Your heart may yearn for the twin-turbo V8 power of the 488, but your wallet will thank you later
New car buyers may dream about their next vehicle. Their pockets, though, may not be deep enough to snag their first choice. At the same time, there’s never been so much variety in the market, with new technologies and global markets allowing automakers to offer much more car for much less dough.
For example, if you’ve been lusting for a two-seat, mid-engine sports car from Italy, none are more emotional or leading edge than the newest Ferrari, the 2016 488 GTB. But if you don’t have enough room in your budget for one of the famed stallions from Maranello, we think you should go get a 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, a fantastic low-budget Ferrari alternative:
WANT THIS: 2016 Ferrari 488 GTB
Lust, greed, pride and envy — the new Ferrari 488 GTB ticks off the majority of the Seven Deadly Sins, making it one of the most desirable new cars of 2016. And even though we expect its price to be well north of $275,000 when it goes on sale this fall, the latest in a long line of mid-engine V8 Ferraris — starting with the 1975 308 GTB (a.k.a. the Magnum P.I. car) — seems to be worth every lira of its asking price.
An evolution of Ferrari’s best-selling 458 Italia it replaces, the 488 GTB comes as a result of the Italian supercar maker wanting more, as in more power, performance and thrills.
Want a Ferrari 488 GTB? Get an Alfa Romeo 4C instead | Driving
Named for the number of cubic inches each of its eight-cylinders displaces (in truth, its 487.7 cu. in.) the 488’s V8 shrinks in size from the 458’s 4.5-litres to 3.9. But with a pair of turbochargers added, horsepower goes up by 99 to 661 and torque increases by 163 pound-feet to 561.
With this much Italian power on tap, you’ll need/want a robust gearbox. So the 488 GTB only comes with a dual-clutch seven-speed auto, allowing the two-seater to go from rest to 100 kilometres per hour in around three seconds. Top track speed should be in the 330 km/hr range.
Of course, the upgrades in the Ferrari’s engine department have resulted in even more cornering prowess, too. The 488 GTB comes standard with a new version of Ferrari’s stability control system, said to deliver even sharper handling without sacrificing ride quality.
As much as resurrecting the famous GTB moniker conjures up memories of great-driving Ferraris from the past, the new 488’s interior has also gone a bit retro. There’s more leather than before, and the GTB’s wide, flat dash panel creates a unique flat floor.
But really, who’s spending a quarter of a mill for an interior? As is the case with every Ferrari, it really is all about the 488 GTB’s engine. And now with the addition of two turbos behind the driver’s neck, you’ll be more intimate than ever when tickling the new V8’s 8,000 rpm redline.
As Driving’s David Booth said of the latest Ferrari two-seater, “Loud, brazen, occasionally bullying and always insistent, the sound of a Ferrari 458 is music to a gear head’s ears.”
Alternative pick: Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4, estimated price of $263,000
GET THIS INSTEAD: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
If your accountant can sign-off on the purchase of a new Ferrari, a less exotic sports car, like the Alfa Romeo 4C, is likely not on your new car shopping list. But for buyers who can’t afford the 488 GTB’s $275,000-plus asking price (or an accountant, for that matter), we think the Alfa Romeo at less than one-third the price makes for a great alternative to the Italian stallion.
In many ways, Alfa’s $78,495 rear-wheel-drive, mid-engine, two-seat sports car is as drenched in state-of-the-art hardware as the two-seat sports car from its Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sister brand.
For starters, like the Ferrari (and other exotics from Lamborghini and McLaren) the 4C is supported by a carbon-fibre-composite chassis tub. And although it can’t match the 488 GTB V8’s prodigious output, the 4C’s exotic aluminum rear structure houses a turbocharged and direct injected 1.7L aluminum-block four-cylinder that makes 237 hp and 258 lb.-ft.
Also like the Ferrari, a dual-clutch automatic transmission (admittedly, with one less gear) is standard fare in the Alfa.
For the 4C, it’s all about a low power-to-weight ratio. All in, the two-seater weighs in at a feathery 1,118 kilograms. So while its turbo-four makes less oomph than Ferrari’s turbo-eight, and aided by a standard launch-control system, the Alfa is only about 1.5 seconds slower in the run up to 100 km/hr.
Beyond a straight line, like the Ferrari, the Alfa takes to a twisty road like an Italian opera singer to a plate of pasta.
“In simple terms, the Alfa Romeo 4C is an out-and-out sports car in every sense — it is edgy, which makes it a delightful throwback to an era when the driver was in control,” said Driving’s Graeme Fletcher.
With unassisted steering and tenacious grip, the inherent agility from the 4C’s mid-engine auto can be readily accessed. And unlike the ferocious Ferrari, the Alfa should be more fun for drivers who don’t posses a Formula One driver’s super license.
For Italian sports car buyers on a budget, the Alfa Romeo 4C is a practical dream come true.
Alternative pick: Porsche Cayman S, $73,100