I haven’t been kind to Ferrari lately. I chastised their 1000 HP SF90 halo car for being “underwhelming” and I wrote off the new V6 296 GTB as a limp backwards step for the supercar species.
However, I couldn’t help but notice when Ollie Marriage of TopGear.com lore declared that the Ferrari 296 GTB was “the best supercar available today.” Did Ollie drink the Ferrari Kool-Aid or was I wrong?
It looks a little odd to me.
I remain unconvinced by the 296’s styling. The front end is agreeable enough—and I love that they’ve resisted the urge to put a vent in the bonnet à la Pista and F8 Tributo—but the rear end is shambolic. Woeful. An utter eyesore. Unlike its F8 Tributo stablemate, the 296’s roof doesn’t connect with its rear in a single arch. Instead, it cuts away abruptly, leaving a sheer drop down to where the engine lies. It reminds me of the iconic Australian ute (RIP).
What’s it like inside?
Ferrari continues to insist that touch-sensitive buttons have a future in automotive interiors. I hope they’re wrong. The 296’s steering wheel hosts little else.
The rest of the interior is much more exciting. It may come across as a little self-indulgent to some, but I love that the interior revolves around the driver. The air vents and shape of the dashboard seem to orbit around the driver’s seat leaving you in no doubt as to the intention of the 296: it is a car to drive.
I heard it has a V6. Not sure how I feel about that.
Ferrari call the V6 the ‘piccolo V12’ (little V12). They’re kidding themselves. Sure, it revs to a dizzying 8,500rpm, however, it doesn’t sing with the same bombastic fervour of Maranello’s V12s. Compared to the competition though, it’s a master stroke.
McLaren’s 720S is arguably the most natural rival but its powertrain —while eye-opening in its delivery—seems to lack the effervescence that characterises the Ferrari. There’s more lag and its noise is arguably more Led Zepplin to the 296’s ****Luciano Pavarotti. Exciting, yes, but also more primitive. That said, try telling your mates at the pub that you’ve bought a V6 supercar and they’ll probably mock. Most folk still believe V8s rule the roost.
There’s no arguing with the performance, mind you. Forget 0-100km/h (2.9 seconds, in case you were wondering), the 0-200km/h sprint is dealt with in just 7.3 seconds—less than half a second off LaFerrari pace. It’s worth keeping in mind that the 296 is rear-wheel drive. Witchcraft? Not quite, but Ferrari’s technological wizardry borders on the supernatural.
How does it manage such speed with only a diminutive V6 to push it along?
To aid the V6, Ferrari strapped two turbochargers to it—
—and then they fitted a 7.45kWh, 70kg battery pack that feeds an electric motor.
All up, the little 296 produces a phenomenal 610 kW (818 hp) and 740 Nm (546 ft-lbs). And it’s not like it needs that much power because it’s obese (I’m looking at you, Chiron). The official word from Ferrari is that the 296 hits the scales at just 1470 kg (dry). Considering the amount of tech on offer, that’s mighty impressive.
Aren’t hybrids just half-arsed EVs?
I’ve long peddled this view. But I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been missing the point.
The godfather of the Prancing Horse, Enzo Ferrari, believed the engine to be the heart of his cars. Indeed, he once said, “I don’t sell cars; I sell engines. The cars I throw in for free since something has to hold the engines in.” The man was obsessed—not just with speed—but with passion:
“The fact is I don’t drive just to get from A to B. I enjoy feeling the car’s reactions, becoming part of it.” Another of his classics.
Perhaps that love lingers in Maranello today. Perhaps the reason Ferrari hasn’t produced an EV yet is that, well, they don’t want to. And it’s not hard to see why. There is no getting away from the fact that, for all their brilliance, EV powertrains simply cannot match the excitement of high-revving symphonic combustion engines.
A hybrid might just be how Ferrari keeps the dream alive for a little longer.
Alright. But is it the ‘best’ supercar on sale?
It may be a stop-gap car to bide the time until Ferrari has figured out a way to produce an EV worthy of the prancing horse badge but it remains a sensational feat nonetheless.
Other supercars may sing, look, or ride better, but—if the reviews are to be believed—nothing dances like a Ferrari 296 GTB. And that still matters.