When you buy a convertible Ferrari, what you're buying is a front-row seat to the internal-combustion show. Well, at least it should be. When there's a 710-hp twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 so close you can smell the heat coming off it, you sort of expect that when you park it with the exhaust tick-ticking away, your ears will ring in afterglow. Except, the new 2020 F8 Spider doesn't do that. This Ferrari comes with earplugs.
Not literally, of course. It's just that the F8's engine isn't obnoxiously loud. On the sound spectrum, we'd put the droptop version of the new F8 Tributo somewhere between a Porsche 911 Carrera and a Lamborghini Huracán Evo. This is a great place to exist. But if you've ever turned your head and dropped your jaw in response to the bark and bellicose wail of a naturally aspirated Ferrari V-8 as it tears away from a valet stand, the Spider might seem a little too mature. And while we can understand the appeal of a Ferrari that screams like The Who in '72, we should note that Pete Townshend now lives with permanent tinnitus.
The F8's turbos might keep its volume from damaging your hearing, but the engine's output far exceeds any naturally aspirated Ferrari V-8 that came before it. Much of the additional power and many of the revisions for the F8 were introduced by the 488 Pista. Power is up 49 horses compared to last year's 488 Spider, although the gain in torque is a modest 7 pound-feet. There's more than enough thrust and torque to sink the idiots who think that accelerating from 60 to 90 mph on a freeway is a performance test. Launch control enables repeatable sub-3.0-second times to 60 mph. But while the pull is strong throughout the rev range, the Spider lacks the disorienting acceleration of the latest 911 Turbo S. Unlike the Porsche, there's a little bonus shove and snarl when you wring the F8's V-8 to its 8000-rpm redline. To misquote a certain grand marquis, sadism has its rewards.
Other than a hint of turbo lag at low rpm, hits of the accelerator provide right-now goodness. Braking hard for corners and using the body-tossing grip wakes the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which begins downshifting on its own at just the right time. Column-mounted paddle shifters behind the steering wheel are there should you want to feel more involved in the process.
Like the soundtrack, the F8's composure is pretty civilized. Magnetorheological dampers provide an easy and jitter-free ride. Start stressing the F8, and the dampers stiffen up as necessary. Strike a midcorner bump, and a brief shake will run through the Spider's aluminum structure, the only negative evidence of its roof-ectomy.
Steering efforts are slightly higher than we recall from the 488 Spider. A smaller diameter steering wheel might play a role in that, but twirling the helm still doesn't require much muscle. Turn signals, stability-control settings, wiper controls, and pretty much every other control aside from climate-control adjustments live on the steering wheel. Unlike the latest Chevrolet Corvette, this Ferrari's interior feels spacious and airy, and the driving position feels like you're right at the front of the car with the road inches away.
For something capable of tripling posted speed limits, it'd be nice to have a larger speedometer. While there's a big digital readout for speed in km/h, the one in mph is in microwave-oven point. Try explaining that to a police officer from behind the wheel of your Giallo Modena F8. (Giallo is Italian for yellow.)
Any fines shouldn't be a problem since the F8 Spider requires a $302,500 buy-in. The car we drove added up to a shocking $396,994. It's a very adult price, and the wealthy might appreciate its day-to-day usability as much as avoiding deafness. But since we have no hope of owning one any time soon, count us among the folks who would like its V-8 to shout a little louder. We brought our own earplugs.
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