A beautiful Ferrari pays tribute to race car’s past

By drawing on history to make the 2020 F8 Tributo, Ferrari’s designers have created homage to the V-8 engine. Now, let’s take it for a test drive.

Updated: October 12, 2019 9:18 AM

by Hannah Elliott (Bloomberg)

It’s comforting to know that some things never change. Markets may crumble, 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’ve got a Ferrari on their tail—these things prevail across generations.

They’re like the Colosseum. Or the V-8 turbo engine. That’s the throbbing heart inside Ferrari’s 2020 F8 Tributo, a new offering from the 70-year-old company. As the name suggests, the coupe pays tribute to the almost-sacred engines that have powered the automaker’s most successful cars since its first mid-engine V-8, in the 1975 Ferrari 308 GTB.

The F8 Tributo is where I found myself in early September—yes, on 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-bhp engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and 568 pound-feet of torque, it’s more powerful and efficient than its predecessor, the 488 GTB. Turbo lag simply doesn’t exist here.

I looked for it, too. But as I navigated the on-ramp at 30mph and pushed through fifth, sixth and seventh gears on my way to 120mph, the F8 Tributo accelerated without hesitation and with absolute control. (Top speed is 211 mph.) 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’d experienced with its predecessors. And with a 0-62mph sprint time of 2.9 seconds, the car is lethally quick. A new engine note sings a cheery cantata rather than the growls or 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, as it were, is the F8 Tributo’s weight. At just 2,932 pounds, the car is 48 pounds lighter than the 488 GTB. Advanced components derived from Formula 1 technology have shaved off mass: A novel exhaust manifold saves 22 pounds; titanium connecting rods knock off another 17.

I pulled off to take some photos at one point, and within seconds an elderly woman emerged from her bleached-stone home, window shutters laced with old Italian roses. In her skirt and stockings, she gesticulated energetically. At first, I thought she was yelling at me for parking in front of her home. Then I caught the word “bellissima!” She pointed at the car and kissed her fingers like a chef.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised; the F8 Tributo is the most devastatingly beautiful car Ferrari has made in a decade. It combines winning elements from previous models into a new package, pulling from a storied history to make an automobile that’s simultaneously familiar, reassuringly elegant, and aggressively modern. To wit: The new dual round rear taillights are like those from the F40 of the late 1980s and early 1990s, as are the louvers in the cover atop the legendary V-8 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.

Elsewhere, the vertical headlights of the 488 GTB are now brilliant horizontal LEDs 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 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 and strong, happily formidable, even playful.

But the car will be serious for Ferrari’s bottom line. It’s one of a record five model revamps this year, overhauls that will allow it to charge more for most of its cars. The marque is also making more of them; it hopes to ship 10,000 in 2019, up from 9,251 last year, says CEO Louis Camilleri. All this is aimed at higher profits.

With the F8 Tributo, Ferrari has taken its beloved diamond V-8 engine, polished it, and placed it in a new setting. Thank God, some good things remain—though 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.

All of Italy pays respect—and moves aside in tribute. Deliveries start in December.
(Its likely price in the US will be $270,530.)

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