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TEST DRIVE: Ferrari 488 Pista

David Haueter samples the Ferrari 488 Pista in the latest Sportscar365 Test Drive…

Photo: Ferrari

There aren’t too many cars that can pull off a wide racing stripe running down their middle from front to back, but the Ferrari 488 Pista can. While such a stripe on most cars would look presumptuous, the 488 Pista has the performance and pedigree to pull it off.

After all, this is a Ferrari, but the Pista also has the distinction of being an even hotter version of the already fantastic 488 GTB and shares a lot of its DNA with the 488 Challenge racer.

The 488 Pista can astound you before you even drive it, just by looking over the spec sheet.

Engine output is 711 horsepower and 567 foot-pounds of torque, which are incredible numbers at a time when 500 horsepower cars are starting to seem mundane. 0-62 mph flashes by in 2.8 seconds on the way to a top speed of 211 mph, thanks in part to a weight of just 3,053 pounds, which is around 100 pounds less than a Porsche 911 GT3.

The car also has an astounding price, with a starting MSRP of around $330,000.

Besides the stripe, the 488 Pista gives other visual cues to its racing pedigree. There’s carbon fiber used extensively on the body and in the engine bay, large cooling vents on the flanks, and engine air intakes aft of the rear spoiler that connect directly to the plenums to allow for cleaner air flow to the engine.

Exotic metals like titanium and Inconel are used in its construction, and it’s fitted with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

Photo: David Haueter

The race car theme continues in the cockpit, with a beautifully simple bare metal floor, lightweight seats and lots of carbon fiber and alcantara.

Some of the ergonomics and controls are a little quirky, but the things that really matter are right where they should be, with a tach with large analog numbers located front and center and shift paddles attached to the steering column.

Most of the controls are located on the steering wheel, and the Manettino switch gives the choice of four driving modes, including “Sport” and “Race.”

Ferrari of North America was gracious enough to loan me a 488 Pista on the afternoon after the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

After spending the weekend watching the 488 Challenge race on Friday night as well as the Rolex 24 featuring 488 GTE and GT3 models, it was very cool to spend some time behind the wheel of the road car on which they’re based.

At 6’5”, I was a little worried about fitting comfortably in the car, but there’s a surprising amount of space. My hair rubbed a little on the ceiling but the seating position was perfect and there was plenty of leg and shoulder room.

Photo: David Haueter

Pushing the starter button brings the engine to life with a satisfying snarl and directs attention back to that engine.

The 3.9-liter unit in the 488 Pista is the most powerful V8 in Ferrari history and shares many components with the 488 Challenge car.

Fifty percent of its components are different from the 488 GTB, including titanium connecting rods and a lighter crankshaft and flywheel, and reductions in the weight of rotating mass in the engine cuts inertia by a significant 17 percent.

My first miles in the 488 Pista weren’t at triple-digit speeds or flying around on-ramps, but dawdling along in Daytona Beach traffic on route A1A.

One of the unexpected qualities of the 488 Pista is how easy it is to drive in everyday situations that involve stop signs and speed limits.

It’s very user-friendly to drive, with no lurching from the transmission or engine or grabbing from cold brakes. The ride is surprisingly compliant as well and it even has a fair amount of space in the front luggage area, though you’ll have to live without a glove box.

Photo: David Haueter

As good as it is in normal driving; this car is really built for speed and changes its character dramatically when you drive it more aggressively.

Heading onto I-95 and getting on the throttle, the 488 Pista propels forward like a jet fighter launching off an aircraft carrier. You expect it to be fast, but the force of its acceleration still takes your breath away.

It gets into triple-digits in seconds and is incredibly stable, thanks to aero bits that significantly increase downforce compared to the 488 GTB.

Getting on the throttle is accompanied by fantastic sounds that are more aggressive than the 488 GTB and hard to mistake for anything but a Ferrari.

Some research on Google Maps led me to FL-19, which is west of Daytona and winds through the Ocala National Forest with minimal traffic and wide, sweeping bends.

The 488 Pista was fantastic on this road, with a great blend of speed and balance and barks from the exhaust when you shift gears, which are more reminiscent of a race car than anything road legal.

The engine is fantastic and incredibly responsive for a turbocharged unit, with none of the lag that’s typical even in high-end sports cars. It’s beautiful to look at too and is mounted for a lower center of gravity.

Photo: David Haueter

Ferrari has all kinds of ways that you can adjust the 488 Pista to change its driving style. I left it in Sport mode for most of my driving but experimented with the Track mode as well.

Handling was very impressive in both modes, with Sport being the best choice for road driving. Steering feel was satisfactory, but you really feel more of this car through the seat than you do through the steering wheel.

The brakes were impressive, with a high and hard pedal and the kind of stopping performance you want in a car with over 700hp.

Aside from entries in IMSA, SRO and WEC, Ferrari also has the Ferrari Challenge series which uses the race-prepped 488 Challenge car.

Chris Cagnazzi has owned Ferrari’s since 1996 and is now in his fifth season of Ferrari Challenge. He also competes occasionally in GT World Challenge America powered by AWS in the 488 GT3.

Photo: Ferrari

“The 488 Challenge can be a handful,” he says. “It has a lot of torque and horsepower but small tires, but with the Evo kit (which debuted at the Road Atlanta round in mid-March) it’s a big improvement. Ferrari did a great job creating more downforce. The car handles around 40 percent better than before, and there’s a considerable improvement on responsiveness and feedback.”

Cagnazzi still finds significant differences between the 488 Challenge Evo and the 488 GT3.

“The GT3 has a tremendous amount of downforce and it really sticks to the road,” he says. “For example, at Watkins Glen in the Challenge car, you’d be hard pressed to go through the esses flat out, but in the GT3 car you’re flat out from turn one all the way to the bus stop.

“The 488 (road car) is also a beautiful driving car. When you think about those cars, the beautiful lines are unlike a lot of cars that are out there.”

Given its price and the fact that Ferraris are often bought as investments, it’s a shame to think that many of these cars will likely be parked in a garage for most of their lives and will never be used the way they were intended.

Ferrari is often pretty anal about who is buying their cars, and they should make buyers of this car sign a contract that they will drive it often and drive it hard. Anything less is selling it short.

Photo: David Haueter

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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