It’s finally here. The most powerful V8 Ferrari ever made and quite possibly the most track-focused contemporary model from Maranello, the 488 Pista has landed in the UAE.
The Middle East and in particular, the UAE is a key market for the Pista, having sold out of the entire allocation as soon as it was announced eight months ago, so this is our first chance to try it on home soil.
In recognition of the faith the UAE has placed in Ferrari’s track car for the road, Maranello broke with convention and allowed a small group of owners, placeholders and even one or two media to sample the Pista away from the factory.
Driving it at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track is one thing, but to sample it on familiar territory like the Dubai Autodrome, where we could mentally benchmark it against any number of cars we’ve tested there over the years, was something else.
Priced at Dhs1,223,000 if you could get one, the Pista is one of those very few cars you can say is an instant classic as — like the models it replaces, the 458 Speciale, the 430 Stradale and the 360 Challenge before that — they have proven to be smart investments.
Of course that shouldn’t be the impetus to buying a 488 Pista as this is all about sensory explosions and running on adrenalin.
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As the most powerful V8 in Ferrari’s history, being 50bhp up on 488 GTB with 710bhp at 8,000rpm but also saving 90kg over the GTB to give it the lowest power to weight ratio of any Ferrari, it tips the scales at just 1,280kg making this is an incredibly serious bit of kit.
Its 3.9-litre, dry-sumped, twin-turbocharged V8 backs up the horsepower with a heady 770Nm of torque from just 3,000rpm and on track, this is where the Pista feels like no other Ferrari before.
Strapped into its carbon fibre-laced, stripped out cockpit, the lack of insulation instantly connects you to the flat-plane crank V8 behind your head. Clipping up the four-point harness seems a bit over the top for a road car but almost essential for a track car with this potential
Even with an 8,000rpm redline, the rev limiter arrived too quickly on my first encounter, so mentally made a note to upshift sooner.
Still, with the red lights flashing across the top of the steering wheel like Macy’s on Christmas Eve as it flew through the power band, it became a series of rapid fire upchanges to try and beat the charge to the red line as it wound past 200kph in a smidge over seven seconds.
Still stretching its legs down the Autodrome’s 850 metre front straight, the braking marker appeared as the needle went past 260kph. Stamping on the brakes with both feet, I shifted back from seventh to third gear as fast as my fingers could flick that steering wheel paddle.
There’s not many race cars that arrive at Turn One of the Autodrome with such ferocity and while it was easy to be lulled into thinking you were driving a track day special with its stripped out interior and harness belts, it’s only when you remind yourself that this is wearing licence plates, lights and indicators and runs on street tyres that it really catches you by surprise as to how impressive a car it is.
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So balanced and composed is the 488 Pista under the heaviest braking that it never once stepped out of line which is remarkable for a mid-engined car.
In the old 458 Ferrari there were a few second gear corners at the Autodrome but not so in the Pista, as it climbed out of the tightest turns in third, placing all 770Nm to the rear wheels with not surprisingly a few twitches from the tail as you jumped on the gas but none of the lurid power slides you’d got from earlier models.
If there’s one criticism of the 488 GTB, it’s the quieter cabin compared to the 458 due to the new, lower-revving turbo engine but that’s been addressed as the Pista on full noise is a thing of joy and beauty.
Its new inconel exhaust manifolds include a bypass valve that contributes to the aural intensity that’s up by an average of 8dB across each of the gears.
Which means that flat out on the track, you can forget about holding conversations or in-car entertainment as there’s not much more you need than the sound of a Ferrari V8 in Race mode, accompanied by some of the fastest gear changes this side of a LeMans GT car.
Our journey was short and sweet, just a couple of laps to whet the appetite as this will be the only Pista on Ferrari’s UAE fleet and the queue to sample it was getting longer as word got around that it was track ready.
To those lucky few who have ordered a Pista, the wait is nearly over and when they arrive, I may be phoning a few of you for a second dip.