What do the Lexus LFA, Pagani Zonda and Mercedes SLS AMG have in common (apart from all being absolutely fantastic)? The answer lies in each of their engines. Each very different, but sharing one quintessential characteristic which undoubtedly gives them their undeniable soul – they’re all naturally aspirated. Not one turbocharger in sight. The result being 3 engines which sound like nothing else on this planet. Today, the landscape of engine design has changed radically. Budgie-smuggler-tight emission regulations have forced sports car makers, such as Porsche, who are renowned for their naturally aspirated engines, to conform to turbocharging their engines just in the bid to please the euro-emission pirates.
However, Ferrari is one manufacturer who hasn’t quite bowed down to the will of the ‘turbo’, seeming to be on the fence, releasing their fair share of turbocharged and naturally aspirated supercars. The 488 GTB and the F12 TDF are two such cars, with the 488 GTB housing a 3.9 litre twin-turbocharged V8 and the F12 TDF possessing a 6.3 litre naturally aspirated V12. Which way should the industry sway?
Let’s cut to the chase, nothing- nothing sounds like the F12 TDF at full chat. Beginning as a low grunt which then erupts into something more like a battle cry as the engine tries to rip itself free from its restraints. It is, in short, an epic, experience; one that the 488 GTB, with all its technological wizardry cannot hope to replicate.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s an ugly note, no, Ferrari went through many a pain to ensure that its first ‘charged supercar since the legendary F40 sounded and responded as well as possible- and it shows. With a throttle response of 0.8 seconds the 488 is anything but lethargic. Its redline of 8000 RPM is also notable. However, the 488’s engine most notable feat is what it produces. According to Ferrari, the 488 GTB manages to generate 492 kw and 760Nm of torque. 760?! That’s 40 percent more than its magnificent predecessor (the 458). In fact, that’s 8% more than even the TDF's unit can produce. So is it faster?
The 488 GTB and the F12 TDF are two very different styles of supercars. The most obvious difference in the layout of the cars being the position of their engines. The 488’s is housed in the middle of the car, while the TDF’s is found in the front. Despite this however, their performance numbers are incredibly similar. 0-100km/h is dispatched by both in 3 seconds dead. With the rush to 200km/h also being incredibly close- 7.9 seconds for the TDF and 8.3 for the 488.
Now it’s worth noting that the TDF is designed to be the ‘top dog’ in the Ferrari hierarchy (besides the LaFerrari that is), so it's been produced to be the fastest. That the 488 can run it so close despite costing $339,000 less (the TDF costs $808,888 while the 488 is $406,888) just shows how effective turbos are at boosting performance. It’s also worth noting the 488’s superior fuel consumption at 11.4l/100km while the TDF manages a figure closely related to that of a cruise liner -15.4l/100km.
This post wasn’t supposed to be about the handling or style. It was dedicated to assessing the allure of two magnificent engines and their performance. To distinguish which one is best suited to Ferrari as a company. That engine, is the TDF's primeval, naturally aspirated, 6.3 litre V12. Yes, the 488’s twin-turbo V8 offers the most ‘bang for your buck’ providing 95% of the V12’s performance for half the price however, the TDF’s V12 just sounds more special. It’s the engine that leaves you shaking, swearing and buzzing with adrenaline- the one that will go down in the history books as one of the all-time greats, and for that, it wins.
Yet regardless of this, Defining Drives understands the pressure Ferrari faces to reduce CO2 emissions, pressure that renders the turbo engine almost inevitable. Yet, there is still hope. Hope that lies within the hybrid LaFerrari. Electric assisted petrol engines. The tech may still be slightly underdeveloped, with electric motors weighing a not-inconsiderable weight, however hybridised engines possess the potential to save the scintillating high-redline, naturally aspirated engine whilst cutting fuel consumption.
Natural aspiration is dead? Don’t bet on it.