Ferrari F8 Spider review: Enter the Spider-verse

Leow Ju-Len

The “F8” part of its name tells you that much; it’s an allusion to the V8 engine that powers the car, giving it endless vitality but also its immortal soul.

It’s the same 3.9-litre twin-turbo that animates the F8 Tributo, a car that pays tribute to the great mid-engined Ferraris of the past (if you know your Ferraris, you’ll recognise the five-spoke star design here that first graced the wheels of the 308 GTB, the great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of this car). 

This isn’t a huge engine, but it’s hugely powerful: 720 horsepower spread over roughly 1.5 tonnes is nothing to sneeze at, especially because you get the feeling that if you sneeze violently enough to make your foot twitch on the accelerator you’ll end up in the trees.

Sure enough, it’s easy to see why versions of this engine have scooped up awards by the bucketload over the years.

Modern turbo engines have a diesel-like quality to them, flexing hard in the mid-range but then running out of puff, yet the F8 Spider makes it incredibly thrilling to chase revs, just picking up speed with vigour at first, but then becoming violent enough to blur your vision as the rev counter’s needle sweeps to the red zone.

In one sense the Ferrari is real white-knuckle stuff, painting black lines on the tarmac if you simply lean hard on the gas pedal, obliging you to keep a steady hand on the tiller so you can catch any wiggle from the tail when it happens. You’ve got to respect the F8 Spider, that’s for sure. 

But if the engine sometimes feels like a small nuclear explosion, the chassis is what contains the fallout. Like the mid-engined norm, the F8 Spider has a front end that feels ultra nippy, while the rear is planted as long as you’re careful and measured with your right foot.

The steering is geared fast, yet it’s exact and not stingy with feedback, so it fills you with confidence when you’re hustling the Ferrari at a hot pace — heaven help you if you think you can manage to turn things up to a boil if you’re not at Sepang, though.

Anyway It’s just as easy to drive slow, surprisingly, with the Ferrari soaking up bumps incredibly well, and the controls generally feeling very linear and light, except perhaps for the carbon brakes, which have a grabby bite. Even in the wet, the F8 Spider doesn’t terrify (assuming you’re sensible enough to switch the manettino to Wet mode and calm everything down).

Such is the amount of feel from the steering, on slick roads you can still drive reasonably assertively without feeling like the Ferrari is on the verge of getting away from you.

The cabin isn’t roomy of course, but you can spend hours in it without feeling like you’re going to have to put your chiropractor’s kids through university.

Ergonomically, the controls are scattered around the interior in little clusters, and the steering wheel houses a multitude of switches, so driving the F8 Spider will take some orientation if it’s your first time.

Finding out how everything works and where everything is will take time if you’re used to the logic and central controls of other cars, but that’s part of the experience. The last thing you want your Ferrari to feel like is ordinary.

If you find all the buttons and switches bewildering, the mid-engined Ferrari after this one will have a digital screen for virtual instruments and a central touchscreen for infotainment, so if you still find it a joy to watch a physical needle point at rev numbers, then what are you waiting for?

Video: Before the plague, CarBuyer headed to Maranello to test the coupe version of the F8

A couple of things comes to mind if you’re trying to think up a wish list of how to make the Ferrari better. One, in some directions it’s hard to see out of the car, which is natural enough because there’s a compartment for a folded roof behind you, not to mention an engine, while you yourself are perched down in low-mounted seats.

Second, with the roof folded you actually feel a smidgen of scuttle shake, meaning the wheel moves in your hands as the body flexes under you, momentarily twisted by road bumps.

It’s never severe enough to annoy, but the loss of rigidity does shave a smidge off the sharpness that you get in the fixed-head F8 Tributo. That’s a convertible norm, however, and the accepted price you pay for having a roof that opens up, exposing you to the elements and intensifying the experience of hurtling through the landscape.

I suspect “purists” will have a grumble or two about the engine. The turbochargers mute the exhaust note (never mind that the pipes themselves are made of inconel, an exotic nickel-chromium based alloy that shaves 9.7kg off the exhaust system of the 488 Spider), which means there isn’t quite the high-pitched howl you might have wanted from a high-revving V8.

On the plus side you do get to hear plenty, in the form of sustained whooshing whenever the engine fills its mighty lungs in earnest, plus the odd flutter from the turbo system’s dump valve, especially with the roof down. If the turbo era means V8s no longer exhale with a wail, at least they still draw breath with audible enthusiasm.

The other thing is that, unlike with the F8 Tributo, that lovely V8 isn’t visible under a clear engine cover. That’s a fair criticism if you wear your car-loving heart on your sleeve, and expect your Ferrari to put its own beating heart on display.

Then again, it’s not like you can see the engine when you’re driving, and the experience behind the wheel is what will remind you why you parted with seven figures for the F8 Spider. What matters less than how the engine looks, is how it feels.

Ferrari F8 Spider

Engine 3,902cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power 720hp at 8,000rpm
Torque 770Nm at 3,250rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 2.9 seconds
Top Speed 340km/h
Fuel Efficiency 12.3L/100km
VES/CO2 C2/279g/km
Agent Ital Auto
Price S$1,098,000 without Certificate Of Entitlement
Available Now

READ MORE: What driving the F8 Tributo in freezing rain is like…

READ MORE: The latest hot shizzle on CarBuyer

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2 seat 2-door Convertible f8 spider Ferrari petrol

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Leow Ju-Len

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