► Ferrari F8 drop-top driven
► The last pure V8, sans roof
► Just in time for summer!
Convertibles usually bring compromise. Some four decades before this Ferrari F8 Spider, Maranello launched the 208 GTS Turbo – a car that may now be a largely forgotten if seminal footnote but was the brand’s first turbocharged convertible.
The removal of the 208’s roof made it wobblier than a coupe, but the real compromise was the engine – a gruff, laggy 2.0-litre turbo V8 that knocked 35 horses from the near-identical 308’s 252bhp and ducked the 38 per cent VAT that Italy levied on that car’s bigger, 3.0-litre V8.
Let’s talk about this one, please…
The F8 Spider is an open-air version of the F8 Tributo coupe we drove in August 2019. Its platform dates back to the 458, and this new model slots in the gap between the 488 Spider (which it replaces and comprehensively updates) and the 488 Pista Spider track special.
The premise here is all the comfort and usability of the 488 Spider, all the performance of the Pista Spider with only 20kg extra to carry, plus a tickle of fresh exterior and interior design. Prices start from £225,897, which represents a £6k increase over the previous 488 Spider. McLaren asks £242k for a 720S Spider, while Ferrari’s other V8 convertible, the front-engined Portofino, costs £168k.
So the spec is much like the Tributo, but for the first time the F8 Spider throws this combination open to the elements, using the retractable hardtop from the 488, with a tweak to the tonneau cover. Press a button and that tonneau, with twin roadster pods, rises up like a rocket launcher, and a two-piece lid twirls through 180° before lowering, leaving the car looking all the better for the transformation. The revolving-roof process takes only 14 seconds, the whirring of hydraulic motors is impressively quiet, and you can do this at speeds of up to 28mph. That said, I think the Tributo design is more harmonious than the roof-up Spider; the coupe’s cooler too, with its F40-inspired Lexan rear screen and view over the V8, which the Spider loses.
Are there compromises with the new F8 Spider?
I’m struggling to think of any as the Ferrari and I fly across this rolling landscape with sun beating into the cabin, bringing an almost obscene 710bhp to the boil with flicks of long paddleshifters fixed to the steering column. Squeezing the F8’s perky throttle, it’s the insatiable surge of midrange performance – 568lb ft from 3250rpm – that’s the real giveaway that we’re dealing with forced induction, rather than a mushy throttle, finger-drumming turbo lag or any lack of enthusiasm for revs. Only Ferrari makes turbo engines so responsive.
Judging by the way in which the F8 arcs and glides through turns, neither is there much difference to the coupe’s beguiling dynamics; suspension is near identical, with the adaptive damper tuning adjusted for the extra weight. There’s still that medium-light and super-rapid Ferrari steering, the sensation of a mid-engined supercar that’s set low and planted and very much on the nose as you corner, and palpable tension as the e-diff loads up and the throttle bristles with energy, like the F8’s goading you into bad behaviour (an evolution of Side Slip Angle Control and Dynamic Enhancer means you’ve got more scope to play and less chance of putting it in a field, too). There might be a little extra wheel patter versus a coupe, particularly roof-down, but no, compromise definitely isn’t the first word that springs to mind.
Ferrari's Dynamic Enhancer: does it work?
But that roof will bring new things to the table, surely?
The folding roof is certainly handy during my drive, where in the space of two corners conditions shift from searing heat and sticky tarmac to actual hailstones and decidedly un-sticky tarmac. This F8 could’ve been built for the whims of British summertime.
The trade-off is 70kg more mass than the coupe (the 1400kg dry weight is 20kg lighter than the 488 Spider), but rear visibility is also better than a Tributo’s slatted rear screen, because there’s a vertical heated pane of glass behind the seats that provides an actual view of following traffic and – another plus – you can lower this glass independently of the roof. I drop it on the M40 in pouring rain and it’s an invigorating rush of chill summer air far calmer than the bluster of lowering windows.
And you get to hear more of that V8…
The engine remains a 3.9-litre V8, but it evolves the base 488’s unit with 50 per cent new parts, including titanium conrods, Inconel manifolds and titanium turbocharger turbine wheels that all help boost power by a huge 49bhp, pep up response and drop 18kg, just like the Pista. Accelerate from rest and 62mph flashes up in 2.9 seconds, 124mph in just 8.2.
Crucially, though, emissions regulations now mandate a gasoline particulate filter, and after a head-turning bark on start-up, the F8 settles to a disappointing putter. Things improve on the move, with more voluminous bass, and there’s no question of this being an exciting engine, but it’s still gruffer and less tuneful than the 488 Spider that introduced turbos to modern mid-engined Ferrari convertibles. Neither is there quite the Pista’s sense of visceral connection.
This is all relative, however – select Race mode, thread the Spider down a flowing B-road and it is sublimely balanced and engaging, with Zen-like body control, a cushioned ride (Bumpy Road mode is best, activated by a button on the steering wheel), keen steering and strong brakes. These qualities form the stage upon which the benchmark powertrain then struts its stuff. Squeeze that throttle, feel the instant surge, the escalating excitement of chasing high revs and dual-clutch shifts as tight as a snare drum, and wonder if driving can ever be more enjoyable than this.
Ferrari F8 Spider: verdict
The exhilarating fusion of coupe refinement with open-top excitement adds a welcome extra dimension to the F8 experience; while a Tributo owner gets the same fundamental sensations, dropping the roof is like a drug that makes the F8 all the more intense.
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