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Ferrari’s replacement to the 488 GTB gets the twin-turbo V8 from the Pista along with F1-inspired aerodynamics and electronic wizardry
A tribute, that’s what the Ferrari F8 Tributo is. A tribute to the engine that has won the international engine of the year award for the past four years running. The F154 twin-turbo V8 that was originally launched in the 488GTB four years was also voted the best engine of the past 20 years. And Ferrari, rightfully, are very proud of the accolade — so much so that they’ve built a car around it.
The F8 Tributo replaces the 488 GTB in Ferrari’s 40 year history of V8 sports cars. It will be launched in India next February, priced at Rs 4 crore ex-showroom. And the highlight is that engine which, with 182.5bhp per litre, has the highest specific output of all Ferrari IC engines. With 710bhp it has 50 more horsepower than the GTB and matches the output of the 488 Pista. And the one crucial difference over the Pista’s engine is the addition of the gas particulate filter. This enables the motor to meet Euro 6b emission norms (a big step up from BS-6 that kicks in next year in India, and which we will migrate to in a further two years). The GPF reduces particulate matter by 90 per cent and sucks around 15bhp from the engine so engineers are quite chuffed than they managed to put out the same power as the non-GPF Pista motor.
It is interesting to see the changes made to the GTB’s engine. The intakes are new. A whopping 9.7 kilos has been shaved off the exhaust by using Inconel manifolds. The turbo chargers gets their own speed sensors (developed from the Challenge race cars) that remove the need for power-compromising factor of safety. Overall there are 50 per cent brand new functional parts compared to the GTB. In total a whopping 40 kilos are shaved over the GTB, out of which 18kg is in just the V8. The new titanium alloy for the connecting rods saves 1.7kg. The new crank shaft is lighter by 1.2 kilos. The flywheel is lighter by 1.5kg. Hollow valves save 300 grammes. The added lightness means the engine has 17 per cent lower inertia and thus a more maniac nature that we’ve already experience in the Pista. And the sound quality has also improved via a hot-tube resonator that pipes sounds from the exhaust into the cabin raising the in-cabin noise by 8 decibels.
The S-duct in the nose channels air from an opening in the air dam below the prancing horse logo, and accelerates and diverts it over the car to provide downforce. The radiators in the nose have been angled rearwards for better cooling and to lower the hot wake so that fresh air goes into the intercoolers. The air intakes are repositioned to the edges of the rear spoiler which itself is larger and ‘blown’. An opening in the centre underneath the spoiler channels air upwards, the ‘upwash’ as F1 people call it increasing downforce by 25 percent while underbody ‘vortex generators’ enhance suction by a similar percentage. The underbody diffuser has movable elements, three of them, which works like F1’s DRS to increase downforce or reduce drag as and when the car’s brain thinks is necessary.
This new Ferrari, stylistically, links the past (488) and the future (SF90 hybrid and the upcoming pipeline) with the slimmer headlights. The twin round tail lamps hark back to F355 and 288 GTO. And the transparent, vented Lexan engine cover that pays homage to the most iconic turbo’d Ferrari of them all, the F40. I leave you to make your own mind; to my eye it is tighter, sharper and awesome, and the best looking car on this platform that stretches back to the 458.
You join me on a cold, grey, wet and windswept day at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in Maranello. I’m directed first into the pits where two F8s pull up and the test drivers step out shaking their head apologetically. “Wet mode” he tells me pointing to the Manettino and, not sure if it’s for effect, proceeds to slide, shake, wriggle and make me properly nervous on the sighting lap. The problem is it hasn’t rained properly to wash off the ‘marbles’, bits of tyre swept off the racing line, so the track is slippery, inconsistent and unpredictable. It’s the first time in my life I’m driving a Ferrari in Wet mode! I guess there’s a first time for everything.
Of course I try Sport but promptly dial it back — this thing is volcanic in its intensity and the last thing any journalist wants to do is leave a streak of red on the guard rails of Fiorano. The F8 gets Pirelli P Zeros but you can also option it with the special Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres of the Pista, and thus shod the F8’s Fiorano lap time is within half a second of the be-striped, super-series and hardcore Pista.
First impressions as we trundle out of Maranello is the F8 is far, far more comfortable than the Pista. A more relevant comparison is with the 488 GTB so we will stick to that henceforth, and here too the F8 is more luxurious. Plusher seats, a completely new dashboard with more tactile switchgear, a bigger 7-inch screen in front of the passenger to scare them silly, and the Ferrari-typical hyper-quick steering that feels even more connected if a bit more heavy.
Roads in Italy aren’t like, say, Germany and almost everywhere are bumps. And over regular roads, which is a bit like what the road up to Amby Valley or Lavasa (outside of Mumbai/Pune) was before the monsoons, the F8 rides well. It faithfully follows the contours of the surfaces but it takes the edge off of it; it doesn’t jolt you or send shivers up your spine. It flushes the ‘where are the roads?’ questions down the toilet. If you’re lucky enough to have one in India, I guarantee you will enjoy exploring the great driving roads outside of almost every city in India (if you wake up early enough, that is).
Oh, the first time you put your foot down the Tributo will shock you. SHOCK you. The turn of speed is astonishing. The first time those blue shift lights flash atop the steering wheel your eyes go white and the passenger scrambles to grab on to whatever they can. If 710bhp feels like too much on track, on the road it is Oh My God. The raw figures — 0-100kmph is a tenth quicker at 2.9 seconds while 0-200kmph is half a second quicker at 7.8 seconds. These are figures to mash the brain but what they don’t describe is the inexhaustible energy of the engine. It revs as quickly as a nat-asp motor (though not yet all the way to 9000rpm as the last-of-the-line 458 Speciale). The torque curves alter through the gears so it gets progressively more aggressive as you go up the gears. It doesn’t plateau out as with other turbo motors at the peak. And the Wall-Effect rev-limiter makes for the crispest, tightest, most sophisticated rev-limiter I’ve encountered. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa… it revs out so quickly your first half hour is spent hitting the limiter until your fingers get quick enough with the carbon-fibre paddles and your ears get used to the sound.
This isn’t piped and enhanced through the speakers. The harmonics and waves from the exhaust are plumbed into the cabin, behind the driver’s ears, enhancing the natural engine noise to provide a harder, sportier, but still an evidently turbo’d sound. There’s the turbo whistling, there’s an authentic V8 bark, the decibels rise and fall with your right foot, the pulse quickens as you go through the rev range. And it doesn’t pop and bang on the overrun.
And there’s no turbo lag. Nothing. The F8 sounds turbocharged but it doesn’t feel turbocharged, save for the fact that while you need to work nat-asp engines to get it to sing a turbo’d motor has power everywhere and every time you flex your right ankle.
With absolutely no traffic in the Tuscan hills, and finally dry roads, I can let the Ferrari F8 Tributo rip. Race mode. Left to its own devices the dual-clutch second guesses the gears better than I could ever, both up and down. Always in the meat of the 770Nm torque band, the F8 launches like a demented catapult out of every corner. Through corners the front end nails itself to the prescribed arc; I found it impossible to nudge it into understeer. And as for the rear there’s so much grip it’s nearly impossible to get it unstuck if you feed in the throttle as one should. Higher up the gears, in second, preferably third, Side Slip Control 6.1 and Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer + make the F8 Tributo come alive, letting you slide and catch with a precision that you never imagined you possessed. To be sure you cannot say when or where the electronics are working, doing what it does unobtrusively and without the usual ESP curbing of the power and/or braking individual wheels. The sophistication of the electronics is freakish. And you always prescribe a smooth power oversteer arc with one clean catch of the ’wheel. The F8 lulls you into thinking you’re god but luckily for me, in the middle of the fooling around, I caught up with the photo and video team, the subsequent low-speed tracking letting my mind settle down to process what happened in the hills. And then I drive those corners again and realise I’m always applying just the right amount of opposite lock.
What the electronics fed by the yaw sensors do is apply a suggestive torque on the steering wheel, indicating in which direction and just how much corrective steering to apply, the added sophistication of SSC 6.1 and FDE+ smoothening out the intervention and adding more precision. Not once did I over correct and send the tail the other way — and I know that I’m no Gaurav Gill; I’m not that consistent a driver.
To be clear this is not an autonomous system. The torque on the steering wheel is suggestive, it doesn’t physically turn the ’wheel and you have to apply the corrective lock and the right amount of it. But there is actually no sensation of intervention. It flatters the driver.
The schlep back to Maranello is on the motorway and the Italians don’t seem to have a problem caning their Fiats so there’s no reason for me to hang back either. Max out the revs in second, third, the first blue light in fourth, worry about being arrested, back off, and then repeat it all over again. It never gets tiresome. The inexhaustible energy of the engine never ceases to amaze. I’ve been driving all day, 500 odd km through Tuscan hills, over the motorway, on the narrow village roads that we use to avoid the traffic getting back to Maranello, and I still can’t get enough of this engine. This is an absolutely mega engine, and it turns the F8 Tributo into the best V8 sports car Ferrari has ever made.