when a new mid-engine, V8 Ferrari sports car is revealed.
For many Ferrari fans, this is the true sportscar with an engine placed in the perfect spot: right behind you. Sure, Ferrari has a rich and storied history of front-engine cars, but it is those temperamental, exotic, and oh so fast mid-engine two-seaters with that wailing V8 in the back that gets the sangue pumping. It’s a car Ferrari has been making a version of for over 40 years (and one you may have seen beginning in Magnum, P.I.).
In recent vintage, the Ferrari 458 stepped out to much fanfare in 2009, along with its mid-cycle refresh the 488 (which I reviewed in Spider form a couple years back), which debuted back in 2015. Nearly 5 years later, we were all back to wondering what the designers and engineers in Modena would come up with next. And Ferrari didn’t disappoint.
The F8 Tributo was revealed at the Geneva Auto Show (remember those?) in 2019. And although it was an evolution in style, in my mind it all works together beautifully.
Starting with the ‘S-duct’ you see in the front hood that’s essentially one large aero element (borrowed from the hopped up, race-car like 488 Pista), everything flows nicely just like it did in the 488, but with a more tautness; maybe even a bit more angular purpose than the more rounded 488.
The rear quarter of the vehicle really sings with its louvered cover over the engine, and finishing nicely with the quad light set up at the rear end, something we haven’t seen on a V8 mid-engine Ferrari in quite some time.
Late last year at Art Basel Miami, Ferrari debuted the car we are testing here, the F8 Spider. The Spider nomenclature for Ferrari means it’s a convertible, and here that includes a slick, retractable hard top.
For our short test (I had the car for basically 24 hours), Ferrari provided us with a European spec model, which shouldn’t be all that different from what we will end up seeing here shortly.
The engine and the cabin
Now that fancy ‘S-Duct’ isn’t the only thing this car borrows from the 488 Pista. It also gets its engine. Yes the base F8 gets the Pista — a Ferrari track car, basically — engine in it. This twin-turbocharged V8 puts out an insane 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. And it sounds glorious.
Inside the cabin, not much has changed. It looks very similar to the 488. However, you have some tweaks to the HVAC vents, climate controls, and an improved infotainment system (although it’s still only small side screen that only the driver can see and control). Apple Carplay is available.
Of course there is leather everywhere - the dash, the door cards, and of course the seats. And as one expects of Ferrari, it is of superior quality that you would only find in cars at this level. I’m a huge fan of the Ferrari steering wheel with all the car’s important driving functions accessible on it, along with the manettino driver settings. It’s a great steering wheel, but let’s be honest: it isn’t that new.
And here comes my small criticism of the F8 interior. It is a very nice place to be in, but competitors like Lamborghini and McLaren are really pushing the boundaries of what an interior space in a sports car should look like, and they’re doing a fine job at it too. Now Ferrari’s interiors are tasteful, comfortable, and generally non-complicated, which to some buyers (and probably multiple-car owning clients) is what they prefer.
Now I didn’t get that much seat time in this car (hence I’m calling this a first drive review), but I will say those 4 to 5 hours I had in the driver’s seat we’re quite memorable. In my opinion, Ferraris are generally the most livable sportscars from a day to day perspective.
Now, I’m not talking maintenance or upkeep here (although newer Ferraris aren’t as cranky as models in the past). I’m talking about when you put the car in its normal mode, or sport mode as Ferrari calls it. Driving around in this mode with the standard Magneride shocks in the comfort setting, you would think you were in a GT cruiser. It’s so comfortable and effortless, steering input is light and the car revs comfortably and drives smoothly.
Put it in race mode (essentially the car’s sport mode) and the F8 comes to life quite quickly, with a more aggressive throttle response, tightened steering and suspension feel, and a louder bark coming out the back. This is nice, this is why you get a sports car - when the car comes alive. As good as the transmission is here, it’s just so pleasing using those wonderful Ferrari paddle-shifters (mounted to the steering column, thankfully) to fire off those quick gear shifts. It is truly satisfying.
Even in a more aggressive setting, steering is still smooth and not herky-jerky at all. But be careful with the gas pedal. Punching it just a little will get that the tail end to wag, and even bounce up and down a little from what I was feeling. This is what happens when you unleash 710 horsepower out the back of a lightweight sports car. It’s truly impressive stuff, but you have to be careful.
I didn’t even bother turning off traction control or stability control in the brief time I had the car. I was able to take the car on some side roads off the highway that afforded me some spirited driving, but nothing that could push the limits of this car. Even when I tried too, I was barely scratching the surface of its potential.
Did I mention it’s a convertible? Yeah it is. On top of all the goodness, one touch of button in the center console and the hardtop folds away into the back of the car, leaving those oh-so-cool looking buttresses right behind the cabin.
Look, if you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a car like this, you have to get the Spider. It’s just so glorious to drive with the top down, taking in the fresh air, the 360-environment behind you, and the sound of that engine. Oh that sound is intoxicating (although it would be better if it was a naturally aspirated roar!), and you’ll want the top down to hear it.
The cost of admission isn’t cheap. The F8 Spider starts at $297,250, and our test model comes in at a shade below $400,000. But no one buys a Ferrari because they think it’s a good value proposition.
The F8 is a worthy successor to the 488, and it is just a damn good proposition for anyone looking to own one of the top 5 cars in the world, right now.