The 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista Is Lighter, Louder, Spinnier, Slidier
We were sort of scared,” says Vittorio Dini, Ferrari’s head of powertrain, when thinking back to the turbochargers that were appended to the automaker’s storied line of mid-engine V-8 screamers starting with the 488GTB. And, to be sure, this boosted engine did leave a few things behind. Maximum engine speed, for one, and, although what sound remained was the familiar tingly, hair-stand-on-end stuff, there was no mistaking that it had been muzzled. Engine response was held sacrosanct and, in many cases, improved. Many of the weight-saving items are familiar: The Pista gets a lithium-ion battery, thinner glass, plastic instead of glass for the rear hatch, less sound-deadening material, carbon-fiber front and rear bodywork, and Ferrari’s first carbon-fiber wheels, which are optional and save 22 pounds.
The engine itself, code name F154CD, is Ferrari’s most powerful roadgoing V-8 ever and sheds an almost unbelievable 40 pounds via an extensive surgical whittling just about everywhere, with many of the changes first vetted on the 488 Challenge race car. Titanium connecting rods shed about four pounds, and in turn, the crankshaft was reshaped to the tune of nearly three pounds due to the lessened counterbalancing needs. The cylinder liners are thinner and three pounds lighter, as engineers discovered they had built in more margin than needed on the 488, and the flywheel, with much larger-circumferential holes, is just over three pounds lighter. There’s also a number of smaller weight-saving contributors, including new valve springs and hollow intake valves, a slightly lighter air-conditioning compressor, and a carbon-fiber intake plenum with much shorter runners. Something that didn’t change is the IHI turbochargers themselves, although a speed sensor on each turbine wheel was added to precisely measure just how fast each one is twirling. Ferrari says this allows them to be spun roughly 6000 rpm faster than when their speed was being inferred, and the turbine wheels can now safely be pushed to within 1000 rpm of their maximum allowable speed. Although the redline and power peak remain at 8000 rpm, rotating inertia is down 17 percent, and Ferrari claims the engine responds to throttle commands twice as quickly in many part-throttle situations, thanks in part to a new boost-control strategy. With moderate pedal in Race mode and above, the engine will actually keep the boost up but partially close the throttle plate to arrive at the requested speed and load point. The engine is knock limited and calibrated on 98 RON gasoline (about 93 AKI here in the United States);
Snow, CT-Off, and Sideways
The Pista will wear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, although a surprise snowstorm in Maranello on our drive day of nearly finished prototype Pistas led to a quick swap onto winter tires instead. Given the cold and wet conditions, we were shocked by how quickly we got comfortable escalating to CT-Off (traction control off) mode and mindlessly sliding the car around Ferrari’s hallowed Pista di Fiorano track without fear of stuffing it. It allows as much as 30 degrees of slip angle, depending on vehicle speed and mostly on the rate of change of the car’s rotation. Top speed is up by 6 mph to a drag-limited 211 mph that’s achieved in seventh gear.
There’s no question that the much revised engine feels ultra responsive, even from 3000 or 4000 rpm, and there isn’t that follow-on surge of torque that’s typical of a high-boost turbocharged engine. That linearity is due both to the reduced reciprocating mass and new controls, as well as the modulated torque strategy that’s carried over from the 488, where the torque increases gradually with engine speed and gear, only reaching the actual peak-torque curve at 6750 rpm in each gear. Cranking up the engine sound was largely a matter of letting more of it in the cabin; the vertical glass separating the interior and the engine bay is thinner, and the sound-absorbing material has been reduced. Although the exhaust manifold has been reshaped to achieve a higher-pitched tone, the Pista exhales through the same muffler and is not substantially louder from outside the car.
Continuing the theme of change, the Pista’s engine no longer breathes through the side scoops but instead through new passages just ahead of the larger, fixed rear spoiler on either side, as on the 488 Challenge. There’s also a new feature that adds an obnoxiously aggressive gut punch when downshifting in Race mode and above—but only when the driver is braking far below the car’s capability. It’s also why Enzo himself insisted on complete end-to-end control of its engine building and why molten aluminum is still poured over sand molds in-house to manufacture the Pista’s crankcase, cylinder block, and heads.
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