If I could do a literary hop, skip and jump, or convey clicking one’s heels in the written word, now would be the time. Fresh from four days in Scotland driving the simply astonishing Ferrari F8 Spider, there are times in one’s life where you have to sit back, take some time, and genuinely let an experience wash over you. You need to take it in. Revel in it. The smells, the sights, the sheer visceral nature of it. A surprisingly sun-filled week in June was one of those moments: invited to Scotland by Ferrari, to sample some of the best roads, hospitality and people one could wish to find. It was an invite that my editor accepted on my behalf without a word spoken. He knew. I found out. Now it’s your turn.
The mid-engine V8 Ferrari represents something so ‘intrinsically sportscar’ that there is something reverential about taking in all that it offers. A short flight to Edinburgh from our favourite crew of orange-clad hosts and hostesses was conducted Covid-safe. Which essentially translates to everything being closed, bar Duty Free. That it was a domestic flight meant I couldn’t even buy anything worthwhile, and there’s only so much Toblerone one can eat. (If there’s anything Alan Partridge taught me, it’s that.)
Another motorist suffered a crash on the route into Edinburgh, which meant a delay to car collection and hopefully not a premonition as to the days ahead. Finally, the time arrives and greeted by the friendly smiles (masks mean this is an assumption) at Graypaul Edinburgh, I am introduced to the Ferrari F8 Spider in all her Giallo Triplo Strato splendour. No Rosso here, be it Corsa or Fuoco. The yellow paint is triple layered creating a surface that almost drips like butter. Deep, luxurious, almost thick. There is a real intensity to the paint that can be truly appreciated in the sun. As if the Gods (of whatever denomination) were smiling down, we were blessed with four days of complete sunshine. Make hay whilst the sun shines.
Taking in the car, I pour over the options in all their glory. Having been provided the specifications in advance, I knew the headlines – but in the flesh, it is a spectacularly well configured car. Providing enough of the ‘race’ to thrill, but still enough of the comfort that will be required of a car such as this. £86,000 of carbon options may well have aided this spectacle. For me, the best use being the matte carbon finishes to the interior that, when set against the textured tactility of the Alcantara parts, made for a special place to be.
There is a familiar feel to the interior: the dual screen surrounding the rev counter; the theatre and argument machine that is Passenger Display. These are good familiar. They show how far many outright sports manufacturers have come with touch points and infotainment systems in the modern age. Even the often-pilloried indicator switches actually work very well and are close enough to the action that they don’t require a mammoth physicality to apply. The near two decade use of the Manettino switch again is familiar territory, and in fairness, the interior is very much a progression from the 488 GTB. As is the case with the lineage of the mid-engine V8 Ferrari, the F8 takes features applied to the outgoing super series model of the previous generation. That means much is lifted from the magical 488 Pista, and that, as a package, there promises much to excite.
My previous experiences of the prancing horse have been fleeting. A 20-minute drive in a 360 Spider, similar in an FF, and a handful of times riding shotgun, meant that I approached the task of driving with immense caution. The 360 was an unpredictable thing, and the FF is seemingly more than the decade old that it is. This meant I didn’t have the best yardstick from which to judge, from which to restrain, and from which to, therefore, push on.
Cold start. Loud. A Little droney. With the heat cycle finished, it settles to a thrum more than anything deeper. Regulations have snuck up on Maranello as well, it seems. Driving through and then out of Edinburgh, pitted, cobbled, badly cambered and a whole heap of roadworks were all taken with zero issue. Keep one’s eye firmly on the road ahead, judge for potholes, dips and the like, and the car is no more difficult to drive than any lower tier sportscar, a fifth of the price.
Of course, care commensurate with a £327,500 car needs to be taken. Parking sensors and relatively good visibility mean that parking and tight navigation is little problem. Then the road opens up. Visibility is perfect. Tyres, having had an hour of city and motorway are up to more usable temperatures. You light the touchpaper. You’re off. No ‘it squats down to launch you’. No ‘as the turbo spools’. You. Are. Gone.
The first time I set off, I slowed down remarkably quickly. It is an assault on the senses. They have created such a drivetrain that is turbocharged but has seemingly not a microsecond of lag. It is a clever thing, this engine and gearbox. Roll along placidly and it will scroll you into seventh gear at 42mph. Serene. Grab a gear and depress the accelerator and it will ping you off into the distance with such ferocious abandon that you’re forced to recalibrate before doing it again.
So, it’s fast – that’s almost a given. It’s actually faster than that, but for now, yeah, fast. The best thing about the car, the single stand out element, is the ease. Now, some will say you want more danger, more unpredictability in a supercar. I say ‘shut up, you mentalist’. If you want to drive harder than this, or with a stiffer set up, or want something with more bite, go and buy a track-focused car and drive on a track. You don’t need faster. You don’t need scarier. The joy that comes with this car is that it is so exploitable. Don’t play silly games, don’t win silly prizes. I still took more liberties with this under me than maybe any other car I have been given. You know why? Because it asks it of you. It urges, shouts, screams at you to push on. Drive me. Drive me.
The gearbox response through perfectly positioned paddles say ‘play me’. I swear I could pick up a double bass tomorrow with some skill if my ability on the paddles is anything to go by. The incredible vistas provided by the Cairngorms, wild and vast, provided the perfect backdrop to the incessant progress the car gave. The pull of Ferrari remains so universal that, invariably, traffic was met by gestures imploring us to pass, which we did with fierce abandon. First grabs second, second grabs third, third grabs fourth. Steel yourself and fifth, six and seventh come in a blur.
One finds themselves hassling the wheel a little to maintain line. In race mode, the car utilises the Ferrari dynamic enhancer that trims corner angles through incremental brake inputs. Super high-techy-tech. What the driver gets is unrivalled engagement from the car. It is a car that requires some manhandling at the limit, but in 98% of scenarios, allows the driver to push on with such supreme confidence that time becomes immaterial. I drove the car at ten tenths in manual for maybe a solid two-hour period whilst heading north. Constant engagement. 120 minutes of seeking limits, of willing the car on, and to have it respond in turn. I don’t think I have spent a more enjoyable two hours in a very long time. For the benefit of my long-suffering girlfriend, I’d amend that by adding ‘the most enjoyable two hours spent in a car.’ But I’m not a liar.
Part of the car’s makeup that showcases Ferrari’s advances come in its aerodynamic package. The full-blown rear spoiler provides increased rear stability and the new smaller LED headlight units allow for revised aero intakes in the front end. All this was in part necessary to the positioning of the front two radiators in a rearward angled position. This meant that there was a decrease in the underfloor surface area used to generate downforce. The redesigned aero elements, therefore, also needed to aid the dissipation of the hot air generated and this was achieved by creating a positive action with the wheel air flow. The result is a car 10% more aerodynamically efficient than the departing 488 Spider.
A generation in car development today brings a hell of a lot. That Ferrari can also call upon the experience gained in its racing programmes, notably the GT and Challenge series that employ versions of their road going models means they have a wealth of data to exploit and in the F8 – the proof truly is in the pudding. The car decimates terrain. In the beautiful, wild expanses of the Scottish Highlands, miles flew past at a rate it’s as though we were running at x 1.25. The Old Military Road heading up to Speyside provided vistas and tarmac, the kind you dream of for a car like this. Camber changes, elevations, bumps, all covered with assurance and poise. In fact, the only time that the car offered any sign that it was about to make me make the worst phone call ever was a brief loss of mass over a negative camber crest that fell away into a tight left-hand bend.
13:50 became 19:20, which became some other point in the space time continuum very quickly. Ten minutes of silence followed between me and passenger. I think some of that was spent Googling local facilities. Other than that, the car was faultless. Another beauty of modern manufacture and scale is that we didn’t encounter or worry about any possible gremlins. No heating issues. No infotainment having a meltdown. No Christmas tree welcome from the dash. Which all meant that we could concentrate on the matter at hand, namely thrashing the Italian tailored pants off the car.
Waking up each morning was a treat; a treat to walk out to the car park and see her gleaming form awaiting me. Buy a car that you look back at as you walk away, they say. This was a car I parked outside a café so I could sit and drink coffee and gawp at. No Scottish beauties were turning my eye whilst in her company. A Ferrari is an event at the best of times. In this hue, with a folding hard top which was, in essence, permanently stowed, was a sight to behold for anyone that came in contact with us. Staff at each hotel stop. The guys at the “closed” Arbelour Distillery. A rather wizened old Edinburgh local. All stopped. All looked. As, at heart, I’m a car guy through and through, maybe 1,286 people in Scotland have now had a picture sat in a Ferrari F8 Spider. Not a few of them also received ‘samples of the ride quality’. Because? Because why not. Share the joy. It’s a car that provokes an emotion. And, even for those that aren’t subscribers to Evo, or avid viewers of the Grand Tour, it pulls you in. “Is it a Ferrari?’ No one asked what it was; they just wanted confirmation of what they already knew.
Back to the car. I found myself concocting reasons to drive. 8am, Red Bull run? I’ll do it. At one point, I thought that I had lost my wallet. I drove around retracing my steps on a bright Saturday morning for the best part of two hours. It was under the passenger seat. I wasn’t even mad, quite the opposite. A cricket-esque ‘howzat’ saw said wallet pinged 30 foot into the air in celebration. Had the contents of stuffed receipts and screwed up notes decided to release themselves, the whole scene wouldn’t have been quite as joyous.
When driving is all that one needs to accomplish in the four days, one may as well pile on the miles. Driving with intent but not foolhardiness is the sweet spot. Find a playlist that sounds good loud. Plot a route into Waze, efficiently displayed on your right-hand screen through the magic of Apple CarPlay. The carbon-backed sports seats hug you close. You pull the right-hand paddle. All feels incredibly natural, and it is partly the ergonomics of the car inside that also add to the ease of motion outside. The paddles and switchgear are positioned well. The screens can be seen and read. Because you’re not worrying about incidentals, you can concentrate on the tarmac, smiling maniacally and trying to remember lost lyrics from that playlist. Stopping power is prodigious through the carbon ceramic discs. A wider operating temperature window means that, even worked hard, they don’t fade.
And the pedal response is incredibly consistent through a day of hard driving. The gearbox also works well, with changes coming on demand, and in automatic mode, it is very effective in finding you the correct gear when being asked to drop down with throttle input, or as stated earlier, scrolling you through into seventh for efficiency. The combination of the gearbox and the lack of lag through the turbocharged drivetrain make for a package that is as engaging, as exploitable and as usable as anything that has crossed the production line at Maranello. That it is capable of such meteoric speeds on straights and corners alike, and with a chassis that still retains dynamism despite any perceived softness, it will still entertain the seasoned peddler in a manner and pace little else will.
The trip encompassed some wonderful stays. Fingal in Edinburgh. Dowans in Speyside. We met some wonderful people, saw some beautiful scenery, had a couple of wicked hangovers. It is a trip I’ll remember for a long while. What I won’t ever forget is the car. I don’t claim to be a particularly skilled driver, but the F8 Spider made me heroic. My memories remain in a mental montage of the trip. I replay it often. Why watch Le Mans when you can be your own hero?