by Karl Furlong
At some point, Ferrari will bring us a fully electric supercar; until that day arrives, we have models like the Ferrari SF90 Spider plug-in hybrid to make the transition to electric power a more gradual one. This is Ferrari's first hybrid supercar with a retractable hardtop, and it's got a point to prove. Spurred on by electrification, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces a sensational 986 horsepower. Thankfully, that power is divided between all four wheels, so traction is less of a concern as you conquer the 0-62 mph sprint in only 2.5 seconds. You also have the option of creeping up on unsuspecting Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante drivers in the SF90 Spider's EV mode, at which point even they would have to admit that this Ferrari is a stunner. Yes, it costs over half a million bucks and yes, it's entirely impractical. But the SF90 Spider is proof that electrification can enhance, not take away from, the supercar experience.
The 2021 Ferrari SF90 Spider is the drop-top version of the SF90 Stradale. With their plug-in hybrid powertrains, these GTs don't directly replace any prior Ferrari but instead mark the introduction of an all-new brand of Ferrari performance. The SF90 Spider shares the same engine as its coupe sibling, and Ferrari has managed to maintain the same level of performance and chassis rigidity. The hybrid powertrain produces 986 hp, and it's paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Despite its amazing performance, the SF90 Spider can be driven in silence for short distances on electric power alone.
The SF90 Spider joins its SF90 Stradale coupe sibling for the 2021 model year. It arrives with the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine and no less than three electric motors. In total, it produces 986 hp. The SF90 Spider comes with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that is lighter than Ferrari's older seven-speeder. As for that retractable hardtop roof, it's lighter than a conventional hardtop, takes up less space, and can be opened in only 14 seconds. The SF90 Spider is 100 pounds heavier than the SF90 Stradale, but it has exactly the same 0-62 mph time as the Stradale and is a mere three-tenths slower to 124 mph. The Ferrari SF90 spider has more horsepower than most will know what to do with, but we're not complaining.
The SF90 Stradale is already one of the prettiest cars on sale today, and the SF90 Spider simply adds to that with the ability to drop its roof. Most cars look like anonymous blobs of Jell-O from above, but the SF90 Spider is even sublime to look at from this unusual angle - just as well, then, that it's under 50 inches tall, so it can actually be appreciated from above too. With the power-retractable roof up, the Spider looks a lot like the Stradale. That roof, by the way, opens and closes in just 14 seconds. By using aluminum for its construction, Ferrari was able to save around 88 pounds compared to a conventional hardtop roof.
The car has slim LED matrix headlights, and there are three air intakes that cool the front electric motors. Aerodynamics were carefully considered, and the SF90 Spider has a shut-off Gurney at the back; it has mobile elements that adjust for either high or low drag conditions. 20-inch alloy wheels are standard. At the back, it's impossible to miss the high-mounted dual tailpipes and the almost square taillights. These are quite different from the more familiar rounded taillights on other mid-rear-engined Ferrari berlinettas.
We'll have our Ferrari SF90 Spider in red or gold, but this car looks perfect in any color.
Wide and extremely low to the ground, the SF90 Spider's jaw-dropping appearance is partly to do with its distinct supercar dimensions. It measures 185.2 inches in length, 77.7 inches in width, and is a mere 46.9 inches in height. The wheelbase is 104.3 inches.
The dry weight of 3,682 lbs is around 220 lbs heavier than the SF90 Stradale. This has barely impacted the drop-top's performance. With the Assetto Fiorano package, the SF90 Spider comes with numerous carbon fiber and titanium materials that lower the weight by around 46 lbs.
There's a lot going on beneath the SF90 Spider's skin. Most of its power comes from the 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 engine, but it's supplemented by no less than three electric motors. The Ferrari SF90 Spider's specs are simply amazing. The V8 itself produces 769 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, which on its own would make this an exceptionally quick supercar. In front, there are two electric motors - one per wheel - and there's a third motor at the back between the engine and gearbox that helps to reduce turbo lag. Combined, the powertrain generates a massive 986 hp. Paired with the V8 is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that was initially launched on the SF90 Stradale. It has a 20% smaller exterior diameter than the brand's older seven-speed unit and is around 22 pounds lighter too.
It all adds up to a remarkably versatile and brutally quick machine. In front-wheel-drive mode, the V8 goes to sleep as the front two electric motors drive the front wheels alone. Hybrid mode makes the car rear-wheel drive, and 4WD Hybrid combines all the car's strengths into one. The 0-62 mph sprint can be dispensed in only 2.5 seconds, 0-124 takes seven seconds, and the top speed of the Ferrari SF90 Spider is a ludicrous 211 mph. Based on those numbers, the Ferrari SF90 Spider 0-60 dash could be completed in close to two seconds flat.
Those numbers can't quite convey how hard the SF90 Spider pushes you back into your seat. It's thrilling, loud, and crushingly effective at covering ground. The faster dual-clutch plays its part, too, and delivers gear changes as quickly as the powertrain delivers horses. Driving the car in EV mode is at odds with the vicious performance underfoot once the V8 awakens, and although it can't match the soundtrack of a Ferrari V12, it still manages to envelop you in the experience.
To drive, the SF90 Spider is about as close to the SF90 Stradale as one could hope for when going from a coupe to a convertible. It truly is remarkable that Ferrari has managed to keep the weight penalty fairly low while retaining the rigidity of the Stradale. The dreaded scuttle shake that plagues so many convertibles isn't an issue here. Besides the complex drivetrain that can direct electric power to the front wheels alone or be set up in hybrid configuration to drive all four wheels, Ferrari has thrown its full bag of tricks at the SF90 Spider. At the back, a shut-off Gurney can compensate for either low or high drag situations, and the underbody generates more downforce than any other Ferrari. It also has torque vectoring on the front axle and a 30% increase in torsional rigidity compared to previous platforms.
To drive, you notice both the immediacy of the powertrain and the communicative suspension below. The car feels taut yet rides with surprising fluency, but it won't cushion you from particularly poor surfaces entirely. The steering is quick but not so hyperactive that you can't guide the SF90 into curves smoothly. Once you tune in to the car's ways, you will revel in its phenomenal grip and composure. From one point to the next, across a range of roads and conditions, not much is going to keep up with this. Despite it being AWD, the SF90 doesn't succumb to understeer or numbness through the wheel. Everything, from the accelerator to the steering, feels sharp and meticulously tuned. Using the eManettino switch, you can go from eDrive to the manic Qualify. The latter unlocks the full performance potential of the car with little regard for preserving battery life.
The SF90 Spider uses brake-by-wire technology and, while the many electronics that help the drivetrain manage all that power don't corrupt the driving experience, these brakes don't feel intuitive or completely natural on first acquaintance. Make no mistake, it stops with the best of them, but it's not as smooth to manage braking when coming from a more conventional setup.
While with minimal weight and aerodynamic penalties, one wouldn't expect the EPA's gas mileage figures to differ too much between the SF90 Stradale and Spider. On gasoline alone, the hardtop manages 18 mpg combined, while the Spider manages only 17 mpg combined. However, when electricity is factored in the difference is surprisingly vast, with the Spider managing 44 MPGe combined compared to the Stradale's 51 MPGe. It also loses one mile of electric range to total eight miles.
An 18-gallon gas tank is fitted, and, as per the EPA, the SF90 Spider has a 330-mile total range. The SF90 Spider has a 7.9 kWh lithium-ion battery but no information has been shared by the automaker on how long it takes to charge.
The two-seater interior isn't quite as flamboyant as the exterior, but it's clearly a space designed for some hard driving. The leather seats hug you tightly, the driver faces a 16-inch HD instrument cluster that also handles infotainment duties, and all the important controls are within easy reach. Daytona seats and racing carbon seats are available optionally, but the standard ones are probably better for daily use. Interior space is fine for six-footers, although it feels more intimate than spacious. Of course, with the roof down, headroom is limitless. The use of expensive leathers and carbon fiber also creates the right mood. Of course, the Ferrari SF90 Spider's interior color choices are broad.
Despite being labeled as a GT, the SF90 Spider is pretty scant on storage space. The frunk measures a mere 2.6 cubic feet, not helped by Ferrari needing to accommodate two electric motors in front. A gym bag or one or two grocery bags will fit, but large suitcases will have to ride on the seat next to you.
In the cabin there's just one cupholder, netting on the door panels where you can stash a few small items, and a narrow center console.
In typical Italian supercar style, the number of standard features in no way matches the stratospheric price of the Ferrari SF90 in the USA. It's quite obvious that you are paying for the driving experience and mechanicals more than anything else. At least you get the digital instrument cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, regular cruise control, the power-retractable hardtop roof, keyless entry, a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors. Typical driver-assistance technologies like blind-spot monitoring aren't available, but a head-up display is. If you want a feature-packed grand tourer, you're better off with a Bentley.
Ferrari eschews the normal central touchscreen interface for a single, curved 16-inch HD screen ahead of the driver. Almost everything that pertains to infotainment or key driver information is displayed on this screen. Bluetooth, an AM/FM radio, voice activation, and integrated navigation are included in this system as standard. Using haptic buttons on the steering wheel, you can adjust various settings on the screen. There's even a mini trackpad on the steering wheel. This trackpad doesn't respond with the speed expected of a modern infotainment system, but overall, Ferrari's unique layout works fairly well and, because the screen is directly ahead, your eyes are never far from the road ahead. A smaller display is angled towards the passenger and displays some key information to them. While Apple CarPlay is an expensive option, Android Auto isn't available at all. Ferrari hasn't made mention of how many speakers are equipped to the SF90 Spider, but the most important source of audio is that big V8 behind you.
Unrated by J.D. Power, the Ferrari SF90 Spider has also not been recalled at all, so assessing the car's reliability isn't easy at this early stage in its life. With so much mechanical complexity and a fully digital interior, customers will be relieved to know that complimentary scheduled maintenance runs for seven years. The limited warranty only covers three years, but at least it's not affected by how many miles you cover over that period.
Because it is a PHEV, US legislation requires warranty coverage on the hybrid components for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. Ferrari also includes a global seven-year maintenance program to keep your car in pristine mechanical condition with no mileage restrictions.
No crashworthiness review of the Ferrari SF90 Spider has been conducted by the NHTSA or the IIHS. The car is simply too expensive and exclusive for such activities. However, along with the solid structure, it does come with front airbags, a rearview camera, cruise control, rear parking sensors, and the advanced electronic Side Slip Control system that incorporates electronic traction control.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
Ferrari's SF90 Spider is a spectacular car. Removing the roof from the SF90 Stradale has done nothing to diminish the driving experience, and you won't notice the extra 220 lbs because of the hybrid powertrain's monumental reserves of power. Ferrari has once again shown us how electrification can be used to enhance performance, not just boost efficiency. To look at, the SF90 Spider is so pretty that you'll soon forget flaws like the minuscule frunk, almost complete lack of modern driver-assist technologies, and the extremely short all-electric range. At over $500k, the more logical left-brained individual would probably scoff at the ridiculousness of the SF90 Spider. The more imaginative right-brained group? They won't notice because they'll be having too much fun behind the wheel of this intoxicating supercar.
It's best to sit down for this section. Although the company doesn't like to be open about pricing, we know that the SF90 Stradale begins at $625,000 MSRP before options and the destination charge. Considering the usual increase in price for a convertible, we estimate that the price of the Ferrari SF90 Spider will start at around $700,000. However, that's without the optional Assetto Fiorana package - with this, you've got to cough up in excess of another $50,000. When all is said and done, we doubt that many customers pay less than $750k for a new SF90 Spider.
There's only one trim for sale, but you can go all out and get the Assetto Fiorano package. This lowers the drop-top's weight by around 46 lbs thanks to the use of more carbon fiber and titanium. The Assetto also comes with Multimatic shock absorbers, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and unique two-tone coloring. As enticing as all of that sounds, we think the standard car is good enough for on-road and occasional on-track use.
Whereas the SF90 Spider represents a new era of electrified performance for Ferrari, the Aventador S Roadster is a classic Lamborghini in every sense and the last of a dying breed, having bowed out for the 2021 model year. The Lambo has a 6.5-liter naturally-aspirated V12 engine making 730 hp, which somehow seems tame alongside the SF90's 986 hp. The Aventador is around half a second slower to 62 mph, has a far inferior seven-speed transmission, and the amount of buttons in the cabin seems almost comical next to the Ferrari's more modern layout. But despite clearly being an older design, the Aventador is sheer theater with its head-turning looks and charismatic V12. The Ferrari has clearly moved the goalposts, but the old-school Aventador is still a mesmerizing car that may tempt us if we were shopping for a well-kept used example.
At around half the price of the Ferrari, the Aston Martin looks like a bit of a bargain. Like the Lamborghini above, it uses a V12 engine, but it's turbocharged here to unleash 715 hp. With the rear wheels needing to take the abuse alone, the Aston will be left for dead by the Ferrari in a straight line. The V12 sounds glorious as the revs rise, though, even if the car itself isn't nearly as capable as the Ferrari. The British car has a much larger trunk and small back seats, so it's more practical, but these aren't really suited for adults. Its infotainment system is also dated, but the cabin design remains pleasing to the eye. Aston also supplies far more features as standard. If you prefer something closer to a traditional grand tourer, the Aston will impress you more. But the sheer speed and handling prowess of the SF90 Spider makes it a better achievement overall.