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2020 Ferrari F8 Spider Test Drive: The Pinnacle of an Era

This may be the last, best thing to come from the world that birthed Ferrari.

Nelson IresonWriterManufacturerPhotographer

MALIBU, California—First revealed last September, the new 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider picks up where Ferrari left off with the 488 Spider. Automobile contributor Arthur St. Antoine once wrote, "There's a strong case to be made that the Ferrari 488 Spider is the single greatest modern automobile for sale in all the world." Well, Art, you were right—until now, as we learned during our recent first test drive of Maranello's latest mid-engine V-8 thriller.

The scene for my first exposure to the open-top take on the F8 Tributo couldn't have been more perfect: A freshly sanitized rental house in the Malibu hills, a day, a night, a full test-drive route with the new F8 Spider, and no limits. Well, no limits except my imagination and a contractual obligation to pay $250 for every mile I covered in excess of 500 miles. I kept a steady eye on the odometer.

Ferrari F8 Spider Performance & Handling

In the F8 Spider, the miles fly by quickly: Behind the seats lies 710 horsepower. The 3.9-liter V-8 manages a respectable wail when provoked, despite the muffling effects of the two turbochargers force-feeding it air. Speaking of air, you'll hear each and every one of the horses prancing behind you if you let the top down, which you can do at speeds up to 28 mph. It takes just 14 seconds to open—a small price to pay for a concert.

To be clear, it's a rock concert. Zero-to-60-mph times, while impressively far short of the 3.0-second mark, are mostly irrelevant, because you'll only stop for gas. The 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider's 20-gallon gas tank might have a theoretical range of something close to 400 miles, but in the Malibu canyons, with the joy and ease of flicking and testing the car through corners and rocketing out of them, you'll get closer to 150 miles out of a tank. Not too bad for 710 horsepower, but don't tell Greenpeace.

Having spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel of the always-a-hard-top F8 Tributo, I found the sometimes-a-hard-top F8 Spider acquits itself exceptionally well; losing the fixed roof has cost it nothing. Both versions are utterly fantastic to drive, with lively, communicative—but not busy—steering, amazing balance and poise (even over the less-maintained stretches of Malibu backroad), seemingly fade-proof carbon-ceramic brakes, and the ($9,112) Corsa carbon fiber seats are, quite possibly, the most comfortable yet secure seats in the sports car world.

It's hard to express just how good to drive the F8 Spider really is, but Automobile senior editor Aaron Gold said it well in his review of the F8 Tributo: "The 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo isn't just a car, it's a happiness generator." It also claimed one of our 2020 Automobile All-Stars awards.

Ferrari F8 Spider: The Last, Best V-8?

Testing the 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider with the open roof, it's even more about the engine than the hard top, and that's saying something: The F8 Tributo's name is a tribute to its own engine. It's also a tribute to Ferrari's V-8 sports cars of the past—but driving back from Malibu into the real world, I can't help but feel like it's not just a tribute in celebration, but in parting. This car—the new 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider—is the open-top version of the highest form of an art of a prior age, a perfect song of driver, machine, and technology. But without an electric motor or two in the band, it's a song that sounds like old-timey music to the ears of the new era.

It's OK, Ferrari, I understand, I'm in the same situation; 41 isn't young anymore, but it's not old yet, either (it's not, dammit!). I'm precisely equally likely to be caught hustling the intramural shuffleboard leagues as I am to be called whatever the kids use for "cool" these days, which is to say, not at all.

 

Despite my growing irrelevance, however, I have kept up with tech; I can't say as much for the Ferrari. I remember life before computer ubiquity, but I've been a geek for the latest devices and apps since they were called hardware and software and came by mail order and floppy disk. Don't misunderstand; the 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider, like the F8 Tributo, has a truly brilliant, high-tech performance traction- and stability-control system, one to make a zero into a hero and a hero into a vanishing dot on the horizon. But that technology has been used to hide itself, to fade seamlessly into the background, providing an indistinguishable simulacrum of the pure, unfiltered driving experience of yore.

The turbo V-8 engine, sans any form of hybrid propulsion, is a wonder unto itself in the context of combustion engines, and makes this pinnacle of super sports-car performance feel like the last, best thing to come from the era of pure, unbridled imagination and innovation—the era that birthed the Ferrari brand and saw it build empires on the track and on the street. It really brings home the "Tributo" in the name—in a way, this car is a tribute to the whole 20th century, a crowning achievement of the society we once were.

But test driving an F8 Spider that costs as much as a house (as-tested sticker price on this Euro-spec example: $396,994) while 20 million people are out of work has a way of reminding you things aren't like they used to be. Getting 16 mpg (combined) in a 710-hp two-seater with the top down while the people on the street are wearing masks to slow the spread of disease does, too. Electric cars are popping up under seemingly every nameplate; Ferrari's own LaFerrari put the poster on the wall seven years ago, and here we have the Tributo, an homage to the most powerful production V-8 Ferrari has ever built. I can't help but sense some finality in that, especially given the recent launch of the 986-horsepower V-8 hybrid Ferrari SF90, a car that takes the F8 Tributo and Spider formula into its next era, though at a higher price and performance tier.

After a day and a night with the 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider—a leg in the real world and one in the happy-making fantasy land of a yellow Ferrari in Malibu—if this is goodbye for the combustion-only Ferrari sports car, it couldn't have had a better send-off. It really might be the single greatest modern automobile for sale in all the world.

Ferrari F8 Spider Quick Facts

  • 710 horsepower
  • 568 lb-ft of torque
  • Maximum engine speed: 8,000 rpm
  • 7-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift automatic transmission
  • Unbelievably easy to go terrifyingly fast in
  • Surprisingly comfortable
  • Just look at the thing!
2020 Ferrari F8 Spider Specifications
PRICE $302,500/$396,994 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.9L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/710 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 568 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 15/19 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H 181.5 x 77.9 x 47.4 in
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
WEIGHT 3,164 lb
0-60 MPH 2.9 sec
TOP SPEED 211 mph