2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo first drive review
I find myself faced with a difficult choice: get behind the wheel of Ferrari's most powerful V8-engined car, the last in a line of non-electrified cars to wear the cavellino rampante badge, for a distance that'd be tough to break a sweat in if I were on foot. Or, don't.
Of course, the choice was clear. And the good news is that even the shortest of drives in the F8 Tributo sears itself in your brain. It's hailed as a sharper, more agile "regular" Ferrari, and with a few of its predecessors lined up for reference, there really is no better way to experience Ferrari's most powerful V8.
It's the most power dense V8 Ferrari has built, its 185PS/litre nearly matching the insane Bugatti Chiron's numbers. And while Ferrari's most powerful V8 technically arrived with the "special" 488 Pista and its 720PS headline figure, the Pista was the most hardened and singular-purposed of its line, a racecar for the road. The F8 isn't meant to be. It's a replacement for the base 488 GTB, an evolution. It's engineered to complement the brilliant abilities of that 3.9-litre dual twin-scroll turbo V8, with more agility, more compliance from the chassis and suspension, and somehow, more everyday usability. Figures stand at 720PS, 770Nm torque, 0-100kmph in 2.9s, 0-200kmph in 7.8s and a 340kmph top speed. In a road car.
And while the F154 engine in the F8 makes the same outputs as the Pista, carrying all the same updates over the regular 488, including lighter internal titanium components, redesigned carbon fibre intake runners, bumped up compression ratio and more aggressive cams, it also picks up lessons learned along the way from Ferrari's motorsport endeavours. That includes an exhaust made of Inconel, the same stuff used on F1 cars, which saves a considerable 9.7kg over the 488's exhaust system, while being able to run cooler and last longer. It's all meant to come together to make for a turbocharged engine that feels like its naturally aspirated; throttle response really does feel so much more immediate than something like the GTC4 Lusso T, that you're left questioning if it really is the same engine.
Some would call the F8 a heavily updated 458 Italia, itself the predecessor to the 488 GTB, and the last of the naturally aspirated V8 Ferraris. So, while the 488 brought in the 3.9-litre, you could view the F8 as the ultimate point in the upgrade trajectory. Ferrari even claims the interiors are all new, but the circular AC vents would be your only clue to that, following a similar aesthetic set by the 458, with a cabin that screams quality but isn't opulent, not by any stretch. The small diameter steering wheel can be finished in carbon fibre, as can much of the cabin otherwise finished in leather or Alcantara and some of the most sumptuous feeling plastics I've ever laid my fingers on. While a digital display for the passenger can be optioned, a large touchscreen infotainment can't - the F8 Tributo isn't one of those Ferraris anyway.
It's also one of the first modern Ferraris designed by the Ferrari Styling Centre to actually excite when you look at it, rather than just admire for its clever engineering. It may be based off a 458's spaceframe underneath, but it's a far more lithe and beautiful thing to stare it - even though it still packs in the fancy aero that gives it more downforce and stability than the car it replaces. The S-duct up front, for example, a monstrous looking thing on the 488 Pista, is far better integrated, the twin tail lights go back to early V8 Ferrari berlinettas, and the Lexan louvered engine cover is a touch that was last seen on perhaps the most famous turbocharged Ferrari V8 of all, the F40.
It all makes for a car that's much better proportioned, a nose that sits lower, while also largely fixing something that's long bothered me about Ferraris - how high they sit on their wheels, even when the optional nose lift has been lowered. On the F8, the wheelarch gap seems better kept in check, though the flipside is the famous Ferrari practicality that has owners reach for the keys over the other exotics in their garage: the fairly adequate ground clearance.
Is it really a daily driver?
Thumbing the red starter button on the steering wheel can never get old, and your reward is a relatively low-volume bark as the engine fires into life, which will be appreciated on pre-dawn startups but not so much when putting on a show is required. The exhaust is valved but there's no manual control for it, except your right foot. Cross 4,000 revs and you'll understand why Ferrari makes a big deal of the added volume and higher frequencies the tweaks bring. It's like turning on the amplifier and sliding the toggles at either end of the spectrum up to the max.
Rich, bassy and ever more shrill towards the redline, on its own it's enough to turn heads even with the briefest of pulls. But next to something like the F430 (with an aftermarket exhaust system) we were lucky enough to have for our other feature in this issue, the gasoline particulate filtered engine just doesn't have the same bark. Not that you'll have the time to think about it all that much, every time you really get on the throttle, your brain is busy recalibrating time, distance and speed equations, trying to keep up with what your eyes are seeing.
Otherwise superbly well behaved, smooth and inconspicuous at low speeds, kickdown from the 7-speed dual clutch automatic is immediate, and it feels like all the raging storm over your shoulder swells really early in the rev range too. 720PS at 8,000rpm may sound like its high up, but the 770Nm peaks at just 3,250rpm. That 17 per cent reduction in inertia for the rotating masses inside the engine may not seem like much, but coupled with the immediacy on the throttle, it doesn't take long before you start to feel like the most accomplished maestro, orchestrating the swell and fall of a petrolhead's orchestra. Press the throttle down a quarter, you get exactly what you asked for. Press it down all the way, you're immediately pinned into the seats as the 8,000rpm redline approaches. Let off midway, and the revs fall instantly, the 'box shifting up to keep things calm and smooth. It's smart enough that you could even keep constant pressure on the throttle, short shift around 3,500rpm, be doing some serious speeds and no one would be the wiser.
The brakes, cross drilled 398mm rotors up front and 360mm at the rear, don't need to be massive considering the increased cooling efficiency and the F8's positively lightweight 1,435kg kerb figure, weren't really tested on our short spin but what's immediately satisfying is the reassuring weight behind the pedal that makes modulating them at city speeds very, very easy. Even the steering, quite quick considering the turns from lock to lock, isn't so hyper alert that you're constantly sawing at it to go straight. It gives you an inkling as to how confidence inspiring it'd be at the limit, even if you didn't read the brochure explaining what it is the latest generation of Ferrari electronics do for you.
Then there's the way the F8 handles ruts, potholes and speed breakers. You're not going to be going over any of them at speed, obviously, but you don't wince at the mere sight of them either. The F8 doesn't merely drop into ruts like so many exotics do, you can feel the suspension actually working to absorb the drop. There's a surefootedness, and a compliancy, to how the F8 handles itself in those situations that makes you believe you don't need your chiropractor on speed dial to drive this thing any day of the week.
Worthy tribute then?
The most powerful Ferrari V8 is a powerful title to hold claim to, and if a 488 Pista owner claims otherwise, the F8 Tributo owner can probably smile at the softer character that his car possesses, and the fact that it's much more livable with for it. Considering the gap to the Portofino under it, and the 812 above it, the F8 certainly seems like the bargain for everything you get.
Photography by Anis Shaikh
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