Pista, Pista, Pista: special access to drive a very special car
The Inquirer design staff aren’t all that enthused about me right now. I can normally give them nice pretty photos of the cars I am lucky enough to drive.
In this case though, they can’t see anything—they can’t see shapes, or lines, or the awesome front end of this car that shapes air to keep this 720 horsepower car flat on the road.
Yet, this is one of the most sought-after drives of the year: the new Ferrari 488 Pista.
The reason we don’t have the pretty photogenic red car photos is because we didn’t do a media drive or a test drive.
We did, technically, an assessment drive of a car produced prior to the actual release.
We were there to assess the new engine developments, the new dynamics adjustments, the new technical improvements.
Hence, the camouflaged stickers on the car, which can sometimes flap in the wind by the way—which gets interesting over 200 kph.
A few years ago, Ferrari gave us the 488 GTB, which was a warp-speed car.
You hit the throttle and suddenly you were somewhere else. It was insanely, scary fast, and it communicated that very clearly.
The new and faster iteration of the 488 is the Pista, officially the Ferrari 488 Pista.
The name means “track” in Italian, and we tested the car at the home of Ferrari in Maranello, Italy at the Pista di Fiorano, the Fiorano track.
The car, though, is not meant to be a purpose-built racecar or track car.
They chose the name Pista because of the fact that they took so much of what they have been learning on track, and put it in their new road car.
So what did they learn?
First of all, that warp speed acceleration is still there, as it should be with a bump of 50 hp at the engine.
But drag racers are meant to go in straight lines, Ferraris are meant to go around curves.
With the 488 Pista, there is nuance where before there was more of an on/off switch.
You can now control the throttle better, and you can feel more clearly how that power is being put down to the ground.
As long as you control your desire to mash the throttle down to see the countryside blur, you are able to control the massive amount of power far more than before.
This allows you to take corners a bit more quickly because you can accelerate out of them with a bit more control.
This may well be theoretical, because I still got sideways the moment I came off a right-hander on the Fiorano track and didn’t properly retrain my right foot (you can see the video through carsandcalibres on Instagram or Facebook).
I did thoroughly enjoy myself for doing it (you can see that too).
But the power bump of this car is almost beside the point. The power is merely part of a stellar package built upon an already exceptional one.
The driving dynamics are excellent, and there is more nuance and control and feel at all speeds.
The aerodynamics still keep you glued to the ground at speed, but you now also feel them more than before if you have the ability and intestinal fortitude to take a wide corner with serious velocity.
I don’t want to say flat-out, because flat-out on a corner in this car will make you part of the scenery.
The 488 Pista is, more than ever, a race car for the road. Even though Ferrari still calls it a road car, it has all the abilities of a track vehicle. Yet, it is still a workable (arguably) regular-drive car.
It can be a comfortable grand tourer, and backing up in tight spaces is not as scary as it used to be in cars like these.
You can drive up curvy mountain roads quickly and easily with the rpms below 3000, yet still be going in excess of highway speed limits.
You get no unexpected punchiness on the throttle at city traffic speeds, so you don’t feel like you are always in danger of having to buy the car in front of you.
But once the road (or track) opens up, the car slices. It slices through the air and around curves.
Acceleration is phenomenal but surprisingly nuanced (I keep using that word for this car).
Handling is crisp yet forgiving, you can change angle on a fast curve without having the car try and turn around and kill you.
In trying to mimic the Ferrari test driver Rafa on the long sweeping left-hand curve on the Fiorano track, we would start on the right then go over the rumble strips to the left (technically, they are two separate sections, but he did it so, so did we).
This meant not only big steering angle changes at speed, it also meant going over traction-breaking tarmac.
The car was flat, you felt the changes of surface and rumbles, but the car was soaking it all in. It just took your commands and executed them.
When the 488 Pista was announced, or more appropriately when there was reaction to spy images of the car looking like this that came out, there was much discussion on numbers.
Ferrari basically said that number discussions can never give a full and true expression of what they are trying to accomplish.
Having seen the nuance (that word again) in what is basically a controlled explosion that creates a hurtling object, I agree completely.
The new Ferrari 488 Pista is more than the sum of its numbers and parts. It is useful and usable performance, and passion at a whole new level.
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