Ferrari's Fastest-Ever Street-Legal V8 Takes Design and Tech Cues from Its F1 racers

It’s a turbo with the satisfying sound of an air-breathing monster

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When I get my first knee-wobbling glimpse of the 488 Pista and its zesty racing stripes, I’m not thinking about technology, I have to confess. But when I strap aboard the Pista at Ferrari’s fabled Fiorano test circuit in Maranello, Italy, I’m soon saying grazie for the sheer technical prowess of the fastest V-8 Ferrari ever produced.

A midmounted, dry-sump, twin-turbo V-8 spools up 529 kilowatts (710 horsepower) from just 3.9 liters of displacement, in a Ferrari that weighs just 1,382 kilograms (3,047 pounds). That’s 6 percent lighter than a 488 GTB, the standard version of Ferrari’s midengine marvel. The diet that slimmed down the Pista included carbon-fiber wheels that weigh 40 percent less than standard rims.

The result is a new idea of insanity in a street-legal Ferrari: The 0-to-100-kilometer-per-hour run (62 miles per hour) takes 2.85 seconds. You get to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 7.6 seconds, which is faster than many cars take to reach 100 km/h.

Engineers trimmed 23 kg (50 lbs) from the engine alone, using carbon-fiber intake plenums and titanium connecting rods, just like in Ferrari’s F1 racers. The engine’s total rotational inertia—created by its moving parts and by friction—is reduced by 17 percent for faster, more-joyous revving. The Inconel-alloy exhaust manifold is just 1 millimeter wide at its thinnest sections, and it saves nearly 9 kg (20 lbs). The design minimizes energy losses incurred when the engine pumps out exhaust. It also helps deliver the fortissimo sound that went missing in the GTB, a major challenge as supercars switch en masse to more-efficient turbocharged power plants.

Engineers also added more “color” to the sound of the engine by augmenting the richer, more-pleasing frequencies. Turbocharger speed sensors on each cylinder bank measure how well it’s working in real time to enable engine controllers to maximize power, regardless of altitude or ambient temperature.

The Ferrari takes aerodynamic and handling cues from Ferrari Challenge racers, along with the 488 GTBs that have dominated FIA Endurance Racing. Compared with a standard GTB, the Pista enjoys a huge 20 percent gain in aero efficiency, including up to 240 kg (529 lbs) of downforce at 200 km/h (124 mph). Giant carbon-ceramic brakes feel strong enough to halt Earth’s rotation. The S-Duct, a Ferrari showroom first, channels air through the front fascia and over the hood to clamp front tires to the road surface. Front radiators are inverted and canted rearward to direct hot air along the underbody but well away from side intercooler intakes.

As in Challenge cars, the engine is actually fed from the rear, where air intakes mounted just below the rear spoiler take advantage of the high-pressure atmosphere there; the 488’s signature cleavages in rear fenders are now put to use feeding air into turbo intercoolers and cooling the engine bay. The rear diffuser incorporates three active flaps that can rotate up to 14 degrees to minimize drag, hastening runs to the car’s top speed of 340 km/h (211 mph). The result is a track-day carnival.

The car’s coolest hand-me-down from racing tech may be the new “wall effect” rev limiter. Traditional engine-speed limiters, Ferrari says, cut off the fuel well before the engine gets to its redline. In the Pista, there’s no sudden slump in power, the dispiriting thrustus interruptus that you feel when a car’s engine bangs off the rev limiter. Instead, the Ferrari continues to accelerate right up to the engine’s peak, and holds it there. All 710 of these prancing ponies are on tap, anywhere from 6,750 rpm to the 8,000-rpm redline.

Ferrari will build just 500 Pistas for the world’s consumption. If only technology could make the Pista multiply while sharply reducing the price.

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