2020 Ferrari F8 Spider Review: Mastery of the Form in a 710-HP Droptop Rocket
Tuned Supras on Pacific Coast Highway beware—Ferrari's new mid-engine spider is faster than you.
Of the many lines from 2001's The Fast and the Furious that've become staple meme material, it's hard to top the ubiquity of "More than you can afford, pal." You can picture the scene now: The orange-tinted stage of Pacific Coast Highway. The balding, sneering Ferrari driver. The icy confidence of Brian O’Conner. And the absolute curb-stomping his salvage tuner Toyota Supra dishes out to the Italian exotic after those six fateful words are spoken.
Everyone loves to clown on a shallow dope with more money than skill behind the wheel. But that’s not the only reason why the quote's achieved pop-culture immortality—it also has a lot to do with producers’ decision to pit the tuner Toyota against a stock 1995 Ferrari F355 Spider as a show of speed. A mid-engine car from Maranello is a useful shorthand like that. Then, as now, the audience was conditioned to see it and think one thing: That’s a fast car. And it’s still not faster than the Supra. Wow.
Thing is, if you know cars, and I presume you do, you know the whole thing was a gimme. The Ferrari F355 Spider had a zero to 60 mph time of 4.3 seconds. Meanwhile, Dom and Brian built the Supra into a 10-second quarter-mile car—and a 10-second car clips 60 mph a hell of a lot quicker than 4.3 seconds. Not really the underdog win it seemed, but progress is a funny thing. Twenty-plus years ago, you needed the limit-pushing aftermarket (or a legitimate hypercar) for that kind of acceleration. That's not true anymore.
In fact, if the movie were remade today with the same race between those cars' contemporaries—a tuned A90 Toyota Supra and the 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider—the latter would simply destroy the former. It is that quick out of the box. There'd be no crucial character development scene, no cultural touchstone, no billion-dollar franchise.
Today, Ferrari isn't turning out hot-and-bothered exotics with a bit more show than go. Instead, it's built what can rightly be called the final form for the classic mid-engine, rear-drive performance car in the F8.
The 2020 Ferrari F8 Spider, By the Numbers
- Base Price (as Tested): $302,500 ($396,994)
- Powertrain: 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 | 7-speed dual-clutch transmission | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 710 hp @ 8,000 rpm
- Torque: 568 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
- 0-60 mph: 2.8 seconds
- Top Speed: 211 mph
- Dry Weight: 3,086 pounds
- Quick Take: The F8 Spider is Ferrari at the top of its game.
Ferrari's Droptop V8 Tribute
That famous scene from the first F&F film was also on my mind because I inadvertently recreated part of it myself with the F8 Spider. Anyone who's driven a convertible with the top down knows how it doubles as a sign reading "Please talk to me in traffic"—that's extra true when the convertible in question is a $300,000 Giallo Modena Ferrari on a road like California's PCH. After a spirited few hours in the canyons above the Malibu coast, I hadn't been down on the main drag for more than 20 minutes before a clapped-out Lexus GS rolled up next to me at a stoplight. "Wanna race?" the guy hollered.
Unfortunately for his Paul Walker fantasies, I did not. Better for his ego, anyway, because the F154 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 powering the F8 Spider and its Tributo coupe counterpart isn't to be trifled with. It comes via the track-oriented 488 Pista, with titanium innards and exhaust manifolds sourced from the 488 Challenge race car, making 710 horsepower at the 8,000 rpm redline and 568 lb-ft of torque around 3,250 revs.
There's little shame in mostly carrying over an engine this strong to the new car, especially when Ferrari's maintained its power output despite the addition of a new stringent EU gasoline particulate filter.
The company promised no turbo lag from the twins, and while there's a smidge of it at low speeds, a reprogramming of the Ferrari Variable Torque Management and the classic inertia-free character of a Ferrari crank make up for it wholly. The V8 is a dynamo, pushing the convertible to 60 mph in a frightening 2.8 seconds and up to a top speed of 211 mph, and its broad 4,500+ rpm powerband means there's an absurd amount of potential energy under your right foot even in sixth gear. And those numbers don't come at the expense of usability—around town, it's smooth and easygoing provided you don't accidentally leave the tiller-mounted Manettino dial in Race mode.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox comes from the specialists at Getrag, and it's stellar. Using the paddle shifters is exactly the hair-trigger experience you're looking for, and the way the shifts playfully ripple the otherwise glass-smooth power delivery reminds you that for all the talk of manuals being more engaging, Ferrari still knows how to connect driver and engine like few others.
Its duality shines in automatic mode, where it's equally happy zipping up to seventh gear by 35 mph around town and nailing pre-corner downshifts so effectively you'd swear it can see into the future.
Also important—there's no mild-hybrid this or electrified that with the F8 Spider, at least not today. Given Ferrari's usual 5-7 year model lifecycle, what are the chances that'll stay true for whatever comes next in 2025? Extremely slim, I'd say. Electrified Ferraris are happening. Enjoy the thoroughbreds while you can.
Sharp Edges, Classic Form
At first, the styling of the F8 Tributo and Spider comes across as a gradual evolution of the template first set by the Ferrari 458 in 2009. And it is, but that simplification masks just how good the F8 Spider looks from most angles. You might disagree, but take a look at both cars below:
Honestly, it looks like the 458 hasn't finished loading yet. The broad contours are the same—there's only so much differentiation when you're shrink wrapping a body to a chassis, but it's blocky and unrefined next to the precise aerodynamic work splashed across the F8's sheet metal. The front is alluring and mean, dominated by the giant S-duct in the nose and bookended with a crisper headlight design.
But the F8's best side is its...side, top-down, which shows off the kind of flowing, emotional curves you thought Ferrari had abandoned in pursuit of the lowest drag coefficient possible. It looks like a drawn bow, the wide, taller rear end tapering down to the point of the arrow at the front.
The kinetic design only falls a little flat from the back, where Ferrari doesn't quite match the mechanized drama of, say, a Mclaren 720S, nor does it have the casual cohesiveness of a Lamborghini Huracan. The way the engine cover rises to meet the rear spoiler with an impression of the Formula 1 swan neck mount is a neat touch, and I'll forever love how four round Ferrari taillights pierce the darkness, but the F8 spider definitely looks better coming than going.
The hardtop opens and closes in 14 seconds (and at speeds up to 28 mph), and its dramatic dance is sure to impress anyone in traffic who's not driving a clapped out Lexus. And like most convertibles, the F8 Spider looks and feels like it's supposed to be driven with the top down.
You could keep it up most of the time and live your life as if you owned an F8 Tributo coupe (the Spider only gains around 150 pounds, and it's a Ferrari, so it's not like you're sacrificing much performance), but then you'd be missing out on the car in its element. The aero tricks Ferrari employed to make conversation possible between occupants at 80 mph with the top down is worth experiencing, anyway.
Inside, it's more near perfection. When I drove the 812 Superfast earlier this year, I found the spartan interior a bit out of sync with the grand touring character of the car. It certainly didn't offend, but neither did it wow like slipping into a $450,000+ car should. Here, the same dashboard styling elements are remixed and reused in a presentation that feels more appropriately focused around the driver without being claustrophobic at all.
Moreover, the entire motif Ferrari's running with right now—clean lines, rounded corners, unafraid of circles—works better with the more flamboyant nature of a mid-engine convertible than a classic GT. It's enough of a perceived improvement that I didn't mind having to use Ferrari's ancient, two-knob/two-screen infotainment system. Apple CarPlay helped a lot, though (a $4,200 option, one of over $30,000 in interior extras alone).
And while I don't think I'd ever pick blue leather myself, I have to admit it's a sharp contrast with the yellow metal.
Ferrari F8 Spider: The Drive
Between the F8 Spider's aluminum chassis and the optional $6,200 forged wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires is a double-wishbone suspension with magnetorheological dampers. Bolstered by a raft of software—including a new version of fine drift control called Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer Plus that's still active in nannies-off Race mode—it's a dreamy setup that makes heroes out of average drivers like myself. I was most impressed with the stability I felt putting 700+ horsepower to work in a curve. If you think all that matters is power, try to keep up in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat. That should be interesting.
Even in a straight line, though, the F8 Spider walks away from almost any challenger (or Challenger). Back up to the hypothetical new Ferrari-Supra race on PCH. Ferrari doesn't give out quarter-mile times for its cars, because it's got better things to do, but from the stated 8.2-second 0-124 mph time we can fairly extrapolate a 10.2 or 10.3-second run. Repeatable, because it's got launch control. This from a car that can waltz around fancy neighborhoods without being a nuisance. On the other side, we've only seen one tuned A90 Supra beat that mark so far, and it needed drag radials, nitrous, race fuel, and a treated strip to get there.
Explosive mid-range acceleration is the hallmark of the turbocharged Ferrari era, and as I mentioned before, there's so much fun to be had in gears 3-6 on a good road. It rewards a smooth foot and a sure hand with a hypnotic dance from corner to corner that keeps you in thrall until your breathing begins to match the flow of the road. It's a beautiful time. There is but a single fault in its driving dynamics—Ferrari can seek perfection in every conceivable facet of a car, but an aluminum convertible chassis will never be as stiff as a carbon-fiber tub. You feel it in the bad corners, where small undulations can send a shiver through the car.
Is that enough to knock the F8 Spider overall? Not in the slightest, because after the first time you learn that the bump isn't actually unsettling the car. The steering weight is surprisingly, delightfully heavy, and the carbon-ceramic brakes are incredibly strong without feeling overboosted. You really need to jump on them as a result, but that's just another element that pulls you into the experience of driving.
Ferrari is playing for keeps at the moment, throwing absolutely everything it has at its various street cars in the sunset of the internal combustion era. It's like the company is determined to honor Enzo Ferrari with one last batch of machines built around the idea that the engine is still king. Just as I posited the 812 Superfast is Ferrari's front-engine GT car perfected, this is its mid-rear sports car perfected. How much quicker can it get? How much sharper can it turn? I don't know, nor do I care. I just know that what I had before me was sublime.
Except, ironically, in one regard: the exhaust. Even with an optional $2,500 titanium pipes bolted on, the F8 Spider's newfangled particulate filter muffles its song more than turbochargers alone could ever do. It hits the right notes at first, a strong, round tenor that gets a little lost in a whirring overtone as revs increase. The car's power band encourages you to run every gear to the 8,000-rpm redline, but the exhaust note's character tops out short of that and just gets louder in the final few thousand revs.
And from the inside with the top down, it's too quiet. You shouldn't buy a Ferrari for the noise, but if it's a top concern, know that the F8 Spider won't deliver the sonic peaks you might be expecting.
It Is In Fact More Than You Can Afford, Pal
The funny thing is that as tested, the Ferrari F8 Spider is definitely more than you can afford, pal. $396,000 is more than 99 percent of people on the planet can afford to drop on a car. Now, the question of overall value is frankly a pretty stupid one when we're talking about supercars of this strata. Is it a negative that it starts at $302,500 after destination? Only if you think it's a negative that any car can be that expensive, in which case I'm not sure what you're still doing here. Ferrari's made a premium product, it's charging a premium price, and so far its clientele is happy to keep paying it.
Let's move onto the more relevant issue—that the 812 Superfast starts at $335,000, and in my mind, it's so much more car for the money. (And consider yourself very fortunate if you ever face such a choice.) That V12 is the pinnacle of what made Ferrari a 20th-century icon, the exhaust sounds phenomenal, and the GT packaging is more usable. The front-engine 812 handles a differently from the mid-rear F8, of course, but both cars are so ridiculously easy to drive that the real-world (and even canyon road) difference comes down to personal preference. Even if you desperately need a convertible, the 812 GTS starts at $380,000.
I know which one I'd grab if I had the cash. I also know something as swappable as an exhaust absolutely should not stop you from chasing a car if it's your dream, as Ferraris often are. There'll always be something magnetic about a mid-engine Ferrari droptop, the way it commands attention from lovers and haters alike.
But a word of advice to any budding street racers stalking PCH for an easy mark: steer clear of the F8 Spider.
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Correction: Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 1:34 am ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the F8's transmission was built by Graziano. It is supplied by Getrag. The last Ferrari to use a Graziano gearbox was the Ferrari California in 2008. The Drive regrets the error.