• Ferrari’s prancing horse gets a kick with turbocharged 488 GTB

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    Seems like everyone’s turbocharging these days. Even Ferrari, which has not used a turbo on its mid-engined cars since the late 1980s, has decided to turbocharge its 488 GTB supercar. Why is it a big deal in the rarefied supercar world?

    Well, the 458 Italia which preceded the 488 GTB was universally loved for its raucous, screaming V-8 engine and lightning-fast response to stabs of the gas. These are two things normally lost when using turbos.

    To find out if the latest mid-engined supercar from the folks in Italy had lost any charm, we took one for a spin, and our heart rates still haven’t dropped.

    As soon as you slide into the carbon fiber seats, it becomes clear the 488 GTB has more in common with a race car than a road car. The steering wheel wouldn’t seem out of place in a Formula One car, with all of the buttons needed to operate the car within reach of your hands without moving from the nine and three o’clock positions. There is even an F1-style LED light bar on the top edge of the wheel that tells you when to shift.

    The engine can output a colossal 661 horsepower and 561 pound-feet (763 Newton-meters) of torque, which is good for a 0-60 mph (96 kph) time of 3.0 seconds dead. There is so much torque in fact, that Ferrari doesn’t let you have it all until you are in top gear. In an effort to increase drivability and reduce needless wheel spin, a system called variable torque management limits the engine’s torque until the seventh gear is engaged.

    Acceleration is nothing short of violent. The low-end thrust provided by the titanium-aluminum turbochargers forces your head into the headrest, thrusting the horizon toward you as if you were Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts so rapidly that it feels like getting kicked in the back by a mule. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that the 488 is unwieldy at conventional speeds. In fully automatic mode the transmission is incredibly smooth and the shifts are not really noticeable.

    How does this all feel? Every journey taken in the car is theatrical. The noise of the engine can be heard for miles, affording pedestrians enough time to ready their smartphones to record. The aerodynamically optimized body lines are stunning from any angle, drawing comment from even those who couldn’t care less about cars.

    With advanced systems
    Advanced systems with head-scratching acronyms are abundant in the 488 GTB. Technologies such as F1-Trac, E-Diff, SSC2 and DRS are all designed to help give the car as much grip and performance as possible when on track. It’s not only electronic and mechanical magic that helps the Ferrari perform, the 488 GTB has more aerodynamic downforce than its predecessor, pushing you into the ground 50 percent harder than before. This is achieved without any gaudy wings or brash adornments too. Instead, Ferrari engineered clever scoops and flow channels into the bodywork itself. For example, air is channeled over the roof and down past the engine cover into a blown spoiler coming out the center of the rear bumper. This internal spoiler reduces the need for large rear-wing appendages, and even reduces drag, making it faster. The aero tech doesn’t stop here; the 488 GTB makes use of active aerodynamics, a technology also found on Ferrari F1 cars. The diffuser sitting under the rear bumper can deploy fins at high straight-line speeds to ‘stall’ the diffuser, creating a drag reduction effect, allowing you to reach higher speeds.

    All of this performance doesn’t come cheap. The base price for a 488 GTB comes in at $245,400, but nobody buys a base Ferrari. Our test car had an exhaustive list of optional extras that elevated the outlay to $351,283 — that’s a price difference of a fully loaded Corvette Z06 and some change.

    However, it wouldn’t be prudent to compare the two; the Ferrari is more than a bunch of numbers. It’s a technological masterpiece, a work of art and a status symbol. If you want for attention, look no further than a red supercar with a prancing horse badge. Compare it with the closest rivals and we see that the 488 GTB is the driver’s choice. The Aston Martin DB11 is a GT car first and foremost, and a pretty one at that. However, it would be left for dead by the 488 GTB on any stretch of asphalt. The Lamborghini Huracan does have a better soundtrack, thanks to its free-breathing V-10, but still suffers from a damped driving dynamic thanks to its all-wheel drive system.

    So, has turbocharging the 488 GTB ruined the flagship mid-engined Ferrari? Not at all. Thanks to borrowing expertise from the Formula One and GT racing branches of the company, Ferrari has managed to practically eliminate the issue of turbo lag associated with turbocharging engines. Plus, the low-down torque provided by the space-age turbos is unrivaled by free-breathing motors, and thrusts the 488 GTB into a whole new level of automotive performance. It has the looks, the pedigree and the performance.

    CHICAGO TRIBUNE/TNS

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