Ferrari (RACE 1.63%) shared details about its latest model ahead of its debut at this week's Geneva Motor Show. The new F8 Tributo is a two-seat, mid-engined V8-powered sports car that will replace the 488 GTB when it goes into production later this year. 

Given that Ferraris sell in tiny numbers compared to most cars, a new model might not seem like much of a big deal. But the F8 Tributo is the first new model of several that Ferrari will launch over the next couple of years in an important revamp of its product portfolio -- and Ferrari is counting on strong sales of the new F8 to help fund that revamp.

For investors, that makes it worth a closer look. Here's what we know. 

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Ferrari.

A bright red Ferrari F8 Tributo, a sleek mid-engined exotic sports car

The new Ferrari F8 Tributo will likely become the ultra-luxury brand's best-seller when it arrives later this year. Image source: Ferrari N.V.

A new Ferrari that is familiar, yet different

If you know a bit about Ferrari's current product range, it's easy to mistake the new F8 Tributo for a 488 GTB, the model it will soon replace. But a closer look shows that while the new car's overall shape is similar, many details have changed, enough to justify calling it a new model: 

  • The new car's exterior has been revamped after extensive work in Ferrari's wind tunnel, yielding a 10% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency over the (already very sleek) 488. 
  • It's about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) lighter than the 488 thanks to improvements in the car's structure.
  • The 3.9 liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine has been revamped to make an eye-popping 710 horsepower, up 49 horsepower from the 488 GTB. (It's essentially the same engine Ferrari is using in the limited-edition track-focused 488 Pista.) 
  • Ferrari says the new car's interior is more comfortable, with a revised touchscreen system and improved ventilation.

What does all of that mean? For starters, it means that even by Ferrari standards, this thing is quick: Ferrari claims the F8 Tributo will go from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in 2.9 seconds, and from 0 to 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph) in 7.8 seconds. It's also seriously fast, with a claimed top speed of 340 kilometers per hour (about 211 mph). 

The dash and seats of a Ferrari F8 Tributo, in black leather with red and yellow accents

The F8 Tributo has a smaller steering wheel than its predecessor -- one of many small changes Ferrari made in an effort to make the F8 especially fun to drive. Image source: Ferrari N.V.

As for its looks, Ferrari said the F8 was deliberately styled to look like an evolution of the 488. The company said the car's styling is a "bridge to a new design language" that will be seen on other upcoming models.  

Price? We don't know yet. But we know that the 488 GTB starts around $253,000, with an extensive (and expensive) options list that can push it over $300,000. Expect the F8's pricing to be similar. 

("Tributo," by the way, is Italian for "tribute." Ferrari said the name is a nod to the car's engine, which in its 488 iteration won "Best Engine" in the International Engine of the Year awards in 2016, 2017, and 2018.)

The new F8 is an important piece of Ferrari's profit-boosting plan

Why do we care? Here's the business reality: The new F8 Tributo will replace Ferrari's best-seller, and Ferrari needs it to do well. Ferrari shipped 9,251 vehicles in 2018, and while the company doesn't break out sales by model, 488s likely accounted for somewhere between 40% and 50% of the total.

A red Ferrari 488 GTB, a mid-engined exotic sports car, shown at speed on a race track

The F8 Tributo will replace Ferrari's current best-seller, the 488 GTB. It's similar, but different. Image source: Ferrari N.V.

That means the new F8, and the variants that will follow, are key components of Ferrari's plan to roughly double its profit by 2022. That plan calls for a total of 15 new Ferrari models. Several of those new models, including the brand's first-ever SUV, are intended to broaden the brand's appeal to well-heeled customers around the world, particularly in China. Like other high-end European luxury brands, Ferrari has done fairly well in China -- but CEO Louis Camilleri thinks there's more room to grow without compromising the Ferrari brand. 

However, to fund the products that will generate that growth, Ferrari will have to continue to generate strong profits from its core models. From that perspective, the F8 is arguably the most important Ferrari: For the plan to work, the F8 will have to build on, or at least sustain, the considerable success of its predecessor. 

Long story short: For Ferrari and its investors, a lot is riding on the new F8 Tributo. We'll know more about its chances after Ferrari officially presents the new model in Geneva later this week.