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Andre Lam Takes Ferrari’s Twin Turbo V8 Spider For A Spin.

Most enthusiasts would deem an open-top version of a sports car less hardcore compared to the coupe. But Ferrari aims to change that perception. Ferrari’s mid-engine V8 models have always had an open-top version since the days of 308 GTS. Back then it was a Targa with a manually lift-out hardtop.

Ferrari decided to expand their range of models so a canvas soft-top model made its appearance in the 348 and it was called 348 Spider alongside the Targa-top 348 ts. Confusingly “ts” actually means Transversale Spider so it’s probably better to just call it a Targa.

To add another twist, with the arrival of the 458 Italia, a retractable hardtop replaced the soft-top but kept the name Spider. This was used in the 488 series as well as today’s F8 Series. Ferrari decided on the retractable hardtop because of the improved security and it can open and store itself in just 14 seconds even while the car is moving up to a speed of 45 km/h. Also, the beautiful shape of the F8 Spider remains faithful to that of the Tributo. 

For a 720 PS sportscar, the F8 Tributo is a lithe 1330 kg and as the F8 Spider, only 70 kg was added due to the hardware of the retractable hardtop and the reinforcement of the open-top chassis. Ferrari claims both Coupe and Spider reach 100 km/h in just 2.9 seconds. But by 200 km/h the Coupe is a little quicker at 7.8 seconds and the Spider at 8.2 seconds. However, both will reach a spectacular top speed of 340 km/h showing how close the aerodynamics is for both these cars. 

The F8 Spider uses the same award-winning 720 PS twin-turbo V8 that the Tributo is paying tribute to and there is plenty to be awed about. True the turbochargers and the new particulate filters have really attenuated the exhaust sounds but the soundtrack is there to be savoured if a tad muted. 

Yes, it is not as visceral and omnipresent as in the 458. Thanks to the Inconel exhaust system it not only reduces 9.7 kg of weight it also adds that characteristic metallic timbre to the exhaust sound. Moreover, with the top down, the muted engine note is heard more clearly compared to the closed coupe. 

Ferrari’s strategy to limit the torque and shape the curve to resemble the rising torque of a naturally aspirated engine in the first three gears successfully differentiates this engine from those which attempt to develop full torque from low revs. While that may seem impressive on paper, in practice, turbo-lag spoils the fun. While you do sense the turbo at work in the F8 it does not irritate you like most turbos do with the elastic delivery of the power, not there when you want it and too much of it when you do not want it.  

This engine does not feel like a wild beast constantly straining at the leash when driven gently. In the default Sport mode, the F8 Spider is very docile indeed. The engine response is suitably softened as is the gear change, quickly settling into a taller gear. If you mash the throttle to the carpet, you better make sure there is no traffic up ahead because this warp drive is very real and you arrive at the horizon far quicker than you can think. 

In Sport mode, this F8 Spider provides a surprisingly supple ride over rutted tarmac. Mind you the Spider is shod, not with PS4S but with Michelin Pilot SuperSports which are not really renown for their ride quality but rather for its sharper steering and superlative grip. It is remarkable Ferrari could eke out this much comfort from the Magnaride suspension that is suitable for the track. This really helps make the F8 Spider a tolerable everyday supercar.

It is clear that underfoot there is a decently sorted chassis despite the dampers being at their softest settings. If one is being critical, then select Race mode to get much better control of the body movements for sharp handling characteristics. However, the downside is the ride gets a tad too jiggly on the rougher patches. This is not an issue if one is in an aggressive mood but a little tiring if one only intends to potter about town. 

One can still use Race mode but select “Bumpy Road” setting for the dampers to dial back the damping to take the worst out of the road imperfections. Being in Race mode, both engine and transmission are still primed for quick action but thankfully the transmission does not remain annoyingly in lower gears all the time. 

There is no doubt about the potency of this engine but for me, it is the steering that is a real revelation. Ferrari has never really been about steering feel but the one on the F8 Spider is a true standout despite being electrically assisted. Surprisingly there is an added level of intimacy with the road and it really changes how one enjoys the car. While there is speed aplenty at one’s disposal, a good amount of road texture and feel filters through the steering allowing any drive to be appreciated even at low speeds. 

Yes, this F8 Spider serves up mind-blowing acceleration but it is not intimidating as the chassis and electronic nanny is well up to the task of properly harnessing all its power through just two rear driven wheels. The SSC 6.1’s ability to electronically juggle power between the rear wheels along with intelligent independent wheel braking to stabilize the F8 really lowers the amount of steering, brake and throttle corrections needed when things so slightly awry.  

Nail the throttle when gunning away at the stop-lights and one can sense the SSC metering out just the right amount of torque to keep the sticky Michelins at the very edge of its adhesion as the F8 Spider rockets away. It is quite amazing that this sort of acceleration can be wrought from just the grip of rear tyres alone. With its new-found steering feel, one really appreciates Ferrari’s efforts to keep the front wheels free from the corrupting effects of torque and keep it at the rear where it can do other naughty things. 

Everything said about this F8 Spider is true of the F8 coupe as well. Both offer up an intoxicating concoction of impeccable poise, immense grip, surprising tactility and unrelenting performance. However, the Spider adds the dimension of open-top motoring, where the rush of turbulent air and unattenuated engine sounds elevate the drive experience beyond what the closed coupe offers. Neither will be a wrong choice but the F8 Spider with the retractable hardtop comes pretty close to being the best of both worlds. 

Ferrari F8 Spider

  • Engine: 3902cc, Twin-Turbo V8
  • Transmission: 7-Speed F1 DCT
  • Power: 720 PS at 8000 rpm
  • Torque: 770 Nm at 3250 rpm in 7th gear
  • 0-100 km/h: 2.9 seconds
  • Top Speed: over 340 km/h
  • Fuel Consumption: TBC

Visuals: Ferrari Media 

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