I recently had the chance to drive a Ferrari 488 Pista, and it might just be the best Ferrari I’ve ever driven. I mean it. It was an incredible experience even beyond most other Ferrari models, and today I’m going to explain why.
But I want to start with a little background on the 488 Pista. The Pista is Ferrari’s "high performance" version of the regular 488, because it seems that no supercar can exist today if it doesn’t also have a "high performance" version that’s even better: the McLaren 600LT, the Ferrari 458 Speciale, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, the Porsche GT2RS, and on and on and on. In fact, there are so many of these "performance versions" of supercars that I’m kind of getting tired of the whole thing: too many special editions, too many "performance models."
And that’s how I approached my time with the Pista: I figured it was just another rough-riding "performance model" designed to get extra cash out of customers who already have a 488, and now want to get this slightly better 488. I’ve grown a bit cynical about these "performance models" because there are just so damn many of them. It’s tiresome.
But then I got behind the wheel. Now, to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, the regular 488 has 660 horsepower, which is an already insane figure, but the Pista turns that up to 710 horses, which is absolutely unthinkable in a midengine Ferrari model. I can remember the day, just 10 years ago, when we all thought the 430 Scuderia was insane for having 503 hp. Now, that seems like a pittance in comparison. Of course, the Pista also has other upgrades over the standard 488, including, bizarrely, a rather large hole in the front for improved aerodynamics and better performance.
But the biggest upgrade is the driving experience. I love the regular 488, don’t get me wrong — and I enjoyed my time in the 458 Speciale, which was the high-performance version of the 458 Italia, the 488’s predecessor. But the Pista is noticeably better. I figured it wouldn’t be, that it would be fun and exciting, but not dramatically different from the other two. I was wrong.
The biggest difference is the handling, which can best be described as razor-sharp — better, truly, than any other car I’ve ever driven. Yes, better than the 918 Spyder, and the Koenigsegg, which don’t benefit from having the same relative nimbleness as the smaller, more manageable 488. The steering is so incredibly sharp that minor inputs have major effects — you constantly have to be alert and aware when you drive this car. It’s truly incredible to me that Ferrari can create a car that changes directions so quickly. The same is true of the handling: the car is so stable, and so perfectly balanced, that corners feel like a joy in a way they just don’t with other cars. To use an over-used cliche, it really does feel like a go-kart.
Except that, when you get going, it’s a monster. The Pista is unbelievably fast, in a way I find it hard to describe. It does 0-to-60 in 2.9 seconds, which puts it in the league of all the best supercars, even the latest crop of hypercars, and it certainly feels that fast: jam on the throttle and things start to come at you at a pace you can scarcely believe — and with a soundtrack behind you that’s surprisingly good, and surprisingly melodious, for a turbocharged car.
Despite all this, the Pista is reasonably comfortable. I consider the McLaren 600LT to be an excellent car, but its biggest flaw is near-total unusability on the road due to its monstrously harsh ride. The Pista doesn’t quite suffer that same fate. It’s harsher than a standard 488, to be sure, and that’s harsher than a standard sports car, but it’s not so incredibly harsh that you would avoid driving it: this is a car where you don’t have to wince when you’re about to go over a bump, which isn’t the case with the 600LT.
Indeed, the 488 Pista is an incredible car, and it’s the whole package: insanely fast, go-kart steering and handling, the Ferrari name and heritage. I don’t like the styling as much as the normal 488, as I think it’s a bit fussy, and I don’t like the price tag — $350,000 or more for a well-equipped example — but it’s hard to argue with this car: it’s one of Ferrari’s best ever.