I love engines. Electric cars are incredible, but there’s something primal about how an internal combustion engine delivers performance. It doesn’t seamlessly accelerate like an electric car, but that’s not relevant – it’s about the journey to the performance that’s exciting. Gasoline engines achieve that emotional thrill in a way electric cars can’t. When it comes to engines, one manufacturer emphasizes them like no other, idolizing the engine above every other aspect of the car – and that, of course, is Ferrari.
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I adore Ferrari, I have since I was a kid. But the F8 Spider I recently drove left me totally bewildered. According to Ferrari, this is the final, non-hybrid member of the V8 sports car lineage, which makes it very special and historically relevant. Newer models (like the SF90) will be more powerful, but they will also be heavier and more complicated.
As a car enthusiast, I generally agree that you probably can’t ever have too much power; most would usually prefer too much over too little. However, even without hybrid power, the F8 really makes you ask, “Is this too much for the road? Am I actually enjoying this?” The conflicting feelings all begin with that engine.
At the heart of the F8 lies Ferrari’s 3.9-liter F154GC twin-turbocharged V8, producing 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. It propels the F8 Tributo to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, with the Spider following right behind – really think about that for a moment. This standard production Ferrari can embarrass almost all of Ferrari’s past halo supercars, falling only .4 seconds short of the LaFerrari’s 0-to-60 mph time. F50 – not a chance. F40 – not even in the same league. Enzo – close, but no cigar. That is how insane the rate of progress has been for Ferrari.
The secret to this engine’s performance comes from its cooling. Ferrari raked the radiators at a more relaxed rearward angle compared to the 488 to avoid heat soaking into the intake, resulting in a 27-degree Fahrenheit (15-degree Celsius) change in air temperature of the air entering the plenum chamber. Coupled with Inconel headers, a revised intake system, and the intercoolers, the result is a dramatic increase in specific output over its predecessor.
Gallery: Ferrari F8 Spider
Aerodynamics were another area that Ferrari improved. Up front lies the famed S-Duct that was iterated upon from the 488 Pista. It generates 15% of the overall 10% downforce increase over the 488, giving the front end even greater stability. At the rear, the F8 has an integrated spoiler that generates 25% of the total increase in downforce over the 488. Three little fins within the spoiler help to clean up the airflow and move turbulence further away from the rear, improving drag by two percent. These may seem like insignificant tweaks to a design clearly related to the 488 Pista, but they all add up.
The result is a car with two personalities. Honestly, you can relax and cruise around in automatic mode and never once realize that this car is anything special. The normality with which it handles daily usage is striking – it’s just not what you might expect from a Ferrari. But that all ends in an instant when you tickle the throttle.
It’s manic. The engine positively dominates the experience; there’s no escaping it. Such power through two rear-driven wheels is simply insane and often terrifying. It requires deliberately honed concentration, even with all the downforce and the great driver’s aids turned on. Most F8 customers likely won’t get anywhere near the limit of this car, so that question creeps in again, “Is this too much?”
That depends. If you’re after a celebration of all Ferrari has learned with their mid-engine V8 family, this is absolutely that car. It’s fast and beautiful, modern and usable, and it will be viewed as something extraordinary over time. But if you actually want to enjoy a sports car on public roads, there might be older Ferraris that scratch that itch more satisfyingly for mere mortal drivers. Regardless, that depends on what you want.
As someone who loves engines, I’m saddened knowing we’re witnessing an end, even for Ferrari. However, if this truly is the conclusion of non-hybrid power for one of the world’s most celebrated engine manufacturers, what a finale.
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