The launch of any new Ferrari supercar, even with an SUV on the horizon and the assembled media more cynical than ever, is cause for celebration. When the car in question is proclaimed as a revolution for the sector, a "new chapter" in Maranello's history and the most powerful road car Ferrari has ever produced, the excitement is hard to suppress. With much (probably deserved) Maranello fanfare, strobe lighting and emotional backing music, this is the SF90 Stradale.
That's SF90 for Scuderia Ferrari and 90 years, Enzo's race team competing for the first time in 1929. Stradale is for 'street', familiar of course from the 360 Challenge Stradale of 2003, and used by its maker in this instance because the SF90 is "the perfect demonstration of how Ferrari immediately transitions the knowledge and skills it acquires in competition to its production cars."
Naturally, there's a huge amount to discuss with the SF90, though it's hard to avoid the numbers as an opening gambit. Because they are extraordinary. This is a 1,000hp car, 37hp more than a LaFerrari. It is the first time a V8 has been the series production Ferrari flagship, achieved through a 780hp evolution of the 488 twin-turbo V8 - more on which shortly - in alliance with a triumvirate of electric motors that provide 220hp. With four-wheel drive for the first time in one of its sports cars (the FF of course doing the same, with different tech, in 2011), the SF90 is capable of 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds and, perhaps more incredibly, 0-124mph in 6.7 seconds. Top speed is 211mph, the weight is 1,570kg dry (with the right options) and the Fiorano lap time is 1:19.
To that engine, first off. This is not simply a remap of the 488 unit. With a larger bore of 88mm it is now a 4.0-litre V8 (3,990cc, where it was 3,902), also fitted with "completely redesigned" intake and exhaust systems, a narrower head and new direct injection, now operating at pressures up to 350bar. It makes that peak power figure at 7,500rpm, alongside a torque maximum of 590lb ft at 6,000rpm. The 780hp means 195hp per litre, and the powertrain is mounted 15mm lower - presumably than it is found in a 488. The V8 is twinned with a new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, said to deliver 30% quicker shifts than those in a Pista; it's 7kg lighter, eight per cent more efficient on the WLTP cycle and 20 per cent smaller in diameter.
Sounds clever, but it's nothing compared to the EV technology. The SF90 Stradale features two electric motors between the front wheels, which exclusively provide the power in the eDrive mode (and are decoupled at 220kph), with a third slung out between engine and gearbox. They are all supplied by a 7.9kWh lithium-ion battery. A dedicated EV mode provides 25km of range, with a top speed of 135km/h. Drivers will choose between four eManettino modes - not a mistake, there's a regular Manettino also - to control the powertrain: 'eDrive' is, as expected, solely electric, 'Hybrid' is the default mode "in which the power flows are managed to optimise the overall efficiency", Performance keeps the V8 running to ensure that the battery is topped up, and 'Qualify' is where maximum output is always available. Ferrari CTO Michael Leiters suggests that it can sustain maximum output at any racetrack as long as fuel is onboard, up to and including the Nordschleife.
Furthermore, the introduction of an electric architecture means the SF90's dynamics can be manipulated to a level not previously seen, even in Ferraris. This car is capable of controlling the torque to each wheel individually, for example, through electric traction control, brake by wire (that splits braking torque between the hydraulic system and electric motors) a third generation eDiff, and RAC-E technology on the front axle. RAC-E means 'Rotation Access Control - Electric', described in the tech presentation as "like a guiding hand into a curve", vectoring the electric power from the two motors to where it can best benefit turn in, grip and traction. Ferrari claims that it delivers agility equivalent to a 200kg weight loss, and explains why rear-wheel steer also doesn't feature. The Side Slip Control seen in Ferraris for a few years is now electric Side Slip Control (and supported by the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer in its second generation, the first launched on the Pista), working to best manage torque distribution across both axles.
The chassis this technology is wedded to is also new. The SF90's multi-material approach is a first for a series production Ferrari - there's carbon in the construction, where previously it would have been aluminium only. Not only does this provide "40% higher torsional rigidity than previous platforms" for no weight penalty, the use of new aluminium with composite has also improved the NVH and is said to help absorb the stresses of the new powertrain.
Still with us? We're getting there. There's still the styling to discuss, the interior, the price, the Assetto Fiorano pack... Ferrari says the SF90 Stradale boasts a "forward-looking, innovative design that transmits the car's mission as an extreme sports car - Ferrari's first series production supercar." In person it looks more compact than its 4710mm length and 1972mm width suggest, thanks to the small overhangs and the sobering thought of 1000hp beneath it all. There are definite hints of the SP38 in the SP90, most notably in the front-end design and the arrangement of the rear spoiler/diffuser. The biggest changes come in the rear haunches, with additional cooling intakes - and the punchier stance that comes with extra width - required because of the hybrid powertrain. Note as well the squarer rear lights, instead of the more traditional rounded alternatives, there to "create a more horizontal perception" and therefore visually lower the height of the tail (which has already been physically lowered because of the powertrain being lower).
Full description of the SF90's aero could fill this page over again, given the downforce demands and the need to use airflow for cooling, so we'll focus on the highlights - 390kg at 155mph being the main draw. Note also the 'shut-off Gurney' at the rear, a flap operated by electronic actuators which will lower when it detects a high downforce situation. Typically it fits flush with the back of the car to reduce drag. Rads ahead of the front wheels chill the ICE and gearbox coolant, its waste hot air then channelled under the car rather than to the sides; the benefit of that is the air on the flanks that enters the intakes ahead of the rear wheels is cooler, giving the intercoolers less to do. The electric motors and inverters have their own radiator; even the brakes have been redesigned, now featuring a caliper designed with Brembo including an "integrated aerodynamic appendage" that takes air from the intake under the headlights to more efficiently cool the brakes.
Last, but by no means least, the interior. Let's be honest, the Ferrari interiors were sorely in need of an overhaul, a good deal familiar from the 458 of 10 years ago. To counter those criticisms, the manufacturer has introduced a stunning 16-inch curved dash display, which can show all the usual driving info, up to an including that from an entirely new navigation system. That dash is supplemented by a head-up display, another first from Ferrari in series production. It believes that the HUD, in conjunction with a new steering wheel that can control 80 per cent of the interior, will enable buyers to keep "hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road" - probably useful with 1,000hp, and another almost-link to motorsport.
It feels a step on, too, from what can be reported after 45 seconds poking around a display car. The basics are done beautifully, as often happens with Ferrari, though now with genuine surprise and delight - thanks mainly to that enormous screen, but also with the crispness of the graphics. Materials are lovely, space is plentiful, and the impression is of a cabin in sync with the technological leap delivered below.
Which, let's not forget, is pretty momentous: the SF90 Stradale is a series production Ferrari with 1,000hp. They won't be on every street corner, but neither will a buyer have to be eligible for an SF90 in a way they might with a limited series car. Exact prices will be confirmed in due course, though Ferrari believes those paying "more than an 812 Superfast, but less than a LaFerrari", should have their SF90 early in 2020. And in one more final first for this incredible car, an "Assetto Fiorano" option pack will be available from launch. Featuring Multimatic dampers, carbon panels and titanium springs, it subtracts 30 kilos from the kerbweight. With Michelin Cup 2 tyres replacing the standard Pirelli P Zeros, Ferraris says the AF Stradales will have a "more sports-oriented specification." More sports-oriented than a 1,000hp, mid-engined Ferraris, that is. Count on there being more to follow - an exact price for one - but for now, drink it in. All-new and truly momentous Maranello-built supercars don't come around that often.