Non rovinare tutto, amico. I fantasmi di Fiorano ti stanno guardando.
Ok, so I’m jealous – Mark Vaughn from autoweek.com drove the yet to be released in Australia, Ferrari F8 Tributo in Italy. I don’t get the opportunity to drive the supercars of this world, but I’m happy to share the stories when they’re released.
The newest Ferrari carries over a lot from its 488 predecessor, but it’s significantly better
There are some places that, if you understand what they mean and what they stand for, are simply magical, where just the name evokes so much more than the mere spot on a map. In the racing world, there is Monaco, Le Mans and Indy; you may have your own spots for your own reasons. But for whatever reason, I found myself somewhat surprised to get a chill when I heard our perky event organizer tell the shuttle bus driver, “A la pista Fiorano.”
Fiorano … the track sits right outside the factory where the red-headed “testarossa” engines are assembled. It’s just a few hundred meters from the styling studio that draws all those achingly perfect bodies. Enzo Ferrari himself had a house right here at the track, and the house still stands, with his desk in the same order it was when Il Commendatore last left the place. Every great car and every great driver to run on it since the course’s 1972 construction has helped advance the Ferrari mystique, from Gilles Villeneuve to Michael Schumacher; from the 512 BB LM to the 333 SP, Grand Prix cars from the great 312s to the modern F1 screamers of today; and every great road car from the 246 Dino GTS to the F40, Enzo and LaFerrari were all tested and tuned to perfection right here, up to and including this newest entry — the F8 Tributo.
The Tributo is the evolution of the 488 GTB, which itself was the culmination of V8-powered Ferrari sports cars leading all the way back to the 1975 308, all tested and perfected here. And now a shiny red F8 Tributo sat under a canopy in the same spot that every great road and race car had sat, where all the great Ferrari drivers had put on helmets and slid into cockpits in the last 47 years, except that this time it wouldn’t be a great driver, it’d be – God help us — me.
Non rovinare tutto, amico. I fantasmi di Fiorano ti stanno guardando. (Don’t screw it up, man. The ghosts of Fiorano are watching you.)
Don’t worry — when I drove mine and when you buy yours, we will have some help in the form of a remarkably sorted-out car. The F8 Tributo rides on largely the same chassis and suspension as the 488 but with improved electronic controls. While the chassis and suspension are largely carryover, the engine and aerodynamics are new, or at least highly revised.
There are several versions of this V8 engine currently in production. This one is based on the powerplant found in the 488 Pista and is 50 percent new from there. The new engine finds improvements in almost every stage of combustion, according to Ferrari: reduced plenum volume for improved transient response; reduced runner length for optimized volumetric efficiency; new springs and hollow valves on both intake and exhaust; more aggressive valve lift profiles; longer exhaust runners with larger diameters; a new turbocharger speed sensor; and new titanium alloy con rods that weigh 43 percent less than before, allowing a new crankshaft that weighs 2 1/2 pounds less and a flywheel that weighs almost 3 1/2 pounds less. All those improvements raise horsepower to 710 at 8,000 rpm and torque to 568 lb-ft at 3,250 revs.
Outside, while it may look close to the 488 at first glance, is an exterior that not only offers a 10 percent increase in downforce but a reduction in drag of minus-5 percent and better cooling efficiency. Most noticeable of the aero improvements is the “S-duct” that routes air from the grille through various radiators and exits it up through the hood. Further improvements help cool the brakes and increase airflow to the radiators in the back.
Overall weight is down 88 pounds to just 3,124 pounds wet, or 2,926 dry, in case you want to run your car without oil, coolant or gas (not recommended).
The result of all these improvements is that 0-62 mph now takes just 2.9 seconds, 0-124 mph 7.8 seconds and top speed is now 211 blistering mph. Be careful out there, amici.
And I was. After two laps around Fiorano with the local shoe to show me where to get on the gas, where to get on the brakes and to remember to brake before cresting the bridge where Fiorano crosses over itself, it was my turn on this storied track. I got one warmup lap, two hot laps and one cool-down lap.
What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, everything went just right, and then some. The F8 immediately feels comfortable, whether you’re hammering on it at full wallop or just warming up. The seats, the steering, the brakes, all felt just right. If I was to compare this to, say, a McLaren 720S, I’d say this one feels more comfortable, with fewer unwanted inputs through the wheel and the seat of the pantaloni. It feels or felt to me that day, more precise but just as comfortable as a Porsche 911 Turbo. Indeed, after just a couple hundred feet I was ready to proclaim the F8 Tributo best in show among sports car competitors!
That didn’t change once the warmup lap was finished and I nailed the throttle on the sucker without adult supervision. The exhaust note is like a 10,000-strong horn section of crazed Italian angels all blaring their trumpets at just the right note right behind where your brain sits. The power comes on smooth with, as Ferrari promised, zero turbo lag all the way up to the 8,000-rpm redline. The brakes get a “new pedal feel” and not only felt strong but never faded throughout the day, both here on the track and, later, on the public roads.
With weight balanced at 58.5 percent rear, you’d think the rear end might step out here and there. It certainly did on older V8-powered Ferraris. But if you just have the drive mode selector set to “race,” it will mostly keep the whole thing in line all day. Switch the switch to “CT off” and the system lets you hang the tail out just about as much as you want, without causing the terrifying emotional freak-out that sometimes comes with that phenomenon. The new FDE+, Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer Plus, allows more safe slip than any other such system I’ve driven while holding you in line with imperceptible applications of braking wherever needed. Go ahead, drift, you won’t hurt yourself or the car until you switch it all the way off. But don’t switch it all the way off. Unless you’re Charles LeClerc or somebody.
The course itself had changed since I first drove on it many years ago. There is a pronounced bump right before the bridge, the result of the bridge sinking a little over the years, according to Ferrari test driver Raffaele di Simone. The bump will get your attention, launching you through the air just a bit when you should be hard on the brakes for the right-hander that comes up just after the blind crest of the bridge. I knew it was there so I had fun with it. But that’s just the bump. Every type of corner and straight is present at Fiorano: fast, slow, really fast… Enzo wanted everything represented so his cars, both track and street, would be ready for anything. The F8 Tributo handled every turn thrown at it – all 13 corners – with stability and grip galore. I particularly liked the CT OFF mode on the track, since it let you play around as much as you dared without allowing you to crumple up this beautiful car.
After my track laps, I got to drive the F8 out in the real world, or at least Italian reality. On mountain roads, somebody, perhaps the spirit of Enzo Ferrari, had conveniently introduced perfectly spaced Fiat Pandas in my path throughout the day. I didn’t want to be rude, but they cut into my drive time considerably, the little four-wheeled rodents (“Dear Autoweek, A Panda is NOT a rodent, it is a member of the phylum blah blah blah…”). After a while, perhaps when the great spirit saw that I wasn’t going to hit anything, the Pandas mysteriously disappeared and I throttled the Tributo to within a millimetre of the limits of my limited talent. It rose to the occasion with grace and aplomb. Power and torque are wonderfully distributed across the tach, requiring less pulling on the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I had the transmission in A for automatic much of the drive-in Race mode the shifts came as quickly as I needed them, both down and up through the gearbox. It was one less thing to think about as I squinted my eyeballs looking for Fiats.
While I had tried the CT OFF mode on the track, I left the drive mode selector switch in Race for the street, since things are more unpredictable out there. The fun quotient was high regardless. Indeed, “Fun To Drive” was mentioned throughout the F8 press kit and in speeches by Ferrari execs.
It was an important goal that was achieved splendidly.