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A Normal Schlub, A Dream Day With the 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo

What happens when you have control of someone else’s nearly $400,000 Ferrari?

Aaron GoldWriter, PhotographerJade NelsonPhotographer

When my bedroom was still located above my parents' garage, I used to read car magazines and dream of being one of those guys—superheroes with a job that involved people tossing them dream-car keys to use as their own.

Now I was one of those guys, and someone really was going to toss me the key to a 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo for 36 hours. And I was on the verge of soiling my trousers.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "What a wuss. If someone gave me a Ferrari for a day, I'd whip it like a rented mule until the moment they pried the key from my clenched fingers. And even then, they'd need solvent and a crowbar to get me out of the driver's seat." You say that now, but believe me, everything changes when someone hands you what is effectively a $366,000 bill too big to fit in your wallet and says "Keep an eye on this for a couple of days, willya?"

The 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo arrived late on a Monday evening, and I set off first thing Tuesday morning to get the driving over with. Or at least, I tried to set off early Tuesday morning. There is no way to leave quietly in an F8; its engine lights off with a wake-the-neighbors roar. But instead of being upset, everyone came out with wide eyes and massive smiles. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. You don't realize how many neighbors you have until you show up with a Ferrari. Everybody wants to see it and take selfies, and no matter how much you know about cars, there are things you don't know about the F8 you need to discover. Everybody wants to hear the engine rev. And you indulge them, because for most people, getting up close and personal with a Ferrari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Before I could take off for the day, I had to give my neighbors Bill and Neil a ride. They had allowed me to lock the F8 Tributo away in their garage for the night, and it was the least I could do. But giving someone a ride in a Ferrari isn't as straightforward as it sounds.

In a Bentley, it's easy: Circle the block while your passengers fill their lungs with leather fumes. Done. But a ride in a Ferrari has to have some element of thunder and lightning. You have to floor the accelerator a couple of times, and in the F8, that's a surefire, instant 70 mph—in a 35 zone. You have to turn at least one street corner without slowing down. You have to do this on a main thoroughfare, the ones the cops use, because driving this fast on residential streets is tantamount to homicidal intent. And when your passengers are a car-crazed couple, you have to do this twice, because the F8 only has one passenger seat. Catching the attention of the LAPD could turn this into the most expensive garage rental of my career, and one that I couldn't exactly sneak onto my expense report. Happily, I managed two trips over the thin blue line without any snags; thank goodness for this F8's stealthy gray paint.

Neighbors appeased, I hit the road. Destination unknown—I wanted to hit the curvy-curves in Malibu, but I also wanted to do some plain-old-everyday miles. We tested the 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo late last year at our annual Automobile All-Starsit won, you know—so I already had opportunity to run it hard on both the track and some challenging twisty roads. My assignment this time 'round was to talk about what the Tributo was like the rest of the time.

I hit the 101 freeway, figured out where the cruise control was and set it for 70, then called my parents. They generously funded my college education, so I like to give them regular reminders of what I got for their money. What I learned as we chatted—besides the fact that my mother disapproves of Ferraris that are not red—is that the 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo is the most civilized supercar I've ever driven.

I had been warming up the part of my brain that deals with adjectives and synonyms, having promised myself that when the time came to write up this F8 tale, I would summon a stream of superlatives so superior that Jeremy Clarkson himself would smolder with jealousy at my vocabulary and wit. My prose would be so purple that Jerry Fallwell would take offense. And yet here I was, driving the Ferrari and somehow coming up blank. Not because the F8 isn't amazing, but because it's so civil. Cruising along in the right lane, enjoying the scenery and yakking away on the speakerphone, I may as well have been in a Camry.

Not that the F8 is slow to respond—not at all. People in the 1950s used to tout power as safety, a brilliant bit of bullshit that everyone apparently bought. But it really is true in the F8. Potential trouble ahead? During All-Stars, as a group of us caravanned from one location to another, editor-in-chief Mac Morrison was cruising in the Ferrari along a highway in the far-right lane when a minivan a lane over unexplainedly began to drift directly toward him. The F8 was gone from harm's way before the van's right-side tires even crossed the lane line. Just jump on the gas, unleash the V-8's 710 horses, and blast your way through the gap while it still exists. Then hit resume on the cruise control and let serenity return.

You can drive the F8 extremely fast, but it doesn't need to be driven fast. And that is pretty fantastic. One of the reasons the Lamborghini Huracan Evo didn't win at All-Stars is that it has no "off" button. It's an amazing car, but it drives like it's on a cocaine binge—it never slows down and it never shuts up. The F8 carries a big stick, but it also speaks softly.

And thereby came the first epiphany of the day: I knew how good the F8 was when unleashed, but I never expected it to be this good on leash. Ferrari makes a dedicated grand tourer—it was an All-Star in 2019—but just as the 812 Superfast is also brilliant on the track, the track-star F8 is also brilliant on the open road.

I decided on my first stop: Simi Valley. Pandemic or not, I had to show the Ferrari off to my friends Dwane and Christy, social distancing protocols on guard, of course. They all but exploded from the house. They'd been locked down with a sullen pre-teen, and being in a Ferrari's presence seemed to be the nuclear-fueled bright spot of their week. Just as we were saying goodbye, my wife called: Since I was in the area, I should bring the Ferrari to my sister-in-law's. My niece summoned her car-fanatic friend Tyler, because he was having a lousy week and this would make him happy, and would I please wait for him? I was getting impatient for the curvy roads, but I couldn't say no. I let him hear the twin-turbo V-8 bark, and he was thrilled beyond belief.

And thence came epiphany No. 2: The 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo isn't just a car, it's a happiness generator. Driving around in it, I expected to feel the undercurrent of contempt and resentment I sometimes sense when driving high-dollar metal, but the F8 is a love machine—everyone who sees it comes away smiling. For me, driving it is part of my job (certainly one of the better parts). But for others, even the briefest encounter will become something they talk about for years.

Having fulfilled my obligations to humankind, I was free to head to the canyons where I could loosen up on the F8's reins. As I mentioned earlier, I'd already had the chance to drive an F8 as fast as I dared, and I didn't want to push that hard again—I'd heard the cops were out in force on these canyon roads, looking for people like me in cars like this. Besides, should it all go really, really wrong, a hospital was the last place I wanted to be.

So, I turned onto my favorite canyon road, flipped the F8's steering-wheel manettino switch to Race, and cracked opened the taps. I expected this to be an exercise in frustration. Most supercars don't like to be driven kinda-sorta fast; it's all-or-nothing. The F8, I should have known from my experience earlier in the day, is happy to drive however you want. Crank up the speed a little and it steps up in kind with more noise and sharpened responses. But it's perfectly happy at a canter, where I could relax, practice my cornering lines, and enjoy the car's brilliantly precise steering. Driving a Huracan Evo in the lower half of its limits feels like a waste of time, but the F8 is as enjoyable at 5/10ths as it is at bladder-bursting speeds.

Ironically, when you drive a Ferrari, everyone else wants you to go faster. I've been driving around Malibu for years, and it's inevitable that you will get stuck behind a driver oblivious to the concept of using turnouts. Pickup trucks and Priuses seem to be the worst offenders. But when a Ferrari shows up in their mirror, everyone pulls over. It's not like I was racing up their rear ends and flashing my brights at them, either—in most cases I wasn't driving a whole lot faster than they were. Still, for once, my fellow drivers couldn't get out of my way fast enough. Each time they pulled over, I'd give them a show, paddling down to second gear and blowing by with a friendly wave and a glorious trumpet blast of Ferrari exhaust, but as soon as I disappeared around the next corner, I'd slow down again.

Cruising the canyons, my third epiphany began to solidify: The F8 really is an everyday supercar. I've driven a handful of Ferraris, and while most were magical in some way (the exception being the 365 GTB/4, which was a bit of a disappointment; perhaps the example I drove was a dud), they were very different cars in and out of their sweet spots. The 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo is the first car built in Maranello I've driven that feels right all the time. All the thrills and delights of an Italian supercar are there to be found, but it's an enjoyable car the other 95 percent of the time. Aside from the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo S, I can't think of another supercar that would make such a good daily driver.

I headed home for a quick dinner, then my wife Robin and I took the F8 for a late-night run around the San Fernando Valley. I've been fiddling around with night photography on black-and-white film, and I stopped to pose the Ferrari in front of a burned-out, boarded-up, and graffitied-over restaurant a few blocks from my house. I'd spent so much time inside the Ferrari, I'd been missing out on of its best attributes: the styling. This is a car of near visual perfection. My photo leaves a bit to be desired, but I think it captures the curves and planes that make the F8 such a visual treat.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny. I'd vowed to limit my driving to one day, but that was before I realized what a tractable companion the F8 would be. I had two hours until the scheduled pick-up, and I just couldn't help myself. I fired the engine, eyes forward to provide plausible deniability for not stopping to chat with the neighbors. I took a quick run down to El Sereno to snap a few pics of the car in front of some of my favorite graffiti murals, photos not for public consumption but just for my own memories.

I made it home just before the flatbed arrived. (Most press-loan cars are picked up and delivered by a fleet of professional drivers, but Ferrari trucks its wares everywhere.) When it did, my neighbors and I watched glumly as the F8 was hoisted up and strapped down. I went inside before the truck pulled away. I'm not much good with goodbyes.

I didn't crash it. No one stole it. The $366,000 bill was once again safely in somebody else's pocket. I was relieved, but also hoping I won't look back on this as a squandered opportunity. When the 2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo arrived, I was eager for the time to pass quickly and without incident. Now I found myself wishing the time had passed a little slower. You never want the good dreams to end, do you?

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2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo Specifications
PRICE $275,580/$365,741 (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 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