A symphonic premiere

Stretching the legs of the Ferrari 488 Spider in its first drive on Australian soil.

By Jez Spinks 31/10/2016

Ferrari has been pulling sections of roof off its mid-engined V8s for nearly 40 years. The half-million-dollar 488 Spider, however, marks the first time that the experience has been as much about whooshing turbochargers as it is rushing air.

And arguably more pertinent to the Spider than its GTB hardtop twin is the effect of those titanium twin-scroll turbines on the 488’s aural experience.

PHOTOS: Thomas Wielecki

Open-top Ferraris are as much, if not more, about the driver being exposed to evocative engine noises as they are the elements.
Robb Report Australia, first to drive the new Spider locally, feels compelled to lower the roof immediately – especially as the weather gods have obliged with a sky coloured to match our 488’s optionally exclusive Blu Corsa double-layered paintwork.

While the 488 looks quite different in detail, if not silhouette, to its predecessor, the clever retractable roof is actually a carryover from the 458 Spider. In an elegant three-stage process, the two-piece roof performs a neat backflip into the space created by the rear hatch, which has first arched backwards before lowering to complete the operation in just 14 seconds.

As we descend the Illawarra Escarpment south of Sydney, taking the scenic route to Wollongong via the postcard-primed Sea Cliff Bridge, stretching the Spider’s legs reveals how the new, force-fed V8 doesn’t plateau quite like the atmospheric one it replaces.

The 3.9-litre – the size is no longer related to the model name – maxes at 8000rpm; impressively high for a turbo engine, though one-thousand revs shy of the 458’s shrieking 4.5-litre.With only relatively minor improvements in fuel economy (three per cent) and emissions (five per cent), plus a 45km reduction in theoretical range due to the 488’s slightly smaller fuel tank, it could beg the question of whether the sonic sacrifice is sacrilegious.

Yet the sounds emanating from the 488’s wide-diameter exhaust pipework and flatplane-cranked eight-cylinder still stir emotions. And then you contemplate the performance. Reaching 100km/h from standstill four-tenths of a second quicker than the 458 Spider in a flat 3.0 seconds is impressive enough, but the work of the turbochargers is most stunningly demonstrated in the 0-200km/h test, where an 8.7-second time surpasses the 458 Spider, and almost plausibility, by 2.1 seconds. The quarter-mile marker is dissected in 10.4 seconds.

Where the 458 Spider would develop its momentum rapidly but progressively, the 488’s speed grows exponentially – from fast to expletively quick. Via the rapid-fire seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, you paddle through successively larger tidal waves of torque as Ferrari’s engine management system staggers available Newton metres through the ratios.

It’s designed this way to both manage traction and mimic a normally aspirated engine, so the maximum torque of 760Nm isn’t actually unleashed until seventh gear (from 3000rpm).It’s still easy to get addicted to holding onto gears, even with the knowledge that high revs are no longer necessary and that short-shifting will deliver huge responsiveness in the higher gears.

Turbo lag? If it exists, it’s throttle delay measurable by electronics rather than consciousness. This turbo V8’s more instantly accessible performance is arguably a better match for the Spider, which we’re told is driven more regularly than the average GTB – in fact, typically double the annual distance.

Ferrari also says the typical GTB driver is racier than the average Spider owner, though this time the V8 twins are not just matched in performance, but also share chassis stiffness and spring and damper rates. Traditionally, the Spider has trailed in rigidity and run a slightly softer suspension set-up to compensate.

This has been achieved by the faster-acting dampers of the 488’s magnetorheological suspension, borrowed from the 458 Speciale and now integrated into the Einsteinian electronic aids that put the Ferrari into another dimension dynamically.

The magnetorheological suspension applies an electric charge to magnetic particles suspended within the damping fluid, altering the particles’ alignment and thereby changing the viscosity of the fluid.

Now ascending another Illawarra region landmark, the hairpin heaven of Macquarie Pass, the Spider’s handling is nothing less than razor sharp and never overwhelmed by the immense performance on tap. The front end darts between corners, completely obedient to turns of the weighty and communicative steering wheel. The traction out of first- and second-gear bends is particularly remarkable as the E-Diff and F1-Trac systems work their magic.
Selecting Race or CT Off on the steering wheel’s manettino switch also permits more lateral movement from the rear end, courtesy of the Side Slip Angle Control 2 system. They might otherwise have named it the Go-Sideways Assistant.

A carbon-ceramic braking system derived from the LaFerrari hypercar reduces stopping distances – which is necessary considering the Spider’s newfound speed between corners.

All the while, the airflow around the cabin is less violent than that going under and around the car (though being guided by intricate aerodynamics to pin the 488 to the ground).

While the occupants’ hair is in no danger of becoming dishevelled even with the side windows down, the Spider itself can still be ruffled. Strike more prominent bumps in the road and the steering wheel and windscreen will spasm momentarily, as energy is dispersed through the lid-less structure. We also had to secure the seatbelt on the passenger side to stop it from rattling against the (optional) Goldrake carbon-fibre racing seat.

This is unlikely to dissuade a buyer intent on choosing the $526,888 Spider over the $469,888 GTB – especially as closing the Spider’s roof provides similar coupé-like cocooning and welcome isolation (and not just from wind and noise).

Cruising back to Sydney via the Hume Highway, there’s minimal wind and road noise, and the ride is firm but comfortable, even in the midst of the suspension’s determinedly disciplined wheel control. This is also a good time to appreciate the 488’s cabin, which may be an evolution of the 458’s yet emphasises again how far Ferrari interiors have come in the past few years, even compared with the previous-generation California of 2009.

Driver-oriented control pods exemplify the exemplary ergonomics, while the dominantly leather cockpit was further embellished in our test car with optional Extracampionario stitching to match the blue exterior.

Your mood is unlikely to ever match this car’s colour. While Ferrari’s latest mid-engined V8 sun-worshipper may no longer be about reverentially stratospheric revs, it smashes through another performance ceiling while remaining a highly useable supercar package.

FERRARI 488 SPIDER

Engine: 3.9-litre V8, twin turbos, mid rear-mounted

Power/torque: 492kW/760Nm

Transmission: Seven-speed, dual-clutch manual; rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1525kg

Performance: 0-100km/h in 3.0 sec; 0-200km/h in 8.7 sec. Standing 400 metres in 10.4 sec

Price: $526,888

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy night in Sydney, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy fused with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of mixology magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci was wearing hair-to-brogue Gucci for her session of flair bartending art El Primo Sanchez. Smiling and dancing behind the bar, she was backed up by a bevy of handsome colleagues wearing smart yellow dinner jackets. IMAGE: GUCCI.
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence. IMAGE: GUCCI.

This past Tuesday Giardino 25 took bloom at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington, the Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney, a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city and curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster an atmosphere of excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas so this festival gives people the opportunity to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it, without the cost of a plane ticket.”

IMAGE: GUCCI.

Taking the bar as her personal catwalk, and dressed head to toes in Gucci, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both Bargiornale Awards and Blue Blazer Awards—prestigious accolades in the bar industry. Gucci Giardino 25 has proudly secured a spot in the 50 Best Discovery, an international list recognizing expert-recommended restaurants and bars, featuring some of the most interesting venues across the world.

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long sting at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known her use of agave, favours drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavours. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to travel to Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am-3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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