by Iain Curry
YOU can't beat a Prancing Horse badge for scoring attention, so what have we here?
Rather beautiful, yes? It's the Ferrari 488 Spider, the folding hardtop version of the equally delicious 488 GTB coupe.
I think I'm in love...
Me too. The one we Aussie journos get to drive is dressed in special Blu Corsa paint, mixed especially for the 488 Spider and adding an extra $22,000 to your bill.
Okay, hit me with the figures.
Since we're talking money the 488 Spider will set you back $526,888 plus on-road costs and that's before you start draining funds on the cost options. But value is to be had.
For starters, a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers 492kW of power and 760Nm of torque, helping you hit 100kmh in three seconds flat and on to 325kmh if you ever get the chance.
Such performance allied to a devastatingly talented chassis and those good looks somehow make this thing seem worth its considerable sticker price.
Yet even if you win lotto or sold your successful hedge fund managing business, you'll still have to join a two-year waiting list to buy one.
Quite desirable then?
Indeed, which makes it quite a special opportunity to pilot one.
Give me this car and the choice of any destination on the planet and I'd choose (in summertime) an early morning pose around Monte Carlo, a blast north to the hairpin-fest of the Col De Turini Monte Carlo Rally stage, then across the Alps into Italy and I could be in Modena for a late lunch.
A leisurely cruise to Florence for an alfresco dinner date would follow, with the 488 Spider parked in sight to enjoy its sexy lines as the sun set while we enjoyed a glass of overpriced Chianti.
And how was the reality?
Well, beggars can't be choosers so you snare what chances you can. I was handed keys to the 488 Spider during the Bathurst 12 Hour race weekend and given a two-hour window to enjoy it.
My cruise was down-town Bathurst (traffic and roadworks), my Monte Carlo stage was about a kilometre of twisties near Wattle Flat (the town's general store stood in for Modena) and my destination, the gold rush town of Sofala, did its best to mimic Florence.
Right. Still enjoyable though?
If you can't enjoy driving this thing no matter the road you must be dead inside. It is a full assault on the senses, from the Prancing Horse-embossed leather cabin to the sound from a wailing turbocharged V8 through to the quite epic acceleration in any gear from practically any part of the rev range.
Was it top down all the way?
Too right. The retractable hard top goes up or down in 14 seconds (it's a lovely thing to watch fold away behind your ear) and the sculpted and very racy blue-striped seats snugly grip your rear in position ready for the ride.
A few quick adjustments and I instantly felt the Ferrari was bespoke tailored just for me.
The seat, steering wheel and driver-focused dashboard, switches and dials make for a totally driver-centred experience.
And all is at your fingertips.
My carbon fibre and leather steering wheel had start button, lights, drive mode selector, "bumpy road" damper button and indicators within a thumb swing away. Good. It meant two hands could always be kept on the wheel with the up and down-shift paddles an easy squeeze behind.
And firing that engine up?
Let's wake the neighbours. What a brutal yet glorious singing howl this V8 makes and from more than 3000rpm it all gets even more shouty and delicious.
Yet it's an engine that's come in for criticism from purists. It's those two turbos, you see. The 488's predecessor - the 458 - used a naturally aspirated 4.5-litre V8 with that pure non-turbo sound and instant throttle response.
Yet the 488 Spider's 3.9-litre twin turbo brings an extra 67kW and 120Nm, better fuel economy and less harmful emissions. And look, I may not be Kimi Raikkonen but my right foot/brain combo could report zero turbo lag issues here.
With roof stowed and especially when dropping a cog or three through the sublime seven-speed auto box, the turbocharged V8 soundtrack which bothered the local wildlife in rural NSW felt heavenly and highly emotive to me.
Yes, you know it's a turbo in both sound and the way the smash of torque pulls your face skin back to expose half of your eyeballs but it remains glorious.
It's quite quick then?
Blisteringly fast. And it's blessed with a chassis to control that speed. Point the Spider at any corner, at any speed and the balance, grip and communication is simply mega. You can really only explore a fraction of its potential on the road.
Switch between drive modes (Race, quite pleasingly, is your default setting, keeping driver aids on and exhaust note rorty) and Magnaride magnetic dampers adjust to suit. It's quite incredible how flat the Spider sits in the turns, then flick it into "bumpy road" mode and it'll handle some pretty crummy surfaces in a way a supercar has no right to.
Everyday driver? I'd say so ... until you inevitably lose your licence.
The brakes are also epic. The Spider comes with carbon ceramic stoppers as standard - a great addition for performance road or track use, but almost surprising considering the optional extras you do have to pay extra for.
The costs add up then?
Oh yes. My test car had a rather comical $140,000 of options included - you could buy a Porsche Cayman S for that price alone. As tested, this blue delight sets you back more than $650,000.
I can accept the titanium sports exhausts costing an extra $4080 (seems good value actually) but $5000 for a rear parking camera? $6800 for Apple CarPlay? Hell, the floor mats with Ferrari logos cost $2155. For floor mats.
Going carbon fibre options crazy on this car (front spoiler, side air splitter, rear air ducts, racing seat Drivers Zone area and tunnel bridge) totalled an additional $60k. Gulp.
Should I buy one?
If you have the means how could you be disappointed? You can get the 488 GTB hardtop for $57k cheaper but for the truly ideal blend of performance and boulevard posing this Spider properly reveals your sun-kissed grin to the world.
And that can be in Barcelona, Bologna or even the back roads of Bathurst.
MODEL: Ferrari 488 Spider
PRICE: $526,888 before on roads. Car as tested $656,513 before on-roads.
DETAILS: Two-seat mid-engined rear-wheel drive convertible supercar roadster.
ENGINE: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 492kW/760Nm.
TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shift.
THIRST: 11.4 litres/100km.
PERFORMANCE: 0-100kmh in 3.0-seconds, top speed of 325kmh.
What matters most
WHAT WE LIKED: Brutal acceleration, quite incredible balance, feel and feedback, achingly beautiful design.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Price of some of those options, waiting list.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING: Three-year/unlimited kilometres with complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first seven years of the vehicle's life.