Ferrari’s New F8 Spider: First Drive Review

A formidable 568 pound-feet of torque produced by the Spider’s twin-turbo V8 makes for the most power-dense engine Ferrari has ever shoehorned into a droptop.

Robert Kerian

There is an unseen architecture in the universe one can discern with the correct lenses, like those alien-spotting sunglasses “Rowdy” Roddy Piper wears in They Live. An unheard symphony if you tune your ears to the right frequency. Followers of Carl Jung would call it synchronicity; the Grateful Dead faithful promise you can see this web of oneness under the spell of the right psychonutrients. 

But forget all that crap. You don’t need sci-fi eyewear or glands from some endangered Arizona desert toad to manifest spiritual zen—all you need is a Ferrari F8 Spider, an azure sky overhead, and a clear swath of open tarmac rolling out before you like a red carpet. This is how you will discern the divine from the mortal. 

Somewhere up in the flowing hills of Malibu, more than 700 horses from a fine-tuned V8 gallop in precision as our F8 Spider stretches towards redline. Its pitched wail bounces off the cliffs down into the Pacific, meeting the breaking waves in defiance. The shifting lights placed atop the steering wheel blink urgently, pleading us to upshift, but we resist for one extra moment—if only to hear that euphonic song pitch just another half note before releasing the tension, squeezing the right paddle shifter to climb one more gear in the dual-clutch seven-speed.

Of course the corners come quick and successive in these hills, meaning you rely on the F8’s carbon-ceramic brakes to scrub speed quick. Downshifts seemingly only anger all those Italian broncos, releasing barks of agitation as the F8 Spider arcs towards an apex, Pirelli P1 tires squealing with joy. With the hardtop down there is no division between the senses and the surrounding world: the scent of summer-dried sage fills our nostrils, the warm noon sun washes over cheeks and bare arms, the sonics of a flogged V8 bangs the drums. 

With the wisdom of a Carthusian monk, one fully and utterly understands what it means to drive a Ferrari. We are one: the Earth and its topographical mischief, the zenith expression of Italian machinery pushed to its limits, the mind-blown human at its locus. It’s good to be alive. 

This F8 carries the mid-engine-V8 bloodline of the original 308 GTS, aka the “Magnum, P.I. Ferrari” which Tom Selleck made iconic driving around the coast of Oahu in Hawaiian prints and impossibly short shorts. It is the DNA which begat such classic two-seat Berlinettas as the 360, 458 Italia, and most recently the 488. The F8 is the successor to that gorgeous 488, a Ferrari dubbed Supercar of the Year by multiple experts, and the 3.9-liter engine is plucked from its halo 488 Pista limited-edition model. That means 568 pound-feet of torque pouring out from its twin-turbo at an ankle-high 3,250 rpms, making the F8 Spider’s V8 the most power-dense engine Ferrari has ever shoehorned into a droptop.

Which basically translates into muscle car hooliganism tucked into a form-fitting Boglioli three-piece suit; a rolling sculpture of sweeping organic form and unrelenting brute force. We come to a fork and consider our options; we’re supposed to check into our Malibu mansion tucked behind the Getty Villa by four pm, so we should elect to head down to the PCH and homeward bound. But this road is simply too seductive to cut short. We tap the throttle, tease a grunt from the engine and steer right—always aiming up, higher into the hills and ever closer to God.