Birthdays are worth celebrating.

Every year I hear stories of people who refuse to celebrate their birthday; people who—for whatever reason—think that ageing is something to be ashamed of. But it isn’t. You only live once. Ageing is a gift.

This is why I think birthdays are worth celebrating. And they are worth celebrating well.

Who are you? Buddha? Stick to cars, buddy.

I appreciate the encouragement.

Anyhow, 2020 marks ninety years since Ferrari formed their Scuderia racing team, and to celebrate Ferrari released a 1000 PS hypercar, the SF90 Stradale. It’s just arrived in Australia, and honestly, I could not be more underwhelmed; which I admit sounds ridiculously pompous.

Yes, it does.

A 735kW Ferrari capable of doing 0-200km/h in 6.7 seconds (yes, 200) and lapping Ferrari’s Fiorano test track quicker than their previous flag-bearer, the LaFerrari, should be exciting.

So why is it that thought of the LaFerrari makes my knees quiver, while the SF90 leaves me feeling underwhelmed?

Maybe because you have no taste in cars?


But I suspect it has more to do with the SF90 being inherently uninspiring.

How is a 735kW, twin-turbo V8, hybrid ‘uninspiring’?

A little over half a decade ago, the LaFerrari burst onto the scene. A screaming hybrid hypercar the kind of which the world had never seen. Upon release, LaFerrari (along with McLaren’s P1 and Porsche’s 918) rewrote the hypercar rulebook. In so doing, LaFerrari did the impossible: it captured the imagination of the wistful old and disinterested young alike. In light of all that went before it, the LaFerrari was peerless; revolutionary even.

As such, the SF90 has a difficult-second-album vibe about it.

Ferrari openly admits that the SF90 is not a LaFerrari replacement.

I am well aware of Ferrari’s claims, however, when your favourite band releases a new album it’s hard to not compare it to their previous works.

Sure, its spec sheet is impressive, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. In fact, it’s plug-in hybrid setup—three electric motors mated to a twin-turbo V8—is curiously similar to the kind in Honda’s reborn NSX; albeit with more power and electric-only range (26km).


And to top it off, the SF90 sounds utterly depressing. A Ferrari at full chat used to be a phenomenon of aural wonder. The SF90 isn’t. It sounds nasal and muted to the point that you’d swear it suffers from acute asthma

How much is it?

Mind, it does ‘only’ cost AUD$846,888 (excluding on-road costs) which, when you consider that many of today’s hypercars cost in excess of $2 million, makes it a bit of a nomadic bargain. Except it isn’t. Because for an eye-watering $200,000 less, you can pick up the recently discontinued 488 Pista: a superb supercar that weighs considerably less than the SF90 yet still manages to channel an alarming 530kW through the rear wheels alone. And it looks infinitely more elegant. Still aggressive, but refreshingly simple in comparison to the Robocop-esque SF90.

Or, if you’re feeling particularly parsimonious—and brave—you can venture further back through Ferrari’s catalogue and select a low-mileage F12 for $450,000 and still have enough change left over to rescue Italy’s economy. In an F12 you envy no one. Sure, it’s not the quickest car on the road nor does it host the latest tech, but its naturally aspirated V12 produces a hair-raising song and its Pininfarina-styled body is achingly pretty. And if twenty-second-century technology and face-altering acceleration are all you are after, why settle for a half-hearted hybrid? It’s 2020: go electric or go home.

Aren’t you being a bit harsh?

I don’t think so. Remember, this was supposed to be Ferrari’s 90th birthday present to its Scuderia racing branch. Considering the impending groundbreaking hypercars from Lotus, Rimac, and Koenigsegg (among others) I expected more from Ferrari’s halo product.

I hate to say it, but I think I agree with you.

Ultimately, the SF90 appears to be caught between worlds. It is a car desperately trying to stay relevant while holding on to remnants of the past. Where the LaFerrari (and its ancestor, the F40) redefined an entire genre, the SF90 plays it safe.

Ferrari had an opportunity to push new grounds, to capture the imagination of a new generation of automotive enthusiasts. Instead, they gave us an overweight F8 Tributo with all-wheel-drive and several hundred AA Duracell© batteries shoved under the bonnet (well, not quite, but you get the picture).

It’s a shame, really. You only turn ninety once.

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