All new Ferraris are significant, but the 296 GTB is arguably more important than most. Not only is it the first plug-in hybrid Ferrari that's rear-wheel drive, it also sees a V6 engine used in an entry-level berlinetta for the first time in decades. And it has 830hp. Apparently hybrid Ferraris only qualify for four-wheel drive with at least a four-figure power output, a la SF90...
It's hard to avoid talking about the powertrain first, so we won't. This latest GTB is powered by the 'F163', an all-new 2,992cc, twin-turbo, 120-degree V6 (hence 296 GTB), with the IHI 'chargers now redesigned for greater efficiency and located in the cylinder V, 350 bar injection using SF90 technology, and the highest specific output of any road car in history: 663hp from 3.0-litres is 221hp per litre. It makes peak power at 8,000rpm, revs to 8,500 and has apparently earned the nickname 'little V12' during development on account of its sound. And it weighs 30kg less than the 3.9-litre V8. The eight-speed DCT used in the SF90, Portofino and Roma is standard fit.
And then there's the hybrid part. Using a 7.45 kWh battery, the 296's MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit, Kinetic, because it's like F1) delivers up to 167hp through a dual-rotor, single-stator axial flux motor. Ferrari says that the compact design of the motor has helped reduce the wheelbase length, and revisions to the MGU-K have yielded additional torque, now 232lb ft. An all-electric range of 25km, or 15 miles, is also promised, alongside a top speed of 84mph, with a TMA (Transition Manager Actuator) tasked with pairing engine and motor together or decoupling for pure EV.
Brought together, the 296 GTB's powertrain components are capable of incredible things. Peak power is 830hp, and maximum torque is 546lb ft. Ferrari says the new car will reach 62mph in 2.9 seconds and 124mph in just 7.3, ahead of reaching a top speed in excess of 205mph. The Fiorano lap time is 1:21, half a second quicker than a 488 Pista and fully 1.5 seconds up on the F8 Tributo. That's before thinking about Assetto Fiorano pack, either, borrowing from the option offered for the SF90 and equipping the 296 with Multimatic dampers, high-downforce carbon add-ons, a Lexan rear screen, and the option of Michelin Cup 2 R tyres with carbon wheels. Lightest kerbweight for the car is 1,470kg; 75kg more than a McLaren Artura, but then that V6 hybrid must make do with a mere 680hp...
Managing all that performance is a chassis bursting with technology, yet one that promises the familiar Ferrari fun factor. In fact, fun is measurable in Maranello, driver feedback assessed across lateral, longitudinal, braking, sound and gear shifting scores. Helping the 296 GTB across the board is a six-way Chassis Dynamic Sensor, an ABS evo controller and a wheelbase 50mm shorter than an F8 for even greater agility.
It's probably best to quote Ferrari on a lot of the tech. The Chassis Dynamic Selector (6w-CDS) sounds a bit like VW's Vehicle Dynamics Manager, monitoring everything that the car does to ensure systems do their thing most effectively and efficiently. Or, to put it another way: "The 6w-CDS measures both the acceleration and the speed of rotation on three axes (X, Y, Z) enabling the other vehicle dynamic controls to more accurately read the car's dynamic behaviour thus optimising their intervention." There's plenty to keep on top of, too, the eDiff, Slide Slip Control (now 35 per cent more responsive on track), traction control, magnetic adaptive dampers, second generation of Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer and by-wire brakes (managed by that ABS evo controller), said to keep the pedal consistently firm regardless of situation or power source. Alongside the familiar manettino settings, 296 drivers will have an eManettino to choose between electric and petrol power, with pure eDrive, Hybrid, Performance or Qualify on offer.
Ferrari says the aim with the GTB's design was to "redefine the identity of the mid-rear-engined two-seater berlinetta by giving it an extremely compact line an original, modern look." The 296 is a smaller car in every direction than the F8, with an entirely new look that abandons the old berlinetta fastback style. There are said to be references to old Ferraris (the 250LM inspired the B-pillar and the Kamm tail), limited edition Ferraris (the wraparound front screen like a J50) and newer models like the SF90 in the front end. Notable details include a single centre-exit exhaust, "robust" flying buttresses, a LaFerrari-style active spoiler and a vertical rear screen. Certainly there won't be any accusations of a facelift this time around...
As with much else about the GTB, the interior is inspired by the SF90 Stradale, with the new digital interface standard - to "clothe that technology in a sophisticated way" - standard passenger display and two side satellites with capacitive touch area. The transmission tunnel also features the Roma-style classic gearshift gate for transmission control. Like the exterior, it's a clear step on from the existing V8 architecture that, which, dare it be said, might have started looking a tad dated.
Not that the car replaces anything in the current lineup. It is intended to complement both the F8 Tributo and the SF90. But plainly this is a bold step toward the future for Ferrari. The firm insists that the new plug-in system "redefines the whole concept of fun behind the wheel" - and given the potential already shown by hybrids like the LaFerrari and SF90 Stradale, there seems little reason to doubt that claim. Of course, the proof will be in the driving, for a which a long queue will surely be forming very soon. First European deliveries are due in Q1 2022, priced in Italy from 269,000 euros or 302,000 for the Assetto Fiorano. Expect further details on UK pricing and availability in the coming weeks.
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