The 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista
Ferrari claims that the 710-hp Pista is nearly 200 pounds lighter overall, which would amount to a roughly 3250-pound curb weight—not quite as feathery as McLaren’s more carbon-fiber-intensive, and equally powerful, 720S. 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.
Why Don’t We Change Just About Everything?
The engine itself, code name F154CD, is Ferrari’s most powerful road going V8 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. Switching the exhaust manifolds, which are larger in diameter and have been dramatically reshaped, to Inconel alloy—long a Formula 1 go-to—saves 21 pounds. 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. Even the alternator cover switches from steel to aluminum to excise a quarter of a pound. The compression ratio nudges up from 9.4:1 to 9.6, the re profiled camshafts provide one millimeter of additional valve lift for both the intake and exhaust valves, and the NGK iridium spark plugs dropped from two electrodes to one. 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. So peak boost does increase by 1.5 psi over that of the 488 GTB, to 21.6 psi total.
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. The latest generation of Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control system truly stays out of the way until it’s needed to save a spin. 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. Ferrari’s chief test driver, Raffaele de Simone, reports that for the first time, the Pista’s quick lap—which is two seconds swifter around Fiorano than the 458 Speciale it replaces—was set in CT-Off rather than full-off mode. 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. The maximum torque—568 lb-ft at 3000 rpm—is possible only in seventh gear. As on the 488, this strategy makes it feel like the manic pull through each gear somehow gets stronger with every upshift. Its singular mission on our cold and wet day seemed to be to spin the rear tires to an early death, and obviously it was impossible to draw any conclusions about grip or turn-in.