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2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Ferrari’s screaming mid-engine coupe not only rips roads to shreds, it melts your heart in the process.

Mac MorrisonWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

The 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo represents perfectly a challenge the Automobile staff and our contributors face annually during our All-Stars test drives: Is it too easy to select a car like this as an All-Star? With a starting price of $275,580—and an almost comical as-tested sticker of $436,709, with a full $101,077 of that coming from an overload of carbon-fiber trim pieces—this was easily the most expensive car present for this year's showdown. For this price, you might fairly reason, it better be great. And it's a Ferrari, only one of the world's most historically and emotionally revered marques, whose cars are on the Must-Drive-at-Least-Once List of anyone who holds a straight face when describing themselves as a driving enthusiast. In other words, Maranello's creations might enter any automotive showdown with an unfair advantage stashed up their exhaust pipes.

In the F8 Tributo's case, however, the enthusiastic voracity of every single one of our test drivers spoke volumes, even for a two-seat Ferrari supercar. A quick selection of quotes from the logbook:

"It feels like a hot-blooded and barely-trained stallion. Driving it fast is like being inside an explosion," said senior editor Aaron Gold.

Pro racer Andy Pilgrim enthused, "The best steering feel in the business. Less road noise than I expected with an engine noise to die for, makes even legal-speed street driving a total pleasure. It's fast—like, ridiculous!"

Contributor Arthur St. Antoine said, "I got into this business for the chance to drive cars like this. Good Gawd, what a glorious feat of engineering art. Everything I loved about such forebears as the 458 and the 488 has been honed, refined, polished, muscled-up, and sharpened in the F8."

"Possibly the best-driving car I've ever experienced," said social media editor Billy Rehbock.

Digital editor Ed Tahaney reported, "St. Antoine said before I drove it, 'You'll be ruined forever.' After a four-second blast behind the wheel, yes, I was."

All of that verbal orgasming is just for starters, too. The F8 Tributo's styling is exceptional, the best-looking mid-engine Ferrari since the much-loved 458 Italia of a decade ago; it combines the best elements of its dear old grandpa's (yes, Ferraris effectively age in dog years) looks with better aerodynamics, mechanical functionality, and purpose, but with beauty we never saw in the 488 GTB. It manages to pull-off the rare stylistic/engineering feat of taking a step ahead by going back in time to some traditional Ferrari elements: From the slotted, F40-like Lexan rear window to the return to a quartet of round taillights, there's just the right amount of retro mixed in with state-of-the-art effectiveness to result in a racetrack- and road-shredding car that loses nothing in the way of romanticism. That alone is an exceptional accomplishment.

What else? You can randomly choose any of the F8 Tributo's details and have a field day of automotive dorking out. Take the seats, which are in this case, granted, the $9,112 optional carbon fiber "racing" seats. But perhaps only Porsche does seats as well as Ferrari. Despite being a competition-style bucket, these saddles are exceptionally supportive without being restrictive or too firm for long trips. And is there anything cooler than a Ferrari steering wheel with shift lights embedded into the rim? Watching the lights trip from red to blue before you pull the upshift paddle at an evil-grin-inducing 8,000 rpm makes it easy to feel a connection to Ferrari's Formula 1 and GT racing programs—and that's monstrously important, more so than for any other carmaker. The fact is, when you buy a modern Ferrari you don't just buy a billboard flaunting your financial success or merely a powerful engine and a chassis riding around town on four wheels and tires; you buy an experience. And if you're not affected by that sort of thing, you've wasted your money and should have bought something else that doesn't charge an exorbitant premium for the privilege.

Make no mistake: with your foot down and the world outside seemingly on fire, the F8 Tributo piles experience on top of experience. It's true, the 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8 lacks the operatic scream of the old normally aspirated 458 engine, but the presence of 710 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque help you get over that legacy-influenced disappointment relatively quickly. The engine feels as though it will never run out of pull, and you start to have bad thoughts about trying to reach the claimed 211-mph top speed on every open stretch of highway, just because it feels so achievable.

Still, the raw, explosive power only tells half of the story. As Pilgrim noted, the F8's steering is an achievement in itself, so direct and organic that even representatives of another mid-engine sports-car maker that was part of All-Stars testing marveled at it in envy. Unlike some past Ferraris, it's not twitchy yet it still feels Exacto-sharp, and if you want it to twitch the rear end to help you rotate the chassis into corners, it's happy to oblige.

We dare say Ferrari has discovered an unrivaled-at-any-price ride/handling supercar balance between blistering performance and everyday livability that sets a new bar. The Tributo never beats you up and never meets a corner it can't time-warp through, with Ferrari's immaculate Side Slip Control stability-control algorithm allowing for easily controllable and maintainable drifts that have everyone watching it from pit lane wondering when Charles Leclerc snuck into the cockpit for a few laps.

"The performance will rearrange the folds of your brain so that you'll never look at cars the same way again," St. Antoine said. "I can find not a thing wrong with this magnificent sporting machine—except, of course, that the keys don't go home with me."

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Contributor Basem Wasef observed, "Every Ferrari stands out from the crowd, but the F8 proves itself extra special. It's a remarkably honed and involving drive, balancing the fierceness of its capability with an ease and intuitiveness to its demeanor."

Features editor Rory Jurnecka concluded, "The F8 is magical in the way it feels so light; it's nimble but also comfortable. It sucks up on-track bumps like none of the other super sports cars here do. Rapid-fire shifts, excellent soundtrack, perfect driving position, easy to slide around. If I could take one car home with me, it would be the F8. Say what you will about the turbos, the ever-increasing electronic aids, and the volume production Ferrari is headed for—Maranello is still churning out incredibly special cars that are utterly unique in the way they drive."

Put another way: This is one All-Star we'll never forget, regardless of its price or place of origin.

2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo Specifications
PRICE $275,580 (base)/$436,709 (as tested)
ENGINE 3.9L DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo 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 coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/19 mpg (city/hwy)
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

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