First drive: 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo in the UAE
A complete mental recalibration is called for. This is just the first three-quarter-throttle squirt out of the pitlane and onto the front straight of the Dubai Autodrome, yet it’s already evident the forward thrust being served up here is on the gob-smacking end of the scale. It feels as though I’ve been implanted in a movie that’s playing in fast forward, and the grey matter is still trying to comprehend this madness.
No one could ever accuse Ferrari’s 488 GTB – or its 458 Italia predecessor – of being a laggard, but all the stats relating to the new F8 Tributo, the latest evolution of the prancing horse’s V8 mid-engined lineage, are even more stupefying. The 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 is derived from the GTB’s motor, but it’s in many ways a completely new powerplant, infused as it is with many bits from the 488 Pista, as well as the 488 Challenge race car.
The V8 breathes via new intake plumbing from the 488 Challenge, and there are new valves and springs that work on a revised camshaft profile, plus the cylinder heads and pistons have been strengthened to cope with the increased loads. The F8 also borrows the 488 Pista’s titanium conrods, crankshaft and flywheel that help reduce inertia by 17 per cent. Spent gases are spat out by a new exhaust system with particulate filters that have a muffling effect on sound, but this has been countered to some degree by a ‘Hot Tube Resonator’ – a pipe that runs from just downstream of one of the turbochargers, up through the C-pillar and to the bulkhead just behind the driver, where it delivers ‘natural’ augmented vocals.
Outputs of 720 hp at 7,000 rpm and a towering 770 Nm at 3,250 rpm (+50 hp and +10 Nm versus the 488) put the F8 Tributo on par with McLaren’s 720S and give it a healthy edge over the Lambo Huracan Evo, and this ferocity is reflected by a 0-100 kph split of 2.9 seconds, 0-200 kph in 7.8 seconds and top whack of 340 kph. It may lack the aural drama of the Huracan’s wonderfully raucous V10, but this is a mighty engine just the same, with lung-compressing urge at almost any revs.
Unlike the Lambo, which does its best work high up the rev range, in the F8 you can simply surf that mountain of torque, even though the full quota of 770 Newtons is only deployed in seventh gear. And if there’s a better dual-clutch ’box out there, I’ve yet to sample it. This seven-speeder manages the Jekyll-Hyde transformation from being docile and seamless at pootling speeds to whip-crack urgent in max-attack mode, with a satisfying auto-blip “braaap” on downshifts.
The Dubai Autodrome Grand Prix Circuit’s 5.39 km layout presents an interesting mix of slow and fast corners, and a slightly sand-coated surface today means grip levels are somewhat compromised. Even so, the way the F8 finds traction out of third-gear corners is an eye-opener, especially as all that torque is being laid down to the tarmac via just two contact patches of rubber, unlike the all-paw Huracan.
The F8 scores version 6.1 of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control (SSC), which allows greater scope for sideways antics before reining in the action, and this system works in tandem with the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer (FDE), which debuts its latest ‘Plus’ (FDE+) upgrade. This is basically a torque-vectoring by brake system that allows you to slingshot out of corners 6 per cent faster than in the 488 GTB.
I initially opt to set the Manettino (drive mode) selector in ‘Sport’, later switching up to ‘Race’, and in both modes you can feel the engine’s thrust being curtailed slightly when gassing up out of tighter corner exits but, on the whole, the system is largely unintrusive. Given a few more laps I would have switched up to ‘CT Off’ but even ‘Race’ gives you enough leeway to explore the car’s full performance potential.
The F8’s steering wheel has a smaller diameter than that of the 488 GTB, while the brake pedal has more feel thanks to a revamped servo system, and both these tweaks contribute to a more tactile sense of connection with the car. The F8 dances around more than a Huracan Evo as you work up to its limits and there’s a more immediate and discernible response to any inputs you make via the steering, brake pedal or throttle. Despite this liveliness, there’s never a feeling it could all go pear-shaped at any given moment.
While the F8’s raw pace is what strikes you initially, what subsequently becomes apparent is how accessible the car’s vast performance envelope is. Yes, a pro driver will always be able to extract that last extra iota out of it, but even those with lesser skills can hop in and cut some quick laps around a racetrack with a comfortable degree of safety and assurance. It’s a terrifically usable car that doesn’t batter its occupants with a bone-jarring ride or deafening soundtrack.
You can probably glean from the accompanying images that the F8 Tributo is a heavy revamp of the 488 GTB, rather than an all-new car. The glasshouse carries over unchanged, but the rest of the bodywork has been comprehensively reworked in the name of aero efficiency. The most notable change is the so-called ‘S-duct’ in the bonnet (first used in the 488 Pista) that channels air in through the front intake and over the car for a 15 per cent improvement in downforce. There’s also a new ‘blown’ rear spoiler that works in harmony with a revised diffuser with adaptive flaps that are controlled automatically depending on a variety of factors including speed, load and yaw.
How much all this aero trickery actually helps is hard to quantify from behind the wheel but, for what it’s worth, Ferrari claims the F8 can lap its Fiorano test track within half a second of the hardcore, low-volume Pista.
There’s really not a whole lot to not like in Ferrari’s latest offering. Yes, a more operatic soundtrack would have been nice and, to my eye, the F8 Tributo is visually striking rather than classically beautiful. Other than this, it’s a cracking interpretation of what a mid-engined supercar should be.
For UAE/GCC prices and specs, visit the Ferrari buyer guide.
Photos by Ferrari Middle East.