Ferrari 488 GTB – A car to fall in love with

A Ferrari 488 GTB. John Taggart/Bloomberg

Endless column inches have been devoted in magazines, websites and newspapers to the concept of ‘first love’ and how many people never quite move on, writes Scott Armstrong.

I’ve never been much of a subscriber to that, not to cheapen the heady rush of emotions one felt back then, or indeed to denigrate the girl in question for whom fondness and a tinge of gratitude remain, I simply feel that looking to the future rather than pining for the past is my thing.

But for every rule there is, as they say, an exception, and on my ‘first love’ rule of course it is Ferrari that has come along to break it.

Ferrari, for goodness sake. It’s sort of like being the stable boy and falling in love with the Queen (#princessbride), but after years of driving cars I finally have been well and truly smitten

Why oh why Cupid did you have point your arrow at the Italian supercar maker’s 488 GTB, could you literally have picked anything more unattainable?

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That’s because after a weekend behind the wheel of this astonishing piece of machinery, I’m not sure there is any point in driving anymore.

In my time I’ve been impressed by the uber-luxury of some of my test-drives, I’ve been utterly enthusiastic about the speed and the performance of others, but while I enjoyed the experience behind their wheels, the 488 captured my heart in way none that have gone before ever did (including its awesome stable mate the FF).

Why? Do you have all day?

Perhaps it’s because the 488 Gran Turismo Berlinetta is not totally perfect that made it stand out for me, often it’s the idiosyncrasies that play on the emotions.

The sheer comedy of trying to haul my 100kg plus carcass into the somewhat tight confines (for me at least) of the turbo-charged beauty from standing height to virtually horizontal will linger long in the memory.

However just learning to get in and out of the thing added to the joy, and having made the effort to climb down and inside, just sitting there in the plush Italian leather bucket seats, gripping the wheel with its F1-style paddle gear-changers, sends a tingle down one’s spine.

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That tingle becomes a waterfall of emotions when you actually push the START button and the V8 (turbo-charged not naturally aspirated) roars into to life. It is physically impossible to restrain the wide schoolboyesque grin from cracking your face wide open.

And then you depress the accelerator and just listen to this work of art, capable of 100kph in just three seconds, sing up and down through the octaves. Ferrari have for all purposes crammed Pavarotti inside the engine.

As you drive this perfectly sculptured creature over time you begin to develop a relationship with that operatic baritone. In the lower ranges it burbles along almost having a conversation with you, but as you put the pedal to the metal it leaps into joyous song. If you are in sport mode and manual you begin to understand just from the pitch when to change gears (via the seven-gear F1 dual-clutch paddle system), though helpfully the Knightrider-style red LED lights on the steering wheel also count up to maximum power to assist in gear changing.

The sheer acceleration of the 488 astounds, but the controlled Turbo-charged engine, combined with evenly weighted steering, takes a touch of the chaos out of being strapped inside a missile.

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What increases that sense of control is the braking system, which has perhaps impressed me more than any car I’ve ever driven. In fact in very few does the braking actually merit more than a passing mention but in the 488 GTB it is every bit as exciting as the acceleration (well almost).

The new Brembo Extreme Design braking system, taken from the concept LaFerrari car, delivers breathtaking stopping distances. It seems almost weird to enjoy the sensation of killing the speed so much, but the kinetics of the de-acceleration control the descent as the needle drops down through the KPH so efficiently you never feel like you are ever going to be in trouble.

Of course, that also combines with Ferrari’s much-loved Side Slip Control System which one Top Gear writer once branded the ‘helping idiots drive supercars’ system. No surprise that Top Gear Magazine this year voted the machine its Supercar of the Year.

The end-result is a car that is perhaps not quite as ferocious as its predecessor, the 458, with some calling it more ‘sensible’. Harsh in the extreme, I feel, to call as car with a top speed of 330kph sensible, rather it’s more sophisticated, like dating Sophia Loren rather than some Instagram-yearning wannabe from a reality television show. While the experience might be different from the 458 it is no less exciting, engaging or astonishing for it.

And so this love letter must come to an end, I simply know that my days roaring through the mountains of Oman behind the wheel of the GTB will stay with me for a long, long time.

So much so that when I see one driving past a pang of jealousy stabs the heart.

‘That’s my girl’ my heart says…sigh

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The Ferrari 488GTB was courtesy of Alfardan Motors L.L.C. They are based in the Alfardan Building,Meydan Al Azaiba, Muscat. Call +968 24523014 for more details.

SPECIFICATIONS (source Ferrari)

Maximum speed 330 km/h (205 mph)
0-100 km/h 3,0 s
0-200 km/h 8,3 s
0-400m 10,45 s
0-1000m 18, 7 s
Weight/power ratio 2,04 kg/cv (6,13 lb/kW)
11.4 l/100 km
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