ON FACE VALUE, the F8 Tributo could easily be interpreted as a sentimental farewell for Maranello’s decade-old mid-engined V8 workhorse. It does, after all, share its doors, glasshouse, roof and underlying structure with the 488 GTB (2015), as well as the even older 458 Italia (2009), so in automotive DNA terms the F8 is eligible for a concession card. But this striking new Ferrari has been so comprehensively re-engineered that it’s damn close to all-new.
You barely notice the carry-over bits. Instead, it’s the ‘tribute’ flavour of the F8’s styling makeover that pricks your attention, like Ferrari’s classic four-ringed taillight treatment and the F40-style rib-vented engine cover. At the front there’s an F1-inspired ‘S-duct’ for aero purposes (a la 488 Pista) and a more horizontal headlight treatment that intentionally references the more exotic SF90 Stradale.
If that sounds like a stylistic mishmash, in reality it’s a cracker – broadly handsome and beautifully integrated, with the brains to back its brawn.
The Tributo’s headlights, for example, occupy the same cut-out as before, yet the upper section is now a vent that cools the front brakes. Same with that funky S-duct, which forces air up and over the car, increasing front-end downforce by 15 per cent, and the ‘blown’ spoiler at the back, which not only improves rear downforce by 25 per cent but has three turning vanes inside that compress the airflow towards the wake of the car.
It’s these clever touches, among a multitude of aero tweaks, that help the F8 simultaneously shave its drag coefficient by five per cent.
Engine-wise for Tributo, think the 488 Pista’s donk and its titanium-filled goodness, with vast improvements. There are new springs and hollow valves, stronger pistons and heads, a different cam profile, a new ‘Inconel’ exhaust manifold that saves 10kg and an entirely new exhaust system. Lightweighting of a heap of components (rods, crankshaft, flywheel and even cylinder liners) not only benefits the kilo count (down 18kg from the 488 GTB), but also means 17 per cent less inertia for more instantaneous acceleration.
The Tributo actually produces 38kW more power than the old 488 GTB. Combined with a neat 40kg drop in overall vehicle weight, it’s clear the F8 is so much more than its marginally sharper 2.9sec 0-100km/h claim would appear on a spec sheet.
Ferrari says the advantage over the 488 GTB widens to half a second by 200km/h (7.8sec v 8.3) and there’s another 10 clicks at the very top (now a searing 340km/h). And you get more noise too – up to eight more decibels of enhanced V8 symphony is audible by the driver – with a ‘hot tube’ resonator feeding high-quality engine harmonics directly to the cabin, and tweaked exhaust flaps amplifying a cleaner, crunchier note to the world.
With all that working in the F8 Tributo’s favour, it’s surely no surprise that this latest-gen Ferrari is a frigging fit beast that packs a massive sense of occasion. At start up, there’s that loveable exhaust blare as the V8 sets idle speed to ‘toasty’, and on the move an awe-inspiring dedication to being arguably the most tractable drivetrain on earth.
The F8 effortlessly gathers pace from 1000rpm without fuss, yet courtesy of the blissful satisfaction of Ferrari’s torque-management system, there’s greater reward the higher you extend. Even at 3000-4000rpm, the Tributo’s twin-turbo V8 is chocked with meat-filled muscle and a rambunctious induction edge, though it’s the spectacular thrust and ear-splitting wail from six grand to the new ‘wall-effect’ ignition cut-out at the 8000rpm redline that brands it as a genuine supercar.
It’s as rapid as anyone could possibly ever want.
It’s also as pleasant to potter about in. The seven-speed dual-clutch ’box is near-flawless, regardless of whether it’s in auto mode or you’re tweaking the paddles yourself, and on our rain-soaked, fog-covered road loop in the hills surrounding Maranello, the F8 displayed so much poise and proficiency in Wet mode (which automatically puts the dampers in a cushier ‘bumpy road’ setting, while moderating power delivery out of corners) you’d wonder why anyone would ever need all-wheel drive.
What the challenging conditions did prove is just how superb the F8 Tributo is as an all-rounder – rail, hail or shine. Bombing down an Italian autostrada at 175km/h, wipers feverishly clearing the deep windscreen, there isn’t a moment of nervousness. The F8’s quicker steering somehow blends with its agility-enhancing aero improvements without feeling too darty.
It rides better than a 488 GTB, yet can almost match the hardcore 488 Pista for outright handling talent. Around Ferrari’s Fiorano test circuit, the F8 Tributo is 0.5sec faster than a 488 GTB, one second behind the Pista.
Yet this is a more forgiving supercar, intended to be less intimidating at its cornering limit due to the integration of Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer Plus lateral-control software (which debuted on the Pista) into the Tributo’s latest take on Slide Slip Control. With FDE+ now also assisting in Race mode, the aim is to make the Tributo faster in the steering-wheel Manettino’s most extreme setting, while allowing a slightly broader oversteer stance in the CT-off position (in conjunction with less steering-wheel movement) before the electronics start to trim the edges.
As your confidence builds, so does your respect for the sublime polish of the F8 Tributo. The synergy of its exponential power delivery, its heightened directional precision and the progressiveness of its rear-end as it fluidly yet thrillingly transitions into oversteer when exiting tighter corners is benchmark stuff for a mid-engined supercar. And even when the road is damp, there’s so much dynamic wizardry at play here that you’d never know the Tributo is carrying more than 58 per cent of its weight bias over its rear axle and channelling 530kW and 770Nm to its 305/30ZR20 rear treads.
Even if none of this extreme dynamic performance is really your thing, maybe the new 812-inspired interior of this great-riding, incredibly comfortable sports car could be the tipping point in its desirability.
Seated behind the traditional yellow tacho, bracketed by a pair of striking, exhaust-inspired ‘eyeball’ air vents, surrounded by the highest-quality materials ever used in an ‘entry-level’
Ferrari and serenaded by a bloody excellent stereo, the Tributo’s surroundings definitely feel in the ballpark of its price tag.
Hell, there’s even a cupholder ahead of the gear-selector buttons that’ll clutch onto a 600ml water bottle or large coffee without trying to flip it into your lap!
And that’s ultimately what the F8 Tributo is all about – expanding the already vast accomplishments of the 488 GTB into a more confidence-inspiring but also faster, more playful, more useable sports car. Astounding grip levels and enormous performance is one thing; being able to tap into those huge dynamic reserves without trembling in your close-to-$500K investment is even more remarkable.
4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, RWD, 529kW/770Nm, 0-100k m/h 2.9sec 1419kg, $489,900
Ridiculously rapid, though suffers from turbo-lag that eludes the F8 Tributo, and doesn’t sound as tuneful. No match for looks but equally easy to drive and satisfying to slaughter.