In the future, way in the future… say 25 years from now, cars will drive themselves. It’s futile to think that any other reality will prevail.
The business case is solid – with cars driving themselves and constantly being on the move, there is less of a need for parking spots in the city of tomorrow. This means that there's more space freed up for humans to live and work. It’ll be safer: without an easily distracted Homosapien at the wheel, self-driving cars will obey every traffic light, every zebra crossing and perform hundreds, if not thousands of calculations before they even make a lane change.
It’ll be cheaper than having your own car. Autonomous cars (mostly electric powered) – churned out in the thousands – will be owned and maintained by mobility service providers, meaning the cost of maintenance will be shared by all who use the service. Plus, it’ll be more efficient, with interconnected vehicles planning and routing every trip throughout a city, congestion could be a thing of the past. Not that the passengers would care, they’d be catching up on the news, having a virtual date or conducting a meeting while on the move.
There will be little sentiment for this skill based, intuitive, and profound experience we call driving.
Like horses at the turn of the 20th century, driven cars will be confined to separate spaces or tracks, where they can do no harm to other road users, who may be busy enjoying a hot Latte on their way to work.
Cars like the Toyota Camry and Audi A4 will cease to exist; no one would need them, or at least need to own them. I believe these are the cars that will soon evolve into the electrified, autonomous, and on-demand mode of transportation.
Even Porsche, a brand synonymous with driving nirvana, is pouring billions of dollars into self-driving technology – they have said that they will roll-out driving technologies “slowly” at first – such as driving aids that take over in traffic or when parking, you know, the boring stuff.
But, have you heard of the Mark Webber function? With this technology, the vehicle can drive autonomously on a racetrack like the Nürburgring – just like Webber would drive. Once a driver has mapped out his responses on a track, your car’s computer then teaches, or drives you. Or maybe you would like to “drive” like Walter Rohrl instead?
Driven cars, will be discussed or remembered in the same way we remember vinyl records – “yes, they’re cool, and I know a few places where you can still get them, but my iPhone just holds more songs”.
But, even on the darkest of those inevitable, automated days, few cars will still be remembered – for the excitement they created when you saw one, or when you heard one blast by, and for fewer still, how driving one made you feel – the Ferrari 488 GTB will be one of them.
- Price: RM1,07,000 before taxes and options.
- Engine: 3.9-litre, V8, twin-turbocharged, petrol
- Power: 670 PS @ 8,000rpm
- Torque: 760 Nm @ 3,000rpm (7th gear)
- Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic, paddle shifters, RWD
- Weight: 1,475 kg (kerb weight with options)
- Safety: 4-airbags, ABS, EBD, ISOFIX, F1-Trac Traction control, front and rear parking sensors, front and rear camera (as tested).
- Origin: Fully imported from Maranello, Italy.
The Ferrari 488 GTB is the amalgamation of more than four-decades of Ferrari mid-engined V8 know-how, a heritage that started with the 308 GTB from 1975.
Successor to the Ferrari 458 Italia, the 488 GTB name pays homage to the classic Ferrari model designation with the 488 in its moniker indicating the engine's unitary displacement, while the GTB stands for Gran Turismo Berlinetta.
The 488 GTB also marks a new a new chapter for the company, in that it’s the first turbocharged mid-engined Ferrari since the legendary Ferrari F40.
Drawing from the company’s experience in GT racing and Formula 1, the 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 produces 670 PS at 8,000 rpm, with a specific power output of 170 hp/litre. The engine outputs a maximum torque of 760 Nm in seventh gear.
Ferrari claims a throttle response time of just 0.8 seconds at 2000 rpm in third gear. Much of this is down to the boost pressure management, which takes into account the engaged gear and the driver’s throttle inputs, so a precise amount of turbo boost is deployed depending on driving conditions – increasing fuel efficiency and engine response.
To achieve those performance numbers and engine response, Ferrari employed a number innovations such as high-tumble intake ports, 200-bar direct fuel injection, an ion-sensing system which measures ionising currents to control ignition timing, ‘roller’ cam followers to reduce valvetrain friction and (twin-scroll) ball-bearing turbos with a titanium-aluminium alloy compressor wheel.
Consequently, the 488 GTB sprints from 0-100 km/h in 3 seconds flat and from 0-200 km/h in just 8.3 seconds. Top speed is rated at 330 km/h.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and Ferrari’s ‘e-Diff3’ electronic differential system.
Note though, there is now the harder, faster, and lighter Ferrari 488 Pista. A track-honed successor of Ferrari’s V8-engined special series such as the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia, and 458 Speciale. The Pista weighs 90 kg less, has 50 more horsepower, and crucially borrows aerodynamic solutions straight from the Ferrari 488 GTE (FIA WEC racer) and Formula 1 car.
Design and Aero
Few car companies characterise elegance and aerodynamics like Ferrari do. Every aesthetic component, regardless of how small or large, must cheat the laws of physics by developing downforce, without adding aerodynamic drag.
Downforce is up 50 percent from the Ferrari 458, despite drag being reduced. The central Aero Pillar and front spoiler boost the efficiency of the radiator and aid downforce generation. The large signature air intake scallop, on the other hand, is a retrospective nod to the original 308 GTB.
Round the flanks, a large portion of the door is carved out to form a channel that feeds air towards the "Base Bleed" air intakes, divided into the upper and lower sections by a central flap – the upper half feeds the air intakes and is also manipulated to create downforce, the lower section feeds the intercoolers to cool the intake charge.
But, I somewhat miss the clean, flowing haunches of the Ferrari 458, which drew air from a stealthy intake duct hiding just behind the rear quarter glass.
The lion’s share of the visiual impact at the back comes from the rear diffuser, which has curved fences that optimise the expansion of air channeled under the car. It also features variable flap geometry controlled by a CPU that is integrated into the vehicle’s control systems.
The 488 also takes advantage of an aerodynamic underbody that incorporates vortex generators – specially designed aerodynamic appendages that accelerate the passing air, thereby reducing pressure and sucking the car down to the ground.
The net effect: the 488 GTB generates a whopping 325 kg of downforce at 250 km/h.
It didn’t help that on the day of our test, heavy rain drenched most of K.L. and Selangor – not the best time to head out in a 670 PS, mid-engined Ferrari worth some 1.8-million ringgit, yes.
But given my recent experience in a Ferrari California T – I was at least used to the unique controls of a Ferrari. The automatic transmission mode is marked by the “Auto” button and next to it, the “R” button for reverse – the rest is mostly a hands-on experience. Most of the car’s vital controls, including the wiper and turn indicators, are incorporated into the steering wheel. Oddly enough, the multimedia controls are on the right side of the steering wheel.
However, what you tend not to expect is the ease of driving the 488 in town. Once you get used to the rather wide extremities of the rear and get a sense of the clutch’s engagement points, it’s quite a straightforward affair.
The throttle travel allows for ample modulation, meaning you can access just enough power to depending on the driving conditions, and the suspension - even on bumpy P.J. roads, dare I say it – is beautifully supple and poised.
The steering is a bit on the heavy side in town, but it responds to every inch of steering input with clinical precision. The upside of the steering weightage is this raw, mechanical communication, and the steadiness it delivers at high speeds.
Exiting the city, the 488 settles into a comfortable cruise. Some of the bigger bumps (such as on highway expansion joints) can unsettle the suspension, but for the most part, it remains planted to a degree, largely unknown to a mere mortal such as me, prior to this.
Charging from the speed limit to say 190 km/h is dispensed within seconds, and rather effortlessly. Needless to say, the 488 will cruise all day at 180 km/h without breaking a sweat.
On an empty stretch of highway, I put the hammer down, and for the first time, get to experience the merits of all of that downforce generation. Between 200 and 250 km/h is where the magic really happens; the 488 squats to the ground and becomes a missile. The only limiting factor between this point and the 330 km/h top speed, quite frankly, is the amount of fortitude stored between your legs.
Off the highway, and onto the beautiful backroads of Kuala Kubu Baru, the tenacious mechanical grip and overall balance of the car comes into its own. The 488 darts from apex to apex – rotating around a point right at the centre of the cockpit, making it beautifully predictable and reassuring.
The engine’s boost map limits turbo pressure depending on engaged gear, means you can plant your foot hard to the floor coming out of corners, and let the suspension and chassis load up to deliver those massive G-forces. It is genuinely hard to upset the balance of 488, meaning it’s safer for less experienced drivers; it also meant, however, that I was nowhere near the limits of the car.
And the noise, whoa, the throaty, bass tune at low revs gives way to a pulsating roar once you rev past 5,000 rpm. It’s also at this point that the power comes full circle, obliterating straights and catapulting you from corner to corner.
Simply put, the 488 is a wicked fast car, and an adrenaline rush from start to end.
As with any Ferrari, customers are usually sold on the three key factors before they even step foot into a dealership – style, speed and status, the three Ss. Beyond that point, it’s simply picking the right colour.
And the Ferrari 488 delivers on all three accounts in fine fashion. Arguably, at around RM1.8-million, I suppose it has to.
In terms of rivals the 488 matches up against the raging V10 powered, 571 hp Huracan RWD (which I believe you can order through the local distributor), or take the same amount of money to Porsche and they’d give you the track-honed 911 GT3… which is rather excellent as well.
Where the 488 excels is in its ability to be civil and docile when it needs to be, not to mention, elegant and stylish at any speed, but yet, with a few pulls of the paddle shifter, transforms itself into a tarmac sucking, vociferous beast of a machine.
In any case, when the inevitable future comes, in all manner of its electrified mobility, rapid hashtags, and quick-fire Snapchat videos, the 488 will remind us of a simpler time when driving was a way of life. And cars: the stuff of dreams.