Let’s talk about 2018. Sure, Ferrari’s 70th anniversary in 2017 brought us plenty of 70-year liveries and a slew of global events that had collectors crisscrossing the world. But from the standpoint of design, 2018 was a banner year and one of the most interesting since Flavio Manzoni took the helm of Ferrari Centro Stile in 2010.
The 488 Pista
It may ruffle some feathers when I say that I’m not the biggest fan of the 488 GTB. It debuted in 2015 and is still the latest in Ferrari’s mid-engine V8 product line. The natural expectation is that each successor is a significant improvement. The 488 may well perform better than the 458, but I don’t see it as a leap forward for design – more of a lateral step. The 458 and its Speciale version were extraordinary cars.
I think this has happened before. When the F355 gave way to the 360 Modena, it transitioned Ferrari out of the ‘90s and introduced a strong new design vocabulary – the glass engine cover, ergonomic interiors, softer and more sculpted curves. The 360’s successor, the F430, had high door sills, a bulky backside and seemed lacking in aerodynamics. So, when the 458 came to replace it, it felt like such a leap forward; its low-profile mix of sharp angles and wind-swept curves from Donato Coco at Pininfarina looked cut from ice.
The 488 came along after the 458’s long and successful run, but for me it wasn’t enough of a leap forward – more like a gentle iteration that seemed to suffer from some of the problems I saw in the 430. There’s just something odd about it.
However, my mercurial design preferences were entirely satisfied this year with the unveiling of the new 488 Pista.
The Pista is stunning. It looks brutal from every angle, especially that Sicilian necktie on its hood. That 488’s front end, which looks like a wide-mouthed bass, is now sharper and filled with a downforce wing and screen work, and the middle is neatly pinched closed. Some of bulk and height is also offset by body accents. The back end is wide and ferocious, and both the hardtop and spider versions are some of Ferrari’s most beautiful design work in years.
To me, the most exciting Ferrari design development in 2018 was the introduction of Icona – a new series of special, limited-edition cars aimed at top-tier collectors. Last month, I dove deep into the design of its flagship project, the Monza, a retro-futurist barchetta available in both one- and two-seat editions – Monza SP1 and SP2, respectively.
I think the Monza is easily their most exciting designs in years and a startling addition to the bloodline. Manzoni’s team set out to design a chassis that appears drawn with a single pen stroke. The Monza features soft, curving lines from end to end; even the custom five-spoke wheels look like sand dunes carved by desert winds.
And what better place to unveil the Monza than the new Ferrari Centro Stile building? This iconic structure was designed by none other than Flavio Manzoni himself in partnership with London studio Design International.
I was never in love with the Ferrari California; it’s all bubbly and a bit too comfortable. When it debuted in 2008, it became the softest Ferrari since the Mondial. The California T was a welcome update, with sharper lines and a more powerful engine, but a decade after the first Cali hit the road, Ferrari finally launched a new and improved 2+2 hardtop convertible – the Portofino.
I find this car much more inspiring than its predecessor. It cuts a tougher silhouette, with bodywork that thrusts forward and downward, whereas the California came across as neutral, almost sitting back on its haunches. I still wish the Portofino’s backend wasn’t so bulky, but I guess the convertible hardtop needs to go somewhere.
That $48 million 250 GTO
And finally, let’s not forget the sale that reminded the world that Ferrari is still its most valuable heritage auto marque. When Dr. Greg Whitten of Microsoft decided to part ways with his 1962 250 GTO, it sold at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction for a staggering $48.4 million – a new world record.
(By the way, that means the car is worth than its weight in gold. Someone did the math.)
What’s next for 2019?
What do you think is in store for Ferrari in the coming year? Will we get an update to the 488? Will the long-rumored Ferrari SUV debut in Geneva? Will they bring back the Dino and finally give the world an “entry-level” Ferrari?