There are few perfect things in this world. Mona Lisa’s smile. A slice of New York City pizza. The last 20 minutes of Goodfellas. Well, thanks to a topless piece of Italian machinery we recently took for a weekend spin, we’re adding one more thing to that rarified list.
The 488 Spider isn’t the fastest Ferrari ever made. It’s not the most expensive, the most exclusive, or the most powerful. Its 3.9-liter V8 is actually quite small by supercar standards, as is its $280,000 price tag. The LaFerrari is the brand’s flagship, the 812 Superfast their eye-popping new V12, and the 1962 250 GTO (a pristine example of which recently sold for $38 million) their auction-floor champ.
What the 488 Spider is, however, is absolute perfection, and here are five reasons why.
1. The engine
When the 488 was introduced in 2015, some purists spit out a meatball in disgust. Unlike nearly every Ferrari before it, this new model utilized a turbocharger. (Or, to be more precise, two of them.) “There will be turbo lag!” the angry mobs shouted. “It won’t sound like a proper Ferrari!” they bellowed. Well, they were wrong.
Throttle response is instant, whether you’re starting from a standstill (0-60 happens in under 3 seconds) or nearing the 8,000-rpm redline (top speed is 205 mph, but we did NOT wind it out in 7th gear, sorry to say). Even though the engine is smaller than that of its non-aspirated predecessor, the legendary 458, it churns out almost 100 more horsepower—661 compared with 570.
And the sound? Oh, dear God, the sound. Full and rich even at low speeds, quickly dropping a couple of gears and gunning it for a few seconds produces a glorious high-pitch scream everyone should experience at least once in their life.
2. The roof
As incredible as the engine sounds when the hard top is up, it’s worth taking the 14 seconds to drop the top and let the sweet music ring out as the good Lord intended. Thanks to the 488’s mid-engine layout—which also keeps the car perfectly balanced when twisting through winding roads—the V8 is right behind your head, ensuring you and your lucky passenger don’t miss one note. Throw in the open-top glory of the sun and wind in your hair, and motoring simply doesn’t get any better.
Most hard tops are heavy, bulky and make the car they’re attached to look just a little bit off. The Spider utilizes an ultra-light rigid hard top, which adds minimal weight (thanks, aluminum!) while maintaining the car’s aerodynamic, fluid lines. No matter the speed, when the roof was up I would’ve sworn I was in a coupe.
As for when the roof is down, Ferrari claims “occupants can easily carry on a normal conversation at speeds of over 125 mph.” I for one don’t really feel like chatting about the latest episode of This Is Us when driving at felony speeds, but it’s great to know that one can.
3. The frunk
What’s the point of having a topless Italian supercar if you and your girl can’t take a weekend trip in it? The 488 Spider has a shockingly large front trunk, or “frunk,” with over 8 cubic feet of space—that’s enough room for a couple of packed duffles and a garment bag or two. Sure, your carry-on luggage might not fit in there, but this is a Ferrari, not the Delta Shuttle.
Oh, and should you be desirous of using actual luggage (why are you always so desirous anyway?), Ferrari will sell you a set designed by artisan Italian furniture makers Poltrona Frau that are sized specifically to fit into the 488’s frunk.
Play on, playa.
4. The ride
Here’s where everything comes together—the power, the handling, the ability to hear the shouts of “Holy shit!” as you drive by unsuspecting pedestrians while the roof is down. The 488 Spider always feels just right, thanks in no small part to the variable modes you control right from the steering wheel. (This truly is a car designed with the driver in mind.)
While we mostly kept it in the more aggressive “race” mode, the ability to switch the suspension to a softer setting does wonders for your butt—especially if you’re forced to contend with Manhattan’s FDR Expressway like we were. (Damn you, de Blasio!)
The 488 Spider is a street car, made for carving through country roads or down main street at prime time to catch looks. If you’re interested in spending time at the track, you’d be better served picking up the 488 GTB, its fixed-roof brother.
While the Spider could absolutely handle anything a race course could throw at it—thank the dual-clutch transmission, adaptive shocks that maximize stability, and LaFerrari-derived Brembo brakes—this is a vehicle that was created to cruise through life without a care in the world.
5. The heritage
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the very first Ferrari, the 125 S, rolling off the line in Modena, Italy. Ever since then, no automotive marque—in fact, no other proper noun—wields the same connotations of speed, beauty and exclusivity as Enzo Ferrari’s namesake company. The 488 Spider is a vital link-in-the-chain not only of this heritage, but also of the more recent tradition of the brand’s mid-engine V8 roadsters.
The 308 GTS made its debut at the 1977 Frankfurt Motor Show, with a removable targa top, a 2.9-liter V8, and a heart-stopping design that stood as a stark contrast to the lumbering monstrosities on the road at the time. Today, the model is best known as Magnum, P.I.’s most iconic non-mustache accessory—or, for Cannonball Run fans—as the car Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin crossed the country in while dressed as priests.
Now that’s a heritage everyone should want to be a part of.