Ferrari F8 Tributo, the last dance of the mid engined V8 turbo.
The last thing I was expecting in 2020 was to get back behind the wheel of a supercar. I am cognizant of my good fortune in being able to go for a test drive in a new Ferrari no less and partially resume my work as a supercar adventure writer. My usual sojourn to Los Angeles to test a new Ferrari has been curtailed thanks to travel restrictions, so I turned to my local Ferrari dealership to see if they could help get me a test drive in the new Ferrari F8 Tributo. They very kindly said yes and so my first car review of 2020 is the new Ferrari F8 tributo.
Ferrari traditionally alters a model in its lineup once every five years, the second generation being an update of the first iteration. In the case of the F8 tributo Ferrari has altered this cycle which began in 2010 with gorgeous scenery 458 Italia with its naturally aspirated V8 engine. This was followed 5 years later by the 488 the first mid engined Ferrari since the iconic F40 to have a turbocharged V8 motor. I along with many Ferrari enthusiasts was looking forward to seeing the replacement for the 488 at the 2019 Geneva International Motor-show. To my surprise the new Ferrari F8 Tributo was not an all new model but rather a third generation of the 458 model lineup. It looked good but it was not the new Ferrari I had been expecting.
Since the F8’s launch is Geneva in 2019 I have spent a considerable amount of time examining the F8 Tributo. Little by little I have come around to the new design characteristics of the F8 Tributo. The design while undoubtably a carry over from the 488 has made some notable design changes that are pleasing to the eye and evoke memories of notable Ferraris. The rear engine cover with its lexan louvred slats is a nod to the iconic F40 engine cover, while the quad rounded rear lights evoke memories of the 288 GTO and the 355. The changes to the front end include an S duct that is found on the 488 Pista. The F8 also inherits the 3.9 L twin turbocharged engine from the 488 Pista. Rearwards the F8 benefits from a new blown rear wing. Eventually internet pictures and videos are not enough and you want to see the real car in person in order to truly be able judge to merits of the design in the flesh. Of course the biggest craving was to get to drive the F8 and see how this iteration differed from its predecessors.
The demonstrator Ferrari F8 Tributo belonging to Ferrari Maserati of Vancouver arrived less than a month ago, so getting behind the wheel has been a bit of a challenge such has been the enthusiasm for the new car from prospective clients. Last Monday I finally got to see what the fuss was all about. The F8 Tributo is a striking car in person and which is augmented by its eye catching rosso corsa paint scheme. For me the major revelation to come from the F8 is the sound of the engine. It is fitting that Ferrari have improved the sound of what is possibly the last Ferrari V8 as the future looks set to see the introduction of V6 hybrid engines to the Ferrari model range. Ironically the sound of a supercar is best enjoyed by those listening to the car from the outside, and so it was for me as I waited for the F8 to be moved out of the dealership forecourt for my test drive. The F8 came to life with a sonorous bellow that was lacking in the 488. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and increased my anticipation of getting behind the wheel of this gorgeous red rocket.
For those who have driven a 458 Italia or 488 the cockpit of the F8 Tributo will be instantly recognizable and comfortable. For those who have not driven either model then I would say that the cockpit has not changed much since the introduction of the Ferrari 458 Italian in 2010. There are a few changes however, a minor one is the steering wheel is just a bit thinner than its predecessors. My test car had the carbon fibre steering wheel with LED shift lights at the top, another piece of Ferrari theatre. The most notable change is the new climate control switchology. I was thrilled to see a far more user friendly layout for the F8 Tributo’s climate controls. My one grumble about Ferrari’s of the last 10 years was the challenging layout of the climate control. I remember driving a 488 spider in Los Angeles a few years ago and having to ask my wife to adjust the climate controls as it was too much for me to organize the climate inside the 488 and navigate the streets of Los Angeles. The new controls are easier to read and easier to operate. The carbon fibre flying bridge between the seats is also new. This elegant sculpture holds the buttons for reverse, auto and PS (launch control).
Apart from the styling the most important element of a supercar is does it engage the driver in the driving experience? The 488 was a powerful smooth and insanely fast supercar. So I was curious how the F8 would be able to differentiate itself from its predecessor. The simple answer is with even smoother power delivery and acceleration. There is no turbo lag with the F8, it simply engages its 710 horse power through its 7 sped dual clutch gearbox and you are racing down the road in the blink of an eye. What makes this even more visceral is that you have increased audio from the engine which engages the more emotional part of your brain which screams this is what a Ferrari should sound like. Ferrari achieved this sonic resonance through a device they call the “Hot Tube” which funnels sound from the engine via a tube that travels through the C pillar and up over the drivers left shoulder. The sound is all natural but dramatically increases the auditory perception of the driver.
A supercar by definition should be a fast car, with impeccable dual clutch gearboxes and seven hundred plus horsepower engines, in accomplishing this feat the word “fast” has become outdated as it cannot cannot fully convey what it is like to unleash this amount of horsepower on a public road. It is perhaps more accurate to describe the sensations you are feeling, from the pressure on your on chest, to the tingling in your spine, and finally your eyes trying to make sense of the blur of scenery whipping past you at terminal velocity (okay that was of bit of an exaggeration). Add in a great deal of hollowing, whooping and colourful expletives. This is what it means to go fast in a supercar. In the Ferrari F8 Tributo indulge yourself in the bellow of the V8 music being pumped over your shoulder, then take a quick glimpse into the mirror to see the F8’s mighty V8 turbocharged engine on display and you will find you are experiencing driving nirvana.
Driving a Ferrari is a special experience that always puts a big grin on my face. I have driven all manner of supercars from Lamborghinis to McLarens but the supercar I feel the most at home in is a Ferrari. Part of this stems from my childhood when I was introduced to Ferrari through Formula 1 racing, while the other part comes from my experience with Ferrari’s over the last ten years. My drives in Ferrari matched and then exceeded my expectations. The F8 Tributo has taken the mid engined V8 turbo model to another level and once again a Ferrari has exceeded my expectations. A big thank you to Soraya Hirani at Ferrari Vancouver for arranging the drive and Eric Chan for showing me the features of the new F8 Tributo. I cannot wait to spend more time with a Ferrari F8 Tributo, preferably on a long distance journey.