What do the Apple iPhone 11, Lucky Charms with the new unicorn marshmallows, and the 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo have in common? Not much, except that they’re all more an evolution of a good thing rather than something entirely new.
The Tributo isn’t named for the weekly kickback you give to the boss; it’s named as a tribute to Ferrari’s most powerful V-8 engine. It’s essentially a mid-cycle refresh and, at a quick glance, it’s difficult to differentiate it from the 488GTB model that it replaces.
Something Old, Something New
A longer examination shows there’s a lot more to the F8, though. There’s an “S-duct” in the nose, derived from the special-edition 488 Pista, that directs air up and over the hood; it’s an aerodynamic trick that is responsible for 15 percent of the car’s net increase in downforce over the 488GTB. The underbody has been reworked, highlighted by vortex generators and a rear diffuser that helps to suck the F8 to the tarmac. In the rear, four round taillights are placed below a more efficient and more effective spoiler than its predecessor had. Underneath the wind-cheating skin, the F8 is nearly identical to the outgoing car, right down to the same spring rates; though, the magnetorheological dampers have been retuned for improved ride comfort. On the cracked and weathered roads that climb in and out of Italy’s hillsides, the F8 is stable yet won’t excessively shake your untoned bits.
The engine is a carryover as well, but it carries over from the best possible place, the 488 Pista. Lighter than the 488GTB’s mill, the Tributo’s twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 makes the same 710 horsepower as the Pista’s and is responsible for nearly half of the new car’s 88-pound weight loss. Speed comes as easily here as it does in the Pista. And not just to 60 mph, which should take 2.8 seconds to eclipse from rest, but big speeds happen without much thought. The only thing slowing us down was imagining who’ll be cast to play us on our episode of Banged Up Abroad. With the Pista, Ferrari also worked to make this turbocharged V-8 sound more like its naturally aspirated V-8s of yore. It didn’t quite hit that lofty target. But there’s still real emotion here from the spinal-cord-tingling dopamine drip of a soundtrack.
Away from the Fiat-clogged autostrada, we unleashed the F8 around Fiorano, Ferrari’s legendary test track, which allowed us the freedom to play with the latest generation of Ferrari’s Dynamic Enhancer and Side Slip Angle Control. Think of it as electronic training wheels that take the terror out of drifting a very powerful and very expensive car. Suddenly, you’re a car-control master whenever you switch the steering-wheel-mounted knob to Race or CT-Off mode. Modern Ferraris have light steering, but while the F8’s efforts are low, precision is high. Directional changes and minor adjustments are met with zero resistance. The Tributo changes direction as if it were made out of lightweight balsa wood. The F8 explodes out of corners with snappy, uninterrupted shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The standard carbon-ceramic brake rotors require a lot of leg effort to work properly, but they welcome a hard kick. Even when braking late from 130 mph (noise complaints mean we aren’t allowed to go wide-open throttle down the whole straight) into Fiorano’s Turn 1, it’s easy to scrub off too much speed too soon.
Minor changes inside include round HVAC vents and a optional 7.0-inch performance display in front of the passenger, presumably to give a fortunate pilot and co-pilot something to talk about at dinner. We don’t recall the 488 or the Pista having such a distorted and restricted view through the rearview mirror, though. While the F8’s louvered Lexan engine cover reminds us of the classic F40 supercar’s, it also reminds us that supercars were once nearly impossible to see out of.
Should you want a F8 Tributo, Ferrari claims it might be able to fulfill your order in time to have one under your Christmas tree. Prices open at $298,530, a cool $30K more than the 488GTB. Should you need to rationalize that expenditure, it’s still $50K less than the special-edition Pista. Ferraris are expensive, but that’s not exactly new, either.