Most beautiful Ferrari in decade pays tribute to race cars past

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 26, 2019.

(From left) The completely-redesigned dash; new air intakes flanking the bumper.

(From left) The Italian leather interior; the V8 turbo ­engine, which hits a smooth note at high speeds.

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It is comforting to know that some things never change. Markets may crumble and social media may demolish civil society, but fresh pasta, good wine and the courtesy of Italian drivers who move over on the A1 when they have a Ferrari on their tail­ — these things prevail across generations.

They are like the Colosseum or the V8 turbo engine. That is the throbbing heart inside Ferrari NV’s 2020 F8 Tributo, a new offering from the 70-year-old company. The US$270,530 (RM1.13 million) coupe pays tribute to the almost-sacred engines that have powered the automaker’s most successful cars since its first mid-engine V8 in the 1975 Ferrari 308 GTB.

The F8 Tributo was where I found myself in early September — yes, in a sunny section of the A1 that runs from Modena to Milan and caters to the most impatient of sightseers. With a 3.9-litre, 711-horsepower engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and 568 pound-feet of torque, it is more powerful and efficient than its predecessor, the 488 GTB. The turbo lag simply does not exist here.

I looked for it too. But as I navigated the on-ramp at 30mph (48.28kph), and pushed through fifth, sixth and seventh gears on my way to 120mph, the F8 Tributo accelerated without hesitation and with absolute control. (Its top speed is 211mph.) Climbing into the craggy Apennine Mountains outside Modena, powering around narrow single-lane roads, the car handled with laser-like finesse. My drive was incrementally smoother, more agile and more refined in all kinds of turns than what I had experienced with its predecessors. And with a zero-to-62mph sprint time of 2.9 seconds, the car is quick. A new engine note sings a cheery cantata rather than the growls, burps or wheezes of other cars in its class; the F8 Tributo made me feel like a ­maestro conducting Italy’s grandest orchestra. The method behind the music is the F8 Tributo’s weight. At just 2,932 pounds (1,329.93kg), the car is 48 pounds lighter than the 488 GTB. Advanced components have shaved off mass: A novel exhaust manifold saves 22 pounds; titanium connecting rods knock off another 17.

The F8 Tributo is the most devastatingly beautiful car Ferrari has made in a decade. It combines winning elements of previous models into a new package, pulling from a storied history to make an automobile that is simultaneously familiar, reassuringly elegant and aggressively modern. To wit: The new dual round rear tail lights are like those from the F40 of the late 1980s and early 1990s, as are the louvres in the cover atop the legendary V8 engine. Made from ultralight Lexan, the clear screen has three slits at the centre that help extract hot air from the engine ­compartment and allow for ­admiration of the engine itself.

The vertical headlights of the 488 GTB are now brilliant horizontal light-emitting diodes and have another practical purpose — to let new brake-cooling intake vents be placed outside the bumper. The air intakes, which were etched on the flanks of other recent Ferraris, have been moved near the spoiler. A ­single massive engine air intake duct on the hood increases the downforce by 15%, redirecting high pressure flowing up from the bumper and passing it over the front of the car. Forged starburst wheels are the exclamation mark on the whole thing. The F8 Tributo looks feminine, strong, happily formidable and even playful.

With the F8 Tributo, Ferrari has taken its beloved diamond V8 engine, polished it and placed it in a new setting. Some good things remain — though the top brass declined to tell me, it may just be the last time we see a non­-hybrid engine on a Ferrari of this mettle. Deliveries start in December. — Bloomberg