The 720hp F8 fills out its name brilliantly. Even when hobbled by inclement weather…
By Sam Sheehan / Saturday, December 5, 2020
Never say we’re not diligent at PH. After Dan was granted perfect conditions in Maranello for our first taste of the Ferrari F8 Tributo, we thought it only right to book something far more real-world for our UK drive. Late November in Britain can be relied upon to deliver less than ideal conditions for a 720hp rear-drive supercar, though the dense fog that descended on the south for the duration of our loan was going above and beyond even for it. As Dan discovered in pre-covid Italy, opportunities for full throttle are limited in the dry, let alone when the visibility is limited to a few car lengths ahead.
Of course mid-engined Ferraris are not the temperamental challenge they once were. Ever since the 360, they’ve been increasingly ‘on your side’, even while becoming ever more potent. Deploying a Ferrari berlinetta on a rainy day need not be thought foolhardy; the wet mode on the manettino assures us of that. Despite the enormous numbers generated by it, the F8 Tributo promises to be a more docile and easier to live with take on the 488 Pista. The same, fabulous specification of turbocharged motor has been fitted to what even Ferrari admits is an evolved 488 GTB chassis. The combination is not so much a rewriting as the rulebook as it the culmination of half a dozen mid-engine recipes.
I say culmination because this is likely to be the end of the line for series production mid-engined V8 Ferraris. Rumours of a V6 successor haven’t exactly gone away, and you don’t need to be an aficionado to notice the change in nomenclature for the F8 Tributo. Or, indeed, the fact it arrived a couple of years earlier than normal for a next-gen berlinetta. This is clearly a salute to a lineage that stretches back to the 1975 308 GTB, based on a perfected version of Ferrari’s aluminium-intensive space frame architecture, its cleverest electronic management system (more on that shortly) and an engine in unrestrained Pista tune. That means 720hp and 568lb ft of torque. And zero lag.
Moreover, you get a raft of other evolutionary improvements, including a 40kg saving compared to the 488 GTB thanks to lessons learnt with the Pista, as well as a 10 per cent improvement in aero efficiency. It looks superb in the metal, whether parked or moving. The vacant space carved by a nose duct and side intakes highlight the skinniness of the machine beneath the bodywork, with the intended direction of airflow resulting in a sleek, not overly complicated silhouette. Of course you hardly need to know what's underneath to worship what's on top: the F8 generates a never-ending supply of smartphone wielding onlookers.
Driving out of London, it's as easy to operate as Dan suggested it would be, with the motor relatively quiet in the cabin (although that Pista-spec exhaust projects a purposeful tone to those outside), improved visibility over the 488 GTB thanks to the fitment of more external cameras and no shortage of sensors (this car even has optional rear cross traffic ones), and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that’s enormously smart and flatteringly smooth, even at low revs. Bumpy road mode remains sublime, to the extent that it is practically the default option for any UK highway. It helps make the hard-cushioned seats seem surprisingly comfy.
Even so, there’s absolutely no mistaking it for anything other than a proper supercar. Firstly, it's 1,979mm wide, a point emphasised by the swell of the front wheel arches that are permanently visible through the steeply raked windscreen. You’re also greeted with squealing carbon ceramic brakes when cold, and the road noise generated by the Michelins highlights the girth of their contact patches. Motorway driving is effortless (thanks to 568lb ft in a 1.4-tonne car), but be prepared to turn up the radio to drown out the background hiss coming off those 20-inch rims. While we’re talking about rubber, it's worth pointing out that our test car’s 305-width rear tyres were ‘regular’ Pilot Super Sports, while the front 245-width tyres were Cup 2s, not as part of some alternative setup but owing to a mistake during an earlier service. Shame the mix up wasn't spotted until the car was between downpours in the Chiltern Hills.
Thankfully I had Ferrari’s remarkably intelligent Slide Slip Control 6.1 software to help out. The supply of power from the twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 is violent in any weather, but the way the F8’s electronic aids let you deploy the fury, without dialling back on the entertainment, is nothing short of astounding. No 720hp rear-wheel drive car on extreme (and mismatched) summer rubber ought to work at all in these conditions. But incredibly the F8 doesn’t feel dramatically outside of its operating window, even if it did occasionally spin up the rears in fifth.
The way launch control finds so much bite in the wet borders on witchcraft. In the few moments I was brave enough to wring the V8 out fully, the F8's headway almost defies description. Even with previous experience of Ferrari's relentless turbocharged motor, the sight of water droplets scurrying back up the windscreen and the sound of a tsunami hitting the wheel arches are new notches in what anyone could reasonably expect of a supercar in the wet. The F8’s complex electronic differential and F1-Trac traction control ensure momentary jolts of on-throttle rotation are corrected without any perceivable reduction in acceleration. You gradually begin to trust it more and more. But not without the occasional gasp.
The reward for keeping your toe in is huge. The 488 GTB’s 3.9-litre could be a little flat and droney at times, but the Pista-spec engine feels like a different animal. Its texture and bark are far coarser thanks to the 'hot tube resonator' that channels organic engine noise straight into the cabin, with the motor building into a more familiar flat-plane song up to and beyond its 8,000rpm peak, before the turbos flutter and fizz as you make adjustments with the throttle. A titanium con rod and lightweight internals ensure the V8 is as free spinning as it is explosive. It sounds brutally racy up top, chattering into a hard limiter and – so long as you’re in manual mode – not changing up until you click the carbonfibre shift paddle on the right. The seven-speed ‘box switches up a cog before you’ve had time to fully release the paddle; on the way back down, the stab of revs as you click the left paddle is yelp-worthy. It’s not a 9,000rpm Speciale screamer, obviously. But it’s not far off.
If there’s a complaint, it’s that the F8’s front axle doesn’t quite provide the level of information you'd ideally want to feel entirely on top of everything in such difficult conditions. You’re not fully aware of how close the 245-width tyres are to their limits – at least not through the rim. There is some feel, and the steering resistance summoned up by the quick ratio rack feels spot on. But you’re more aware of approaching the car's limit through the chassis itself, which is so wonderfully supple that it seems to never, ever runs out of answers. The damping limits feel out of reach; nothing troubles the F8 in Bumpy Road mode. You’ve enough vertical slack to handle some serious lumps and ridges, without upsetting the lateral composure. It makes the F8 feel ultra light on its toes.
This feeling is amplified by the brakes, which welcome left-foot operation thanks to the positioning of the pedal, not to mention their excellent modulation. They work well from cold (albeit while squealing), although inevitably come good with some heat in them. There’s communication through the pedal – maybe not as much as in the McLaren 756LT – and on the road, they never, ever fade. Getting them hot was a good thing in the fog, because the heat soak helped to increase the temperature in the front tyres – a fact confirmed by the F8’s very handy digital temp and pressure display. The rears, of course, have the V8 to get them cooking. You do really feel the F8 ‘switch on’ at that moment; its balance is obviously rear biased, but its supreme agility is not to be feared as a knife-edge. It's simply the way the Tributo goes about its business.
The fact that all this registers in weather that would have most F8 owners reaching for the nearest SUV key is obviously all the more remarkable. Ditto that it brushed aside the inconvenience of mismatched tyres (though it's hard to imagine the Cup 2s doing any better in the conditions). Plainly there's more to explore; if the F8 really is near the end of Ferrari's mid-engined V8 chapter, you could happily spend a lifetime learning its nuances. It's that kind of car, an astonishing tribute to its engineers and the firm which produced it. Best keep that in mind when you cast an eye over the option list.
SPECIFICATION – FERRARI F8 TRIBUTO
Engine: 3,902cc, V8, twin-turbo
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Power: 720hp @8,000rpm
Torque: 568lb ft @3,250rpm
0-62mph: 2.9 secs
Top speed: 211mph
Kerb weight: 1,450kg (estimated; 1,330kg dry)
Price: £203,476 (price as tested: £325,042, including £2,112 four-point safety harnesses, £2,400 adaptive front light system, £1,440 Alcantara central seat zone, £672 Alcantara inner door panels, £1,920 lithium battery, £4,800 carbon engine bonnet frame, £1,574 back radar and blind spot detection, £864 Giallo Modena brake calipers, £1,920 carbon S-duct, £2,112 carbon side air splitter, £1,440 carbon rear seat boot trim, £6,720 carbon rear diffuser, £1,920 carbon headlight insert, £2,400 carbon side spoilers, £4,896 carbon exterior sill covers, £960 carbon racing paddles, £2,784 complete protection film, £2,400 carbon inner door handles, £4,320 carbon driver zone and LEDs, £2,880 carbon instrument cluster, £1,362 carbon central bridge, £2,400 matt finish for carbon interior elements, £3,963 carbon door panels, £1,152 carbon kickplates, £2,304 carbon upper tunnel, £480 carbonfibre wheel cup, £3,840 carbon dash inserts, £720 embroidered prancing horse on headrests, £432 sports exhaust, £4,320 carbonfibre front spoiler, £768 floor mats with embroidered logo, £2,880 carbon steering wheel with LEDs, £1,056 Ferrari wing shields, £768 electrochromic rear-view mirror, £5,568 carbon engine manifold, £864 front parking sensors, £2,592 passenger display, £7,104 special paint colour, ££6,144 Daytona carbon-back seats, £1,440 racing seat lifter, £4,608 forged 20-inch wheels, £960 coloured rear shelf, £432 coloured stitching, £3,456 surround view camera, £960 titanium wheel bolts, £2,880 Cup 2 tyres, £1,728 upper zone Alcantara)
Source: Read Full Article