We've known for some time that Ferrari would be unveiling a new car at some point. Prototypes have been caught on camera a few times, and after a teaser video suggested that the new car wouldn't be traditional in every sense, we were looking forward to something that would be somewhat unusual for the brand. We expected that the car would be capable of over 800 horsepower and could even revive the Dino name. Disappointingly, the name was one of the facets of the car that remained conventional, but when the 296 GTB was revealed yesterday, its name was the last thing on our minds.
This car is a gamechanger for the marque and heralds the dawn of a new era, one where electrification is included, a V8 is not, and more digitalization than ever is taking place. Let's dive in and see what makes this one of the most important Ferrari releases ever.
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We begin with the styling, and while we still consider the 458 Italia to be the most beautiful Ferrari of recent times, the 296 GTB is remarkably pretty too. With a low shoulder line, relatively slim headlights that incorporate brake ducts, and a Kamm tail that houses "jewel-like" taillights, it looks incredible. This car is designed to be somewhat timeless and will influence future Ferrari models too. Why do we say that? Well, for the first time, a Lamborghini-like central exhaust exit features, leaving the diffuser free of any unnecessary holes or appendages. The only reason we can think of for why Ferrari has gone this route is that it is preparing us for the age of full electrification when tailpipes will no longer be necessary, although the brand cites a more soulful exhaust note being the reason for this choice. So begins a new era of design.
The design is further enhanced by the Assetto Fiorano package, with carbon fiber styling elements and a unique two-tone paint job inspired by the iconic 250 LM.
Unlike the similarly-styled SF90 Stradale, the 296 GTB sends all its power to the rear wheels. And boy, is there a lot of it. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 alone produces 653 horsepower, and with a specific output of 221 hp per liter, this is yet another record-breaking Ferrari engine. You didn't really expect Ferrari to offer its first ever-roadgoing V6 and then half-ass the job, did you? The Ferrari clientele base likes tradition, so if you're gonna shake things up, you had better change the subject to performance and how this car proves that Ferrari still builds some of the best engines on the planet.
As impressive as that is, the 296 takes inspiration from the SF90 in that electricity boosts performance. The electric motor produces 164 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque on its own. With the V6, the grand total is 818 hp and 546 lb-ft of torque, and with the help of an eight-speed dual-clutch auto, the latest berlinetta will do 0-62 mph in just 2.9 seconds. 0-124 mph takes 7.3 seconds and top speed arrives north of 205 mph. The 296 GTB even set a Fiorano lap time of 1 minute 21 seconds.
What will leave the biggest impression is arguably not how fast the car is, but how it sounds as it chases those numbers. This is a turbocharged V6 that sounds better than some free-breathing V8s. Again, we applaud Ferrari for doing this properly. If you want to coast silently, the electric motor can get you up to 84 mph and offers a maximum range of 15.5 miles.
In the teaser video for this car, as well as in its release media, Ferrari continually reinforces that this car is designed to be fun to drive. With a wheelbase that is two inches shorter than that of the F8 Tributo, the 296 GTB will automatically take turns more sharply, but there's more. A new ABS control module has been fitted with six sensors that allow the driver to really find the limit of the rear tires during acceleration. These new sensors also aid with braking performance and consistency, and with a dry weight of just 3,241 pounds, this car will surely be as go-kart-like as Ferrari claims. For an even more hardcore experience, the Assetto Fiorano specification adds Multimatic dampers and ultra-sticky Michelin Cup 2R tires.
Ferrari's latest cabin is a great hybrid of the past and the present, presenting a totally digital environment with some traditional cues. Ahead of the driver is a binnacle housing a digital display while the passenger gets a slimmer screen that can also be used to access the infotainment system. On the steering wheel, most of the buttons, including the engine start button, have been updated with touch-capacitive surfaces. We're not big fans of this look or feel, but with even the climate control featuring a similar setup, the overall look is very classy with the car off, as all of these screens melt away into darkness. To show that Ferrari still has an eye on its history, the center of the cabin houses the "cancelletto", which is a module for changing gears that has been styled to look like the H-pattern, open-gate shifters of the bygone manual era.
From afar, some may bemoan the decision to go with a V6 engine, but while this is the first V6 in a Ferrari road car, it's not the first V6 that Ferrari has ever developed. In fact, V6 engines have been a huge part of the Scuderia's Formula One exploits, and you don't get more "Ferrari" than when there's a link to F1. Funny then that the 296 GTB's chief rival should also be a historic F1 rival in the form of McLaren. The Mclaren Artura is the only other hybrid V6 supercar current around that could compete, although not only is it less powerful, but it's cheaper as well.
The so-called entry-level 296 GTB costs a whopping $321,400, but Ferrari customers are always willing to spend big, with the Assetto Fiorano specification costing $360,900. It's a lot of money, but remember, you're paying less than $400k for a supercar that is only a couple of hundred horses off what the $1 million Bugatti Veyron offered when it launched. Just let that sink in and realize how special this is.
One day, we'll look back on this car as the basis of Ferrari's new age, and for all these reasons, it's a masterpiece. We can't wait to see what's next.
The most popular competitors of Ferrari 296 GTB: