Before becoming a father, I always thought I could imagine how parenthood would feel. In fact, I took umbrage when people with children said things like: “Until you have kids, you just don’t get it.” Then my wife and I had our first child and, as it turned out, those people were right. I didn’t get it.
The Ferrari 488 Spider is a pleasure in terms of actual driving, but it’s also a lot of fun thanks to the design and layout of the cabin.
I’m not a car guy. I’ve never understood how some people can spend hours talking about this make of engine or that year’s body changes or… well, whatever the hell car guys talk about. I’m almost entirely in the dark when it comes to that whole arena. And beyond a lack of interest in knowing all about all things car-related on a technical or cultural level, I’ve never really had much desire even to drive fancy, powerful, or otherwise unique automobiles. I just didn’t get the allure.
That, of course, was before I had the opportunity to spend four days with an electric blue Ferrari 488 Spider as my own personal vehicle, courtesy of the good folks at Ferrari and their partners Brandware PR.
This car was dropped off at the curb in front of my house so I could drive it up to Lime Rock, Connecticut to cover a major auto racing event. And at another time, I’ll tell you all about that experience. But for now, let me tell you this: having driven this gorgeous, potent, responsive vehicle for just fewer than 500 miles (the mileage limit imposed for the loan, or else I would likely have driven it twice that distance), I am now essentially spoiled for life.
At about 8:30 on a Friday morning in mid July, I eased myself into the long, low cockpit of a Ferrari 488 Spider. For the next few seconds, I remained bemused with the idea that such a disinterested sort when it came to anything automotive should be gripping the wheel of such a car. Then I depressed the red starter button set into the left side of the steering wheel and the engine came to life, sucking in oxygen and fuel with a throaty roar. Over the next few days, there awoke within me a sensation I had never known lay dormant: As it turns out, I love a fine automobile as much as the next fellow.
Let me tell you a few things about the 2016 Ferrari 488 Spider it was my great privilege to drive. The car seats two, a driver and a passenger, it weighs around 3,350 pounds, give or take, it costs an average of around $300,000 (MSRP is just $272,700, but the extras, right?), and it has 660 horsepower. The Ferrari 488 goes from a stop to 60 MPH in three seconds and will be well past 80 and up to 100 in a breath more than that. It’s steering responds more quickly than a fly dodging a swat and the car leaves you feeling fully in control even as you verge on speeds over 125 miles per hour. Um… some other kids told me, is how I know that part.
My first impression of the 488 Spider would be confirmed over and over again: it is very easy to drive this car and to feel very much safely in control as you do. I was worried that the vehicle would lurch away on me at a tap of the accelerator, but it’s quite the opposite: you have to squarely apply the gas for the car to get going, but you get what you give. Press that pedal down, and the car will go roaring along, turning the passing foliage (and other cars) into colorful blurs. Ease the gas pedal in and hold it there, and you can drive along at 60, 40, or 20 miles per hour with ease; the car doesn’t try to run away with you, but instead listens to everything you say, as it were. It turns as though pinned to the road with magnets and stops sharp when you need it to.
I took most of the drive from New York City at mostly modest speeds up to an area where the western corners of Massachusetts and Connecticut meet. I was getting to know the car, and only opened things up for a few seconds here and there. This was partially out of respect for a car with which I was not yet well acquainted, and partly because I really didn’t want to get a ticket. Up among the forests, fields, and lonely roads of western New England, though, one finds it’s rather easy to drive a long stretch of road and find few officers of the law along the way. Thus my firsthand knowledge of higher speeds and higher turns; I’ll leave some of the details out.
The Ferrari 488 Spider is a pleasure in turns of actual driving, but it’s also a lot of fun thanks to the design and layout of the cabin (AKA cockpit in a car like this). Most controls are on or adjacent to the steering wheel, like paddle shifts that send you up or down through seven gears. There are a few other knobs and buttons on the dash and center console, but for the most part you spend your time in this vehicle with your hands on the wheel and a (probably kind of dumb, but whatever) grin on your face. At first all the turned heads and shout-outs were a mix of amusing and a bit unnerving; by day two, I was smiling and waving and had stopped calling back things like: “Oh, it’s just a loaner for the weekend!”
In other words, within a day I was a complete convert. And within another day, my son was a Ferrari lover too. In fact, he has already decided he’s going to get one when he’s older. And as he’s only three and a half, maybe if he starts saving now, he will. I know I’ll be glad to ride around in it with him, as he did (on a few quiet roads close to home) with me. That’s right, the Ferrari 488 Spider has the LATCH system to secure car seats. Damned thoughtful of them!
I’m still not a car guy. I’ll never know how to take apart a motor or even identify most of the things under a vehicle’s hood. (I can refill a wiper fluid reservoir in seconds flat, though. And hell yeah can I jump a car and change a tire. But so can anyone who can read a manual.) But now I am a guy who can respect a great car. Yes, it’s crazy to think about spending more than a quarter of a million dollars on an automobile — it’s impractical and unnecessary and extravagant — but it’s not insane, if you’ll accept the difference. And if you disagree, well… you have clearly never driven a Ferrari 488 Spider with the top down and the road ahead clear for as far as the eye can see.
(And for the record, if anyone from Lamborghini, Maserati, and so forth is out there, I’d be grudgingly willing to do some comparison test driving…)