Ferrari 488 | PH Used Buying Guide

The 488 was one of the standout supercars of the last decade – here's how to find a good one…

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, August 15, 2021 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for £150,000
  • 3.9-litre V8 petrol turbo, rear-wheel drive
  • Little short of amazing in every department
  • Very good reliability
  • 7-year servicing packages on early cars expire from 2022…
  • …which might make them more affordable

Search for a used Ferrari 488 here

OVERVIEW

We’ve all got our own mental picture of the ideal car, the one we’d buy first with our lottery winnings. Those of us old enough to remember bedtime stories involving fairy godmothers might also have a notion of what car we’d pick if the daft old biddy granted us just one car that we weren’t allowed to sell, only to drive and enjoy.

The Ferrari 488 would surely be right up there in the top three, if not right at the top, for most voters if we carried out a PH poll to establish the most popular choice for both those fantasy scenarios. When it came out in 2015, it was universally hailed by wide-eyed journalists. Have you ever seen anything other than a five-star review for one? We can’t remember seeing one. That’s because the 488 was outstanding, not only in every quantifiable way but also in the less easily measured areas of emotion and passion.

One of the 488’s secrets to success was its weight, or lack of it. Despite being built mainly from aluminium rather than the carbon fibre on which other performance cars were becoming increasingly reliant, it not only weighed less than its 458 predecessor, it was also highly competitive with largely composite creations like the McLaren 650S, which was only 40kg lighter.

Another secret of the 488’s success (if not really a surprise) was its drivetrain. Ferrari’s first turbocharged engine since the F40 was a light, oversquare and rev-happy unit brilliantly enhanced by two relatively small but highly efficient twin-scroll IHI turbochargers and perfectly matched fuelling. The cherry on top was a peerless Getrag twin-clutch gearbox.

With 660hp and 561lb ft, the 488 was considerably more powerful and more torquey than the preceding 562hp/392lb ft 458 Italia, and over 100kg lighter to boot. As you’d expect with those statistical advantages and with its more sophisticated driving assistance systems, the 488 was quicker than the 458, chipping a sizeable 0.4sec off the older car’s 3.4sec 0-62mph time, and an even more impressive 0.9sec off its 11.3sec standing quarter-mile time. As you’d also expect, it was more expensive than the 458 at £197,000 versus £178,000, but owners could mop their brows in relief at the news that they would be getting an extra 3mpg out of the more modern car in mixed use.

Perhaps most impressively, despite its extra weight, the 488 was quicker than the McLaren 650S that had been launched a year earlier with a mission statement of stealing Ferrari sales. Speed wasn’t everything of course, and the 650S and 720S McLarens did more than all right for themselves. But wherever you looked at the 488, it had a fistful of aces: active aero, adaptive suspension, ceramic brakes, sweet electro-hydraulic steering and a beautifully judged battery of driving assistance systems. It was a timely reminder of the old adage that form is temporary but class is permanent.

A few months after the GTB coupe made its debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the Spider appeared at Frankfurt with an electrically folding hardtop. There was a 50kg weight penalty but it didn’t materially affect the performance: the 0-62 remained 3.0sec and the top speed was just 3mph down at 202mph.

In late 2018 a track-focused 488 Pista was launched. The spiritual successor to the 458 Speciale, its monocoque was still resolutely aluminium but more of the bodywork parts were carbon fibre, resulting in an 80kg weight reduction on the GTB. Through careful speccing (polycarb instead of glass etc) you could skim another 10kg off that. The 50 percent new engine internals gave the Pista 710hp and 568lb ft at 3,000rpm, although that maximum torque figure was only available in 7th gear, supposedly to promote a more normally aspirated sensation in the lower gears. The Pista’s downshifts were harsher to promote a racier feeling.

With a lower ride height, stiffer springs and polished-up chassis software, the Pista was 1.5sec quicker around the company’s Fiorano test track than the GTB. In fact, it wasn’t much slower than the LaFerrari. Its base price was just under £253,000 but you could add another £100k to that in a matter of seconds with the options sheet and a loaded biro. In classic Ferrari style, some of the options were hilariously priced. Apple CarPlay somehow managed to cost £2,400, cabin telemetry was nearly £5,800, while a two-colour racing stripe was over £8,600. Special ‘extracompionario’ paints, like the jump-out red used on the 2007 F1 car, added £15,000 to the invoice. In that light, the £14,000+ required for a set of carbon-fibre wheels looked like good value, but you wouldn’t want to kerb one.

A Spider version of the Pista was unveiled at Pebble Beach in 2018. Despite it having a metal roof (handy if you had to leave it outside – the Huracan had a cloth one, remember) it was claimed to be lighter than the coupe.

At Geneva in 2019, the F8 Tributo powered by a 720hp version of the Pista engine was revealed as the 488’s successor, but the 488 name wasn’t finished just yet. Even as PH was testing the F8 at the end of 2020, a 690hp 488 GT Modificata model was being offered to regular Ferrari Club Competizioni GT event drivers. Intended exclusively for those FCC events or for track days, it was basically a GT3/GTE car with a carbon-fibre body, full-on race interior, carbon clutch, the option of different gearsets and an aero kit offering 1,000kg of downforce. The price wasn’t made public but it wouldn’t have been low. Fifty were made. Find one if you can.

The limited-edition Pista Piloti built to celebrate a Ferrari endurance series win in 2017 was more road-oriented, but it won’t be much easier to find on the open market than the Modificata. Nobody is quite sure of the total numbers of 488s made, but one source has given it as between 10,000 and 15,000, with 3,500 Pistas.

As we said at the start, when it was new and being road-tested by drooling scribblers, the 488 was a five-star car all the way. Does it retain all those stars as a used buying proposition though? Or might the end star be missing a screw and dangling down a bit? Let’s take a look.


SPECIFICATION – FERRARI 488 (2015-2019)

Engine: 3,902cc V8 32v petrol, twin turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 660[email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.0
Top speed (mph): 205
Weight (kg): 1,370
MPG (official combined): 24.8
CO2 (g/km): 260
Wheels (in): 9 x 20 (f), 11 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 245/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
On sale: 2015 – 2021
Price new: £197,000
Price now: from £150,000

Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.

ENGINE & GEARBOX

More than one respected motoring authority has named the 488’s 3.9-litre flat-plane V8 as the best turbocharged engine ever made. Anyone whose impression of turbocharged cars was based on hilariously laggy ‘wait for it’ moments like the first 911 Turbos, high-boosting Saabs or Renault 5 Turbos would be utterly gob-smacked by the Ferrari’s blink-quick response to the throttle. Even by normally aspirated standards it was razor sharp.

The achievement of such reaction times with two turbos – albeit ones whose turbine vanes were made from temperature- and inertia-resisting gamma titanium, as used in jet engines -­ was a proper cap-doffer of an achievement by Ferrari’s engine gurus. The oversquare design permitted a freedom to rev that would seem normal to owners of Lexus LFAs or rotary-engined Mazdas, but few others, and the superb Getrag gearbox was a perfect foil for it. There was no need to worry about ‘turbo muffle’ either: many serial Ferrari owners will tell you that they prefer the sound of the 488 to that of the normally aspirated 458.

One noise you didn’t want to hear from your 488 however was a faint fan-like flutter apparently coming from one of the rear air intakes. If that was accompanied by a loss of power, it was more than likely down to the failure of one of those exotic IHI turbochargers. New units were around £10,000 each, not including installation costs.

Not much else went wrong though. A manufacturing flaw in the connecting surfaces of a low-pressure fuel line was found to have the potential to lead to an engine compartment fire on early cars. Luckily, those cars were so early they hadn’t been delivered to customers yet, so that issue was rectified before anybody noticed.

When new, the 488 came with a three-year warranty. Bolt-on ‘New Power’ warranties were available for Ferraris up to 15 years old to cover all major components, including the engine, gearbox, suspension and steering. There was also a seven-year main dealer servicing package that was transferable to subsequent owners. 488s have only been around for six years so every car should still be covered by that servicing package. Given the low mileages typically incurred on 488s, the services are invariably carried out on an annual basis.

CHASSIS

Ferrari put a lot of effort into the aero of the 488. Active flaps worked with various diffusers that were larger than the 458’s, while the 308-style side air intakes performed a dual function of routing air to the turbo intakes and to exits alongside the rear lights for smoother airflow and less drag.

Off the line traction and the way the car’s second-generation Side Slip Control programme (SSC 2) and electronic diff encouraged a slide took 488 fun levels off the scale. ‘ESC off’ left you in total command (you hoped) while ‘CT off’ turned off the traction control but retained some degree of stability control. This was the mode to be in if you wanted to enjoy SSC 2 to the full on a suitable track.

As usual, the bumpy road setting was the mystical key to incredibly user-friendly ride quality. Even in Race mode, though the car was entirely useable on public roads. Unusually, the coupe’s spring and damper settings were unchanged for the Spider, which would normally run slightly softer. That and the de-wobbling effect of the 488’s extra stiffening created a noticeable difference between the 458 Spider and the 488 Spider. The open 488 was still more flexy than the coupe, with none of the uncanny levelling effect of the McLaren 650’s carbon tub which made it irrelevant whether you were in the coupe or the convertible.

The 488 had carbon ceramic brakes that used tech learnings from the LaFerrari to reduce warm-up time. Reputedly this resulted in a near ten per cent improvement in stopping distances over the 458. Unlike some other supercars, the 488 didn’t have a separate small caliper on the rear for the ‘handbrake’ (obviously not a handbrake, but you know what we mean). If your Ferrari suffered from an AVH (Automatic Vehicle Hold) failure, which it might, you could find yourself having to replace an awful lot of parts at a cost not unadjacent to £15,000.

On a small number of 488s, the software that was meant to warn you of worn brake discs didn’t work. Given the longevity of carbon discs, this might never have raised its head with many owners, but it was subject to a recall anyway.

The feel of the two-turn electro-hydraulic steering was better on Pistas than it was on straight GTBs thanks in part to a new design of super-soft Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that were fitted to the Pista. Some instances of rack failure have been reported.

The Pista (and we think the Spider version) was the first 488 to feature Ferrari’s new-for-2018 Dynamic Enhancer. While SSC 2 manipulated the e-diff to permit an ounce or two of slide with the manettino set to ‘CT Off’, Dynamic Enhancer added a pinch of braking to make on-the-limit driving more intuitive and predictable, and remove the need for you to work your arms like a manic chimp demanding a banana. It worked brilliantly.

A high proportion of new 488 buyers would have upgraded to forged wheels. Be careful about changing tyre sizes because altering the overall diameter of the wheel and tyre will throw up a few warning lights.

BODYWORK

If you were scratching around for reasons to dislike the 488, you might land on the fact that it’s not that different, visually speaking, to the old 458. It was much less of a change than the 458 was to the 430. For sure, the 488 wasn’t as ‘in your face’ as an Aventador or a McLaren, but that lower-profile approach might suit you – plus it’s all relative anyway. You’ll still get people asking to sit in it for a selfie. To whizz things up a bit 488 buyers could bring a more ‘pouncing’ look to their car’s profile by specifying sport sills in satin black.

If the first owner specified the telemetry option, the camera for that was plonked in a rather prominent position on the bonnet, just below the Ferrari badge. Some have wondered why it wasn’t tucked out of sight a bit lower down in one of main front ducts.

Depending on the roads round your way and the kerbs leading to your drive, the presence of a suspension lift kit might be important to you. Scuderia shields on the wings are regarded as pretty much essential on any Ferrari these days, which ironically makes non-shielded ones more unusual.

Opening the bonnet to get at the 230-litre boot (bigger than a 911’s but not by much) could be a bit fiddly if you had bricklayer’s fingers, as the gap to get your digits in once the lid has done its initial pop-up was quite narrow. That might seem petty but it was one of those things that could quickly get old. The slightly after-thoughtish and flimsy-feeling exterior door handles could fall into the ‘oh, I’ve just noticed that and now I can’t get it out of my head’ category.

INTERIOR

The LED steering wheel option will be found on most 488s, as will the parking camera, contrast seat stitching and horsey headrests. The standard seats weren’t that supportive for fast driving and the tight entry angle meant that well used cars would inevitably suffer from side bolster wear.

‘Goldrake’ carbon fibre sports seats were a common upgrade, but try before you buy because not everyone gets on with them. Some found their restricted adjustability to be a problem on longer journeys; others swore by them. If you buy a regularly used 488 and decide that you can’t live without the Goldrakes, second hand ones do occasionally come up for sale. We found a pair online for £12,000. The seat lift option on the CF seats is arguably more of a resale point than something you’re likely to use if you’re the only driver. If you’re conventionally sized, you would probably leave them on the lowest setting anyway, which is the default set-up for these seats without the lifter.

The Pista was quite light on sound-absorbing materials like carpets (which meant an increase in road noise) and generally the 488’s leather and Alcantara sun visors felt quite flimsy for such an expensive car, as did some of the buttons in the cabin. The battery was located in a tight space behind a flap in the passenger footwell, just where they brace their feet, which could be interesting if you ever needed to jump start the car. Best to hook the car up to the trickle-charger socket which is under the rebated bit of bodywork above and to the side of the rear number plate.

Some owners living in warmer climates have found the 488’s aircon to be only just adequate, although it was better than the 458’s set-up. The 488 was one of the cars affected by the infamous Takata airbag recall, so make sure that notification of the work done appears in the paperwork.

PH VERDICT

In the days of Mondials and the like, a Ferrari was much more of a ‘consumable’ car than it is now. Today, there are no cheap Ferraris. Obviously that’s mainly because a lot more time, effort and engineering goes into them these days, and brand building has had another big effect on used prices, but mileage is another key element. Ferrari owners have determined that mileage is a value-killer, so your chances of finding a cut-price, five-year-old 488 with an average 60,000 miles on it are, in the UK at least, practically non-existent.

Of the 45 Ferrari 488 GTBs on sale on PH Classifieds at the time of writing, the highest mileage car by far was a 29,000-miler from 2015. That’s equivalent to under 100 miles a week. The next highest had 13,000 miles on it. In fact, only six of the remaining 43 cars had broached the 10,000-mile mark, which on a six-year-old car equates to just 32 miles a week. Even ‘full use’ Ferraris like the FF are rarely found with more than 40,000 miles on them.

You might conclude from all this that 488 owners are living in the future rather than the now; what’s the point etc etc. Rarely taking out such a majestic driving machine may seem like heresy to those for whom 488 ownership would be an unattainable dream, but who’s to say we wouldn’t go down the same route if we bought one? Certainly less chance of it getting covered in bird droppings tucked away safely in the garage.

Talk among yourselves about that one. If buying a 488 is going to be the realisation of a life’s dream, try approaching it by finding something at the top end of the price range – something like the unused (zero miles) 2018 Challenge that we found on sale at the time of writing for £295,000 – and then breathing a sigh of relief when you realise that you can get yourself into a regular 488 GTB for half that money. Something like this 8,000-mile car from 2017 for £149,900.

£150k is £50k under the showroom price. Factor in the low mileages that are keeping even six-year-old cars in all-but-new condition, the 488’s very good reliability record (those two might be connected though) and the fact that in 2018 the cheapest examples were £150k, just like they are now, and it’s easy to see why buying one makes sense. The shortage of computer chips for new cars is starting to buoy up used prices across the board. Could 2021 be the golden year for investing in – and maybe even driving – a 488? Or should you wait until next year for cars whose seven-year servicing package is about to expire?

That’s your decision. Right now you can browse through a range of over eighty GTB and Spiders on PH Classifieds at prices of up to £230,000 for either coupe – here’s a nice one in grey and carbon for £185k – or Spider, like this late 2019 car in Tour de France blue at just under £195k.

You’ll need to move up to nearer the £300,000 mark to join the Pista club, irrespective of whether it’s a coupe or a Spider. Having said that, this £280k coupe in Grigio Alloy just arrived as we were going to press – so don’t hang around… For a Ritzy blowout, how about this ‘atelier spec’ Pista with £144,000 worth of extras at £325,000. You’ll need to like the colour green though.


Search for a used Ferrari 488 here

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