Journal: The New Ferrari 488 Pista And Lotus 3-Eleven 430 Show Two Different Futures For Sports Cars

The New Ferrari 488 Pista And Lotus 3-Eleven 430 Show Two Different Futures For Sports Cars

By Alex Sobran
February 21, 2018

Yesterday Lotus announced another new car, and today Ferrari gave some official details about its latest, too. They’re called the 3-Eleven 430 and the 488 Pista, and though neither are wholly new vehicles, they do a fine job of representing two different directions manufacturers are taking sports cars these days. And these days it’s kind of hard to call them sports cars isn’t it? When they all seem to trounce the last generation’s dubbed supercars these labels lose some sense.

The names of the cars themselves are quite different, with Ferrari going the route of evocative words (pista meaning “track” in I’ll let you guess which language), and Lotus opting instead for something code-like in its string of numbers. They aren’t meaningless though, and 430 accords with the power made from the supercharged V6 in this newest 3-Eleven. It’s an engine that Lotus has leveraged quite a bit lately, with it appearing most recently in the Exige Cup 430—another very-new Lotus—which itself borrowed the V6 from the Evora GT430 that came just prior.

The shiny red cars pictured here both define company firsts—the Ferrari houses the company’s most powerful V8 to-date (711hp from the 3.9-liter twin-turbo), and the Lotus is the fastest thing the company’s ever built that’s still street-legal—but they are more about refinement than revolution despite these impressive claims. They go about solving the “problem” of enhancing the sports driving experience very differently though. Ferrari’s approach involves cramming all manner of cutting-edge and motorsport technologies into their current mid-engined V8 platform, upping the power considerably, and introducing such complexities as the “Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer,” which uses new company software to adjust brake caliper pressures. Presumably in ways that your traditional foot-and-pedal pairing never could?

The Lotus on the other hand hasn’t really changed much. It was radical to begin with, and the latest 3-Eleven variant is more or less the same car as it was last time, or as similar as you can get with a different motor, some new wings, and a better braking and traction control system. It produces almost 100 pounds of additional downforce compared to the last 3-Eleven, for a reading of 584 pounds of it at 180mph—and it will get to that speed if there’s room. It weighs just 2,028lbs, does the 0-60 in 3.1, and it’s currently the fastest car Lotus has sent around their test track to boot. In other words, it performs like the steroidal go-kart it looks like. You will be able to buy them in the US for track-only duties if you’re wondering, and the ever-lucky Europeans will have the chance to drive this on whichever public roads they please. 430hp and 325lb-ft sound like a fun combination with just one ton to move. 

The Lotus won’t be inexpensive once the final price is announced (estimated around $140,000 before options), but it’s got no doors, no roof, no windshield, not much at all in the way of amenities, and a Toyota-sourced V6 that’s being passed around the rest of the model year lineup, so it’s going to be much cheaper than the Ferrari 488 Pista, as if that needed saying. To clarify the “fastest-ever” title of the Lotus before we leave it alone, it should be noted that the previous supercharged Toyota V6 in race-spec in the old 3-Eleven made more power in the past (460), but not as much as this new one in road-going trim. The 430 will be the end of the 3-Eleven before it is presumably replaced by something else very similar, and only 20 will be sold.

Getting back to the the relationship between street and track, that’s a good entry to the latest Ferrari in the marque’s V8-engined special series (cars like the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia, and most recently the 458 Speciale), because the changes made to the 488 GTB to yield this, the 488 Pista, are mostly derived from the company’s experience in GT racing. The aerodynamic update to the front end for instance, is directly derived from the 488 GTE competition cars that run at Le Mans. I’m positive I wouldn’t be the one to tell you I felt a difference driving with the new nose versus the old one, but I can say it looks pretty slick with all that negative space behind the angular leading edge. The new ducting in the air dam is part of an revised aerodynamic package that includes the scalloped rear wing (it’s certainly refreshing to see a track-based car without a massive bolt-on wing) and GTE-based diffusers.

Whereas the Lotus delivers advancement through tweaking tilt angles and the like too, the Ferrari’s centerpiece is its engine. Adding 50 prancing horses to the 488 GTB’s herd, this is Ferrari’s highest-output V8 yet, with the hunk of Maranello muscle making 720CV—right about 711 horsepower. Like all modern sports-focused forced induction motors, there is still plenty of push in the low range, too. I obviously haven’t driven it to confirm that empirically, but 568lb-ft of torque makes it probably true, right?

The engine also weighs less thanks to some “solutions adopted from the 488 Challenge,” and the overall car comes in at just 2,822lbs. That’s the weight without fluids, but it’s still a savings of 200lbs compared to the GTB starting point. All of this manifests in some pretty staggering acceleration and speed figures—though maybe sub-3-seconds is the norm nowadays. The Pista will get to 62mph in just 2.85 seconds, and to 124 in just 7.6. The top speed is listed in excess of 211. This combined with the aforementioned aero kit which provides a claimed 20% increase in downforce over the GTB will make this a very serious track-day performer, and though many of those who can afford one won’t be able to wring it out to the proper limits, Ferrari’s stated objective in regards to the “vehicle dynamics” of the Pista “was to make the car’s performance on the limit easier to reach and control.” Is that the latest frontier in the world of speed: to not only stretch the limits, but open up easier ways to reach them?

I doubt anyone reading this could walk away from either car without a smile, but they are targeting different audiences even if their functions are very similar. One is augmented by hundreds of thousands of lines of programming code, while the other looks toward refining a tested formula that’s been their backbone for decades—so, which would you choose?

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5 years ago

You can’t drive a Lotus on the road but you can buy an assault rifle. Way to go US of A

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford
5 years ago
Reply to  Vittorio

LMFAO. Two thumbs up, DD!

5 years ago

What both these cars have in common is lighter weight, and thats a great future for any sportscar. They also have Trackability in common.

Fact is to really use and wring out any modern you need to go tot eh track because roads are crowded, rules are tight and modern performance lvels are so high. So sportscars are fun to drive at more moderate speeds on road, but most are actualy pretty bland at road attainable speeds.

I would take the Ferrari for the road simply because running costs on track would be prohibitive, and the Lotus for the track. Even then the Lotus is going to cost $1500per day in consumables to run.

Budget unlimited I would have the ferrari for both, but then a Mclaren Senna would be better still.

Realisticaly its Lotus all the way.

Just think in 5 years maybe we’ll see a 2200lbs 500hp lotus.

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
5 years ago

If these two track day fantasy travesties posing as sports cars are the supposed future of sports cars then its about time we all grow up and face the simple fact that sports cars have no viable future what so ever .

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
5 years ago
Reply to  Franz Kafka

Hi GS. You just never give up!