DUBAI: I’ve had a thing about Spiders — the car model, rather than the eight-legged variety — ever since Dustin Hoffman drove off into the sunset with Katharine Ross in the movie “The Graduate,” but at last I’ve had the chance to drive the real thing.
The Ferrari F8 Spider is a vastly different car from the one all those years back in the movie, but a few hours behind the wheel shows exactly why Dustin got his girl. The Ferrari F8 is just about the most exciting Italian super-sports car on wheels (although I must admit I have not yet tried the new “Aperta” version of the v-12, which has just been unveiled in Italy.)
Why Spider? The term goes back to horse-and-carriage days — it was a type of carriage with a small body and large spoked wheels that had a distinctly arachnid look. But Ferrari has laid claim to the design by offering virtually all its models in “Spider” version — an open top sports car that allows you to feel the wind and sun on your face as you go through the exhilarating Ferrari driving experience.
The technology has certainly moved on. The Graduate Spider had a quaint hand wind-down canopy. In the F8, the roof slides back silently and electronically in a few seconds, a feat you can accomplish at the touch of a rooftop button and while traveling at speeds up to 45kph. One pedestrian stood jaw-dropped in amazement as I did this on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai, probably expecting the roof to fly off in the jet stream.
But everyone stares at a Ferrari. The pizzazz factor is extreme, and the sleek but powerful lines of the F8 certainly draw the stares. If you like to be made a fuss of on five-star hotel forecourts, this is the car for you.
Equally, if you like neck-jerking acceleration and a roaring exhaust, this is your car. The 3.9-liter V8 twin turbo engine does 0-100kph in a scary 2.9 seconds and can reach a top speed of nearly 340kph.
Even at lower speeds, the experience is absolutely exhilarating, especially inside the Ferrari “cockpit” with the sensation of being strapped to a fighter jet. The car responds to each touch of a pedal or flick of a switch with an instant and frightening surge in power.
The acceleration in the F8 Spider is truly awesome, and even a bit frightening, especially with the top down. Flick the drive mode selector into “race” and you could be on the test track at Marinello in Italy.
I got the distinct impression at one stage of my test drive — when I gunned it as fast as I dared — that the car was about to lift off front-first from Sheikh Zayed Road, but of course that is an impossibility. The sleek aerodynamics and incredible road-holding, steering and braking technology leave you in control of the car even at eye-ball popping acceleration. Racing out of a sharp bend with the tires squealing and G-forces mounting is a real thrill.
Ferraris are supposed to be red, of course, but the one I drove was a classy golden brown, which I thought contrasted better with the yellow “prancing horse” badge. Even more potential for head-turning.
And now, the bad news. The Ferrari F8 Spider will cost in the region of 1 million dirhams ($270,000) for starters, and extras and customization will add to that. But if you want an iconic piece of high technology supercar with all the heritage of the prancing horse, you might think of it as a bargain.