Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto.
— Eat well, laugh often, love much.
The Italians have one up on us when it comes to living the sweet life, or la dolce vita. There are countless Italian aphorisms expounding on the luxury of enjoying simple pleasures. That’s what you do when you have time, money, and perhaps a summer home on the Italian Riviera.
Another part of enjoying life, which should be included amongst those Italian aphorisms, would be guidare veloce — or drive fast. And its’s not hard to believe that when looking at all the famous Italian marques ingrained in the minds of car aficionados.
Of course one stands out on top — Ferrari (RACE). Its legendary owner, its racing heritage, and history of beautiful cars give fans and owners alike a deep affinity for the brand.
When I tested the GTC4Lusso earlier this year, I appreciated the car’s design, V-12 power plant, and driver-centric focus of the car. It’s a great car — different, special, unique — and I enjoyed it. But after spending a few days behind the wheel of the 488 Spider, the hardtop convertible version of the much lauded and loved 488 GTB, it was then that I really, truly felt I understood Ferrari’s ethos.
With a crisp spring weekend upon us, we decided to make a pairing, if you will. A road trip to combine the sumptuous styling and raw power of the 488 Spider (draped in a rich, cream-white paint, dubbed avorio), with world-class food from some of the finest chefs in the world. And let’s not forget the fact that we can lose the roof and open up the cabin to the rest of the world, with just one touch of a button.
The true heart of this beast is its engine. Many were concerned when Ferrari went to turbo power for the 488 – would the feeling you get when mashing the throttle of a naturally aspirated Ferrari go the way of the dodo? Rest assured, the twin turbos powering the 3.9L V8 do not disappoint, pumping out a prodigious 661 hp with 561 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Believe me when I tell you this engine in the back of this car can get truly scary.
Completing the setup is Ferrari’s dual-clutch 7-speed automated manual gearbox. The powertrain shoots the 488 Spider to 0-62mph (or 100km/h) in 3 seconds flat. And believe it or not, this scary engine returns a rather decent 15 city / 22 highway mpg.
The drive, or living la dolce vita
We embarked on our journey to the town of Hamburg, New Jersey, to the Crystal Springs Resort for the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival. Laugh all you want at New Jersey, but in attendance for this culinary event were French chef and living legend Daniel Boulud, and one Thomas Keller of The French Laundry.
Entering the 488 cockpit awash in red leather, I slid into the carbon-fiber racing seat that fit like a glove, supportive in the right spots without feeling too stiff. Sitting in the driver’s seat you know Ferrari spent plenty of time figuring out the perfect driving position. The driver sits low in the car, but not uncomfortably so, and can see plenty out the windshield, down to the front of the short hood. Nice.
The cabin felt roomy enough for a two-seater, but don’t think you can plop all manner of tchotchkes and drinks in the seating area. This is a driver’s car with minimal storage and a puny cupholder pushed way too forward ahead of the drive selector, right below the center stack.
The familiar Ferrari flat-bottomed steering wheel greets your hands, wrapped in leather and carbon fiber. And within perfect reach of your fingers are the start/stop button, signal indicators, paddles for shifting and the manettino dial for selecting drive mode.
Hitting the start button sets off a wondrous sound — the loud, distinctive growl of the Ferrari V8 coming to life. The car is awake and alive.
That being said, with the manettino set to ‘sport,’ its normal mode, you grab the paddle and shift into first, then second gear and as your pulling away, and you may as well be in a well-mannered, grand touring car. Selecting gears using the paddle shifters felt positive with gears changing immediately; the paddles had a smooth, precise, mechanical feel to them. No herky jerky start or violent upshifts here.
And I was a little surprised – this was was a Ferrari? I discovered the trick of this car is how utterly livable it is when you start driving it. We were weaving in and out of some traffic on the local roads up to the interstate, with no real problems at all.
Putting the manettino in ‘race’ mode when the interstate opened up, it was a different story: Prodigious power that I couldn’t believe, and I wasn’t even able to really mash the accelerator without running afoul of the posted speed limit. Power comes on like a rocket launch when you do unleash the Spider, and the g-force pushing you into the seat is formidable, almost neck snapping.
Your vision blurs slightly as everything rushes toward you, with that engine wailing right behind your head. Oh, and that button I mentioned earlier? Drop the top on the Spider and the world opens up, including that wailing banshee of an engine putting massive power down to the rear wheels.
Backing off a little bit and driving normally in sport mode on the interstate, the driver and occupant can just soak in open air motoring. You hear that engine still, but it’s not growling or snarling at you, hungry for more. You smell the leather, the open air, some exhaust and maybe a little gas when the engine runs a little rich. The whole experience is visceral, in your face … and just right.
The drive up was so smooth and invigorating; we were pleasantly surprised at how refreshed we were upon arrival.
During the day we took in a champagne tasting, as well as a cooking demo featuring the pairing of Uruguayan wine with American beef from a farm in New Jersey. It was bellissima.
At night, we loaded up on some wonderful dishes from chefs across the country, including the Team USA chefs for the Bocuse d’Or competition, along with a few pairings of fine wine and champagne. We sat back and took in the magnificent views from the resort, with Mountain Creek’s hills in the distance. What a wonderful day, and what a drive it was with the 488 Spider, one that we were excited to do again on the ride home the following day.
Taking a break outside on the resort’s balcony behind the festival, I spoke to a gentleman from California who owned a vineyard and multiple Ferraris. I took him to the parking lot to show him the 488 Spider. He examined the car’s sculpted lines and peered down into the sumptuous cabin.
Of course, he loved the car. It’s a Ferrari, one that he could trace a lineage back to the some he had owned.
He told me a story about his friend Howard, a Porsche-phile, who was excited about a new 911 he just bought and was showing it off. Howard went on about the 911, and pointed out its various engineering feats and features. No doubt it’s a great sports car, and the new owner was seeking his friend’s approval.
Taking a beat here, the gentleman took a sip of his wine, savoring it, before telling me what he told his friend. “Why would you buy a Porsche … when you could own a piece of art?”
And with that he took one more look at the car, smiled admiringly, and sauntered back into the festival – no doubt to enjoy la dolce vita just a bit more.
The Ferrari 488 Spider starts at $280,000. Our model as tested with a multitude of options came in at $393,411.