Ferrari is a name synonymous with exuding soul, and part of Ferrari’s soul comes from their race-bred V8 and V12 engines. Howling and bellowing at every gear change and punch of the throttle, there was a sense that the car was alive.
Being the first Prancing Horse to don a V6, the all-new 296 GTB is the latest evolution of Ferrari’s hybrid platform. However, this mid-engined Berlinetta has some purist and aficionados up-in-arms about the lack of at least a V8. So is lobbing off two cylinders a sign that Maranello is losing their soul?
The source of all this brouhaha is that all-new mid mounted V6 engine. The twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 (hence the name 296) pumps out an astonishing 654hp, mated to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission from the SF90, its bigger brother. The all-new V6 is a ground up design with its brand-new IHI turbochargers, twin-intake plenums, Inconel exhaust manifold and a lightweight crankshaft with a 120-degree crank angle. The result is that this new Ferrari V6 has set a new specific power output record for a production car of 219hp per litre. Insane!
The second half of its hybrid powertrain is the electric motor. The 296 GTB is Ferrari’s first rear-wheel drive-only Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) as the SF90 is all-wheel drive. Sourced directly from Formula One, the MGU-K electric motor is located between the engine and the gearbox, producing an additional 165hp and 315Nm of torque from a 7.45kWh high voltage battery. This gives the 296 GTB a monumental total output of 819hp and 740Nm of torque.
With all this power, it is little wonder that the 296 GTB completes the century sprint in just 2.9 seconds, 0-200kph in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of over 330kph.
Visually, the 296 GTB looks like a baby SF90 Stradale, a common theme that will be revolving around this new sports car. The low-slung nose and narrow headlights create an almost shark-like appearance, hiding massive cooling ducts under its scowl. There’s plenty of aerodynamic designs incorporated into its flowing design such as its pronounced splitter, side air curtains and a flat underbody, not to mention a oh so beautiful wrap-around windshield. ‘Aero’ brake callipers also allow a dedicated cooling system to be created with the air intakes seamlessly integrated into the headlights, just below the DRLs.
The side profile is your classic mid-engine Berlinetta design with its muscular wings and pronounced flying buttresses. The crease line running from the wheel arch and along the doors channel air into the side air intakes to feed that ferocious V6. The 296 GTB sits on 20-inch wheels that hide massive 398mm front and 360mm rear brakes. Twin five-spoke and diamond-cut five spoke forged alloys are available, with optional carbon fibre wheels that save 8kg’s over the alloys.
The rear quarter of the 296 GTB has a Kamm tail design with a long deck ending with a duck tail-esqe spoiler. Taillights are a modernist take on those found on the Ferrari Roma, with thin LED lights shaped as squared-off circles. The upper section of the tail that incorporates the taillights also house the integrated retracting spoiler that is computer controlled to add downforce, similar in style to the active rear spoiler found on the flagship LaFerrari hypercar.
Ferrari has taken another revolutionary design step to feature a single central exhaust pipe, instead of the more familiar high mounted dual or classic quad tailpipe design. Engineers in the Scuderia have placed particular emphasis on the sound of the 296 GTB as a V6 isn’t inherently tuneful as a V8 or a V12. The use of a more linear exhaust line paired with equal length exhaust manifolds and a symmetrical firing order give a harmonic resonance to the V6, earning it the nickname of 'piccolo V12’ (little V12). The patented ‘hot tube’ has been completely redesigned for the 296 GTB and is positioned prior to the catalytic converters so that it channels the pure sound into the cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, the digitalised cockpit of the 296 GTB is lifted directly from the SF90, cementing Ferrari’s new interior design language. Most of the controls are located on the steering wheel with touch sensitive surfaces. Cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, turn signals, lights, wipers, the eManettino drive mode selector and engine starter are all now digitally incorporated into the steering wheel.
The minimalist aesthetic is complemented with the fully digital display set into a deep cleft carved out of the dashboard trim itself, with the passenger also getting their own digital screen. The gear selector is a throwback with the gear shifters mimicking a classic open-gated shifter.
As with any Ferrari, the interior is a luxurious cabin finished in the finest Italian leather. Sculpted door panels are a seamless continuation of the dashboard and continue into the rear trims behind the seats. The seats themselves are specific diapason-style seats using contrasting grooves to complement the dash design while still maintaining day-to-day comfort and usability. Even the Heads-Up Display unit is trimmed in leather upholstery.
The 296 GTB is a spectacular thing to behold but it is a Ferrari after all, and any Ferrari worth its salt has to drive like one. Weighing in at just 1,470kg, the new rear-wheel drive hybrid chassis has a 50mm shorter wheelbase than the SF90 for added dynamic agility. The Transition Manager Actuator (TMA) and a world-first six-way Chassis Dynamic Sensor (6w-CDS) functions to monitor various driving parameters.
Working together, Ferrari’s Side Slip Control (SSC) and all-new ABS Evo brake-by-wire system use information from the EPS is used to estimate the grip of the tyres during manoeuvring to guarantee optimal controllers intervention based on grip conditions. Other performance controllers are the Traction Control (eTC), sports differential (eDiff), high-performance ABS/EBD with energy recovery and SCM magnetorheological dampers.
Drivers can control the driving characteristics of the 296 6GTB using its steering mounted eManettino switch. eDrive mode is used for EV mode, allowing travel up to 25km with a maximum speed of 135kph when fully charged. Hybrid is the default mode upon start-up to optimise efficiency between the internal combustion engine and its electric motor, while Performance mode keeps the V6 constantly working to maintain battery charge and ensure full performance is available at all times. Qualify mode is a no-holds barred setting to give maximum performance from both the engine and electric motor, completely draining its battery reserves for the fastest lap time possible.
Clients who want uncompromising performance from their 296 GTB can opt for the Assetto Fiorano package. Ferrari will get you special GT racing-derived adjustable Multimatic shock absorbers optimised for track use, as well as high downforce carbon-fibre appendages on the front bumper that deliver additional 10kg of downforce. Extensive weight saving measures are also in play with a lightweight Lexan rear windscreen and carbon fibre door panels, each saving an additional 15kg and 12kg respectively.
Michelin Sport Cup2R high performance tyres which are especially suited to track will also be thrown into the packages to maximise all 819hp. Lastly, a special livery inspired by the 250 Le Mans can also be ordered with the Assetto Fiorano package, with the design running from the front wings, along the bonnet, up to the roof and then down onto the rear spoiler.
Provide both exhilaration and peace of mind, the Ferrari 296 GTB comes with Ferrari’s class-leading seven-year maintenance programme. This scheduled maintenance programme for Ferraris that ensure clients that their car is being kept at peak performance and safety over the years. Regular maintenance (at intervals of either 20,000 km or once a year with no mileage restrictions), original spares and meticulous checks by Ferrari staff are also part of the Genuine Maintenance programme, and will be available even to pre-owned Ferraris.
Though controversial, the decision to move to a V6 hybrid powertrain is the most logical for Maranello outfit, ensuring that the brand meets ever stringent emissions regulations and is on par with its rivals. With it’s sight set on the McLaren Artura as its key competitor, the Ferrari 296 GTB sends a clear message that the traditionalist Italian’s aren’t afraid to spice things up and take a leap of faith. And we have a feeling Ferrari’s horse was truly prancing when that leap resulted in a rear-wheel drive, 819 horsepower rocket-ship for the road.