When piloting a lofty exotic car, one is even more aware of the errors and actions of fellow road users. If you are not the rightful owner (and motoring scribes never are), the price tag swings through your mind like those hefty blue nuts you find dangling off Hilux bakkies in Pretoria.
There is a lot to contend with in keeping a vehicle out of harm’s way in Johannesburg: assertive public-transport operators, smartphone-influenced drivers and those who ignore basic rules.
I recently had the good fortune to spend time with the new Ferrari 488 Spider. In addition to an indemnity form, the manufacturer provides motoring journalists who wish to try out a Ferrari a rosary to kiss and salt to chuck over the shoulder.
With all the above ticked, I set off.
In 2014 I was able to get acquainted with the 458 Spider at Kyalami and, despite the intrusive Italian instructor in the passenger seat, the merits of that car remain deeply etched in my mind.
Foremost was the sound produced by the normally aspirated V8, amplified when the folding hard-top retracted neatly away.
The sheer pace was to be expected, but what was even more remarkable was the immediacy with which the 458 reacted to inputs and the balance it displayed under duress.
But real life can be less romantic when you drive in the frantic atmosphere of the city, rather than the isolation of a circuit.
Turbocharging was the inevitable route for the 488, juggling the sensibilities of emissions and consumption with the need for brute force.
Tootling around town, the new model is decidedly more subdued from an aural perspective. Good for reducing noise pollution, I suppose.
Dial into one of the more intense driving settings, drop a cog or two, stretch your right foot a little and the 488 Spider becomes more authoritative with its vocals.
Just a disclaimer: best do this on unfrequented roads. When that aluminium-intensive 3.9-litre engine kicks, the result borders on scary. As it would be, with 492kW and 760Nm dispatched to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Those of us without a science background can only imagine the tolerances this gearbox has been built to handle. Get it right and you could hit 100km/h from standstill in three seconds flat. In a controlled environment, obviously.
The 488 Spider features Ferrari’s aptly named side-slip angle control system, which promises to facilitate easier sideways theatrics.
According to the manufacturer, even “non-professional” drivers can reach the limit in relative safety. That was something we decided to add to our list of tests, in the hope of securing some circuit time with the fiery Italian.
A front suspension lift system takes the panic out of negotiating tall speed humps, a plight with which owners of “stanced” Volkswagen Golf GTIs are all too familiar.
Discussing quality and ergonomics might seem out of place in an evaluation like this, but when you drop such a sizable amount on a car, this might be important.
The current crop of products from Ferrari are pretty top-notch when it comes to cabin plushness, fit and finish. We commented on this in our launch drive with the GTC4 Lusso in July. And the interior of the 488 Spider certainly reflects the asking price of R5.5-million. The smell of fine leather is intoxicating. And the urge to run your hands over all the hide-clad surfaces in the car is hard to fight.
Getting familiar with the driver-centric interface takes little time — and one almost feels sorry for the passenger, without even so much as a screen to glance at. At this point I should level some criticism at the Ferrari, because every car scribe worth their salt is bound by an obligation to deliver an incisive and fair report. Well, the sound system in the 488 Spider is poor and the Bose affair in our long-term CX-3 would trounce it for volume, clarity and definition.
But the charisma, presence and charm inherent in virtually every car from the Ferrari stable exonerates the 488 Spider from such trivial shortcomings. You know you want one. And we do too. – Brenwin Naidu
Fast Facts: Ferrari 488 Spider
Engine: 3902cc turbocharged V8
Power: 492kW at 8000rpm
Torque: 760Nm at 3000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 3.0-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 325km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 11.4l/100km (claimed)
CO2: 260g/km (claimed)
Price: From R5 594 000