by Roger Biermann
After LaFerrari paved the way for hybridization as a means of augmenting performance rather than just saving the environment, Ferrari has been hard at work figuring out how best to emulate Benjamin Franklin and harness electricity for the greater good of the supercar industry. To that end, The Ferrari SF90 Stradale is lightning in a bottle - a new era of performance for the performance marque everyone else wants to be. Not only is the mid-mounted, twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 engine the most powerful ever dropped into something wearing the prancing horse badge at 769 horsepower, but it's augmented by three electric motors that deliver an extra 217 hp; in European terms, 1,000 metric horses are in the cards, making the SF90 the most powerful series-production Ferrari ever made. 0-62 mph takes 2.5 seconds, the top speed rests north of 211 mph, and there's an available 15.5 miles of range to be had in complete silence on electric propulsion alone.
But there are no rivals, with all-electric machines like the Lotus Evija delivering significantly more power, while fossils like the McLaren 720S simply can't match the Stradale's grand touring demeanor. What does this all mean for the Italian marque? Has it lost its way? Perhaps. Alternatively, it's the dawn of a new era of performance, and the SF90 is simply a new breed of supercar.
For the first time in decades, Ferrari has introduced an all-new car. That's right, the SF90 Stradale isn't a successor to the hybrid LaFerrari, nor is it a spin-off from the stellar F8 Tributo. Instead, it's an all-new mid-engined plug-in hybrid GT supercar that finds itself on the same top shelf as the 812 Superfast, despite completely overshadowing it in terms of sheer performance. Combining three electric motors and a 769-hp twin-turbo V8, the mid-engined SF90 Stradale - a name that honors the 90th anniversary of the Scuderia Ferrari racing department that led to the founding of the road car division - develops a combined 986 hp, driving all four wheels and channeling power through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It gets a 15.5-mile all-electric range and performance bragging rights like 0-124 mph in under seven seconds.
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Plug-in Hybrid
With a history of stellar designs in the Ferrari museum, it's easy to expect nothing but gold from the brand that's adorned bedroom walls and the top step of motorsport podiums for decades. But in the last few years, the in-house design team in Maranello has been somewhat hit and miss. The SF90 Stradale, however, is a home run smashed right out of the park and possibly straight into the stratosphere, already racking up design awards just months after it was first unveiled to the public.
The sleek design relies on sharp creases and focused linework, with triple-strake LED daytime running lights integrated into the sharply styled boomerang LED headlights. The side profile is even more arresting, with a typical mid-engine design and large gaping side intakes to swallow enough air to keep a 769-hp V8 fed and cooled, while the glasshouse appears as an entirely separate design element from the sheet metal. But the rear is where the magic happens, with quad squared-off taillights, high-mounted dual exhaust outlets, and a massive aerodynamic diffuser encompassed in the rear bumper. Adding the Fiorano pack also adds a more prominent rear spoiler in carbon fiber.
20-inch forged alloy wheels are designed to be both beautiful and effective, channeling airflow out of the wheel arch and into the path of the side air intakes. These can alternatively be replaced by a selection of six other designs, including full carbon fiber ten-spoke wheels.
As intimidating as the SF90 Stradale may appear, the dimensions suggest something almost entirely livable in the grand scheme of things. At 77.6 inches wide and 185.4 inches long, the SF90 Stradale is four inches longer than an F8 Tributo but marginally narrower, while the 104.3-inch wheelbase is identical to that of the 'junior' Ferrari. At 46.7 inches in height, however, it's even lower than the F8, giving it an imposing, purposeful stance. But while the extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum has shaved off weight where possible, the SF90 Stradale still tips the scales at a dry weight of 3,461 lbs, the hybrid componentry adding 595 lbs to the total figure.
When the SF90 Stradale's default start-up and low-speed antics are in pure electric mode only, bystanders on the city streets will likely see you coming before they hear you. That's why Ferrari's design team has curated a palette of no fewer than 26 exterior paint colors, broken down into three palettes, namely solid, metallic, and historical, to ensure you always make a striking first impression.
The diversity within the three is immense, and while Ferraris may be traditionally associated with available hues like Giallo Modena (yellow) and Rosso Corsa (red), Bianco Avus (white) and Nero (black) look just as stunning. The most striking pairings come from the metallic and historical palettes though, with Rosso Fiorano, Rosso Dino, and the deep Verde British (British racing green) all being the picks of the latter while the golden hue of Grigio Ingrid from the metallic palette is surprisingly tasteful.
The roof and engine bay can be customized too, with a choice of either Nero or body-colored paint for the roof and bare exposed carbon fiber available for the engine cover. In the case of the Fiorano Pack, the black roof option is canned in favor of two racing liveries - Argento Nurburgring striping over the top with the nose accented in either Rosso Corsa or Giallo Modena.
A good design wears any shade with elegance, and the fact that the SF90 Stradale looks good in any hue is possibly the highest compliment one could give.
It's not strictly the successor to the LaFerrari, but as only the second hybrid to ever leave the factory in Maranello, it follows a similar performance ethos - electricity is added to improve performance, not blunt it. A quick glance at the figures suggests that the mission has been accomplished. At the heart of the SF90 Stradale is the most powerful V8 ever equipped to a road-going Ferrari, with two turbos strapped on purely for good measure. Then, not one, not two, but three electric motors augment matters further, not only endowing the Stradale with a 15.5-mile all-electric range but an extra burst of potency and an electric all-wheel-drive system active at speeds of up to 130 mph, after which the machine becomes a pure RWD sports car.
0-62 mph is a 2.5-second affair. 0-124 mph takes 6.7 seconds, and the SF90 Stradale, when it stretches its legs, will top out at 211 mph. Around Ferrari's Fiorano test circuit, where a LaFerrari achieved a 1-minute 19.7-second lap and the hardcore 488 Pista managed 1:21.5, the SF90 Stradale has set the record at one minute and 19 seconds dead. But of course, what more could you expect from the most powerful series-production Ferrari ever built?
The SF90 Stradale is built around a mid-engine architecture that plays host to a 3.99-liter V8 engine with twin turbochargers that develops 769 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque - on its own the most potent eight-cylinder to ever wear a prancing horse badge. The combustion power is paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that shaves 22 pounds off the weight of the old seven-speed item. But the addition of three electric motors is the big news, with the two mounted up front - one per wheel - capable of propelling the SF90 at speeds of 84 mph for a total of 15.5 miles. The third motor is bolted between the engine and transmission, torque-filling to mitigate turbo lag and enabling a full 1,000 cv (986 hp) to be channeled to the road's surface via the rear wheels alone.
As for how it all performs, at full tilt the powertrain is simply thunderous, combining the lag-free elements of a Ferrari V8 with the torque-filling ability of electrification. It's perhaps not quite as crisp as a naturally aspirated V12 like the one found in the LaFerrari, but the human brain is unlikely to tell the difference, nor notice enough of one to be truly phased. The gearbox is rapid, swapping cogs in just 200 milliseconds, which means jumping on the throttle from a standstill sees an endless surge of performance delivered with almost no interruption.
It sounds good, too. Not quite as melodious as the old NA V8s from Maranello, but still wailing emphatically as the revs climb. However, it's not always a symphony, and upon start-up or while driving in eDrive or Hybrid mode, there's the faint whir of electrons and little else. It's eerie, even unsettling, that a Ferrari could be this quiet and yet pack a punch of nearly 1,000 horsepower.
A Jekyll and Hyde personality is hardly something one would associate with a Ferrari-badged product, but even that doesn't quite appropriately convey the duplicitous nature of the SF90 Stradale. It starts up silently in EV mode, and will gladly behave like a Chevrolet Bolt at city speeds. Jump on the gas in a more aggressive mode, and there's pace and comfort in abundance - the consummate grand tourer just as it's intended to be. The suspension is supple, the steering sharp but not excessively so (and genuinely impressive for Ferrari's first electric power-assisted setup), and the general levels of comfort well beyond the expectation of a car with this much power. In wet weather, the electric all-wheel-drive system even means the SF90 is easily tamed and completely unlikely to spit you out when driven in partial anger.
But, Performance or Qualifying modes, selected via the new eManettino drive selector, unleash visceral performance. The steering is sharpened, the chassis stiffened, and the Stradale strips itself of the GT cloth in favor of behavior entirely befitting of hypercar status.
It doesn't behave like traditional Ferrari hypercars, though, and the drive at the front axle results in a sensation of being pulled through corners rather than being shoved from behind - not typical Ferrari behavior in the slightest. It's eerie but utterly entertaining, and when coming into a turn, the genuine torque vectoring provided by the electric motors means handling is sharper than ever.
The brakes deserve equal credit - providing a fair amount of feedback despite a high level of energy regeneration programmed into their operation. Ferraris are hardly the last word in terms of brake feel and feedback, but the effectiveness of the massive 15.7-inch front and 14.2-inch rear brakes can't be underestimated, and the SF90 is brought to a halt from 62 mph in just 96.7 feet.
Whether driven on tight, winding roads or open flowing mountain passes, the SF90 Stradale feels as nimble as an F8 Tributo or Portofino, but it has capability vastly beyond what either of those posses. It's approachable performance, the likes of which we haven't quite seen before from the brand.
At the time of writing, the freshly-launched SF90 Stradale had not yet been vetted by the EPA for how rapidly it'll drain your wallet. However, we don't expect it to sip demurely with the performance potential it boasts. However, for the sake of comparison, the lighter F8 Tributo - which uses a variant of the SF90's engine, sans electrification - consumes 15/19/16 mpg city/highway combined. With 15.5 miles of claimed electric range, we suspect the Stradale might be a little lighter on juice, but only marginally so. Countering this, though, premium unleaded gasoline is the stipulated diet for the 18-gallon gas tank. On the electric front, a 7.9 kWh lithium-ion battery pack supplies the juice, but Ferrari avoids making claims as to how long the PHEV takes to fully charge.
The SF90 Stradale has made the bold engineering leap from analog to digital, not just in terms of its powertrain, but in terms of interior design as well - eschewing the standard analog gauges in favor of a newly-developed digital instrument cluster on a fully-configurable 16-inch curved screen that doubles for infotainment duties, too. It takes pride of place in a cabin filled with swooping lines, a newly designed, touch-sensitive steering wheel, push-button gear selectors styled to look like an H-pattern manual 'box of old, and supportive bucket seats upholstered in supple leather. The digital integration is furthered by a head-up display, which aids in reducing the amount of time a driver will spend looking anywhere but the road ahead by 36% - according to Ferrari. The materials are, as you'd expect, luxurious and exotic in equal measure, with leather, Alcantara, and carbon fiber the order of the day, but the design and overall feel is undeniably Ferrari. The only letdown - the electric components rob the grand tourer of its practicality.
Modern Ferraris are many things, but traditionally, all-wheel-drive isn't one of those. The last modern Ferrari to boast all-wheel capability was the four-seater GTC4Lusso, but the SF90 Stradale - while placed on a similar pedestal from a price and GT-emphasis perspective - doesn't have the luxury of extra seats. Instead, you get two seats in a low-slung cabin, which means ingress and egress are somewhat ungraceful affairs best reserved for parking spaces with plenty of real estate to swing open the long doors. In typical mid-engine fashion, rearward visibility is hampered by the power plant allowing for a mere slit of a rear windscreen, while the forward lines of sight are crystal clear. The large glasshouse makes the cabin feel bright and airy, while broad haunches fill the wing mirrors, never letting you forget that this is a performance machine first and foremost.
It's not uncommon for a high-end manufacturer to give buyers five upholstery choices, but in the case of the Stradale, that's just the number of seat designs you can choose from, with the likes of Standard, Style, and Daytona ranging from comfortable to supremely bolstered. Furthermore, Standard Racing and Daytona Racing seats can be had with woven carbon fiber shells, saving weight and looking incredible in the process. Those seats can be had in one of 15 leather colors including Crema, Sabbia, Cioccolato, Nero, Blu Sterling, and more vivid hues like Rosso Ferrari and Carta Da Zucchero.
As standard, matching leather adorns the dash and doors, along with the steering wheel, but an available Carbon Interior Upgrade liberally splashes the woven material all over the steering wheels, dash, and doors. Even the carpets can be customized, with leather or Alcantara available in nine hues. Most will opt for Nero, Blu, or Testa Di Moro, but Castoro, Rosso, Otranto, and even an earthy hue called Nuovo Cuoio are all available for those with brighter preferences.
If the SF90 Stradale has one problem, it's the identity crisis it faces. Not only is it a circa 1,000-hp hybrid supercar, but it's supposed to be a mid-engined GT car. The last time Ferrari built one of those was back in 1996 with the Ferrari F512 M as the last of the Testarossa lineage, but the mid-mounted engine meant there wasn't much cargo volume. Not only is this the case with the Stradale, but the electric motors up front mean that the frunk shrinks tremendously. While an F8 Tributo can stow seven cubic feet of cargo in its nose, the SF90 manages a paltry 2.6 cubes. The rear parcel shelf doesn't really add much extra practicality, with 0.7 cubic feet ready to serve. Perhaps a duffel bag, and a small one at that, might fit in the frunk, but as far as GT cars go, the Stradale misses a beat here.
Internal storage is appropriate, but not excessive, with narrow center console storage beneath the armrest panel, cupholders ahead of the button-style gear selector, and a cramped glovebox for the passenger.
No one buys a Ferrari looking for advanced driver assists, massaging seats, and ambient lighting that dances to the tunes on the radio, and the SF90 is really no different. Available features include front/rear park sensors and a nose lift system, as well as power-adjustable seats, power windows, and keyless central locking. There's cruise control, voice activation, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, and a power-adjustable steering column along with automatic LED headlights and a mandatory rearview camera, but aside from this, the Stradale is relatively pared-back from a features perspective.
Ferrari and Lamborghini are sworn enemies, so while both tend to follow the same industry trends, it's not often one will follow in the footsteps of the other. But this time around, Ferrari has gone where Lamborghini boldly led with the Huracan's digital instrumentation that doubles up as an infotainment display. Housed on a 16-inch curved digital display, it encompasses all the standard functionality, which includes AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and navigation. Smartphone integration is likely to make an appearance in the form of Apple CarPlay, too, but not Android Auto. The main display is supplemented by a smaller unit ahead of the passenger that shows performance information, while a head-up display helps place crucial information in the driver's line of sight. Everything is controlled via new haptic controls on the steering wheel and dash, rounding out the digital experience.
When we say the SF90 Stradale is all-new, we mean it. That means we can't glean any idea as to its reliability from a mechanically related predecessor, and considering this is the first time Ferrari has employed a plug-in hybrid powertrain like this, we're in the dark entirely. The Italian manufacturer does, however, offer a full seven-year maintenance plan that covers all scheduled maintenance at intervals of 12,400 miles or 12 months. As a PHEV, it will also fall under US legislation requiring warranty coverage on all hybrid components for seven years, minimum.
No, there aren't any crash test and safety ratings available for the SF90 Stradale, and no, the IIHS and NHTSA aren't going to test the supercar either. But, it does have all the basics legally required, and an assortment of performance hardware should ensure occupant safety.
While the standard feature compliment might not be at Mercedes S-Class levels, there's a fair amount of kit on board, such as automatic LED matrix headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, and reverse parking sensors. There's no blind-spot monitoring or automated parking though, and driver awareness detection is a thing of fiction here. The standard airbag consignment includes the mandatory dual front airbags.
Is it a GT, is it a halo hypercar, is it a mid-engine supercar, or is it simply an engineering exercise to appease the eco-warriors? The truth is, the Ferrari SF90 Stradale is all of these things, and none of them. It delivers all the performance a near-1,000 horsepower output might suggest, but it tames it to the extent that a novice car enthusiast could emerge from a mountain pass feeling like Michael Schumacher himself. It's supple, wieldy, and usable, but then you can barely fit a carton of milk in the frunk.
It's an entirely new breed of prancing horse, one that dictates the future of the brand, complete with a hybrid powertrain, all-wheel-drive, and digital interfaces that Enzo himself would likely turn in his grave at the prospect of. But it's also a monumental testament to the level of technology humankind is able to develop, cramming incredible performance into such a well-rounded package. It's compromised and not, and if we could genuinely criticize the SF90 for one thing, it's that any model paying homage to the Scuderia Ferrari racing division really should strike more fear into the heart of anyone who wishes to drive it. Did we just call a 986-horsepower Ferrari too tame? Yes - but that doesn't make it any less brilliant.
Sit down, take a sip of espresso, and have the paramedics on standby ready to jumpstart the heart of your financial advisor, because adding the SF90 Stradale to your compendium of exotics will set you back $625,000 before destination charges and any of the number of options you're likely to choose. Pricing on those options hasn't yet been released, but we wouldn't be surprised if a number of buyers pay north of $750k for a finished product.
The Ferrari SF90 Stradale is a standalone model from the brand. It's a plug-in hybrid with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 and three electric motors channeling combined outputs of 986 hp to all four wheels with the assistance of an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Standard highlights include aluminum bodywork, LED headlights, and 20-inch alloy wheels, while the features list includes cruise control, automatic windscreen wipers, and a 16-inch digital instrumentation cluster doubling up as infotainment display. Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable seats, and a power-adjustable steering column are all equipped, as is a rearview camera and rear parking sensors.
Like all exotic products, the number of optional features is high, and the cost even higher. In addition to a vast selection of paints and seven wheel choices including ten-spoke carbon fiber items, the brakes can be had in one of five hues, too. An Exterior Carbon Components package will deck the front splitter, side skirts, air intakes, and rear diffuser in woven carbon, while the roof can be specced to match, and the exhausts can be had in three finishes including Titanium and Black Ceramic. Interior options include the choice between Standard, Style, and Daytona seats, while the interior can be decked out in carbon fiber to match the exterior.
The biggest decision buyers will need to decide on is whether or not to opt for the Fiorano Pack specification. By selecting this, the Stradale is equipped with GT race car-derived suspension, further weight-saving measures, a high-downforce carbon fiber rear ducktail, and grippier track tires. This pack also unlocks two unique liveries, with Argento Nurburgring striping and either Rosso Corsa or Giallo Modena highlights.
There's no 'wrong' way to spec the SF90 Stradale, but we do have some preferences. For classic style, Rosso Corsa is a must-have, but the silky Grigio Ingrid gets our nod for paintwork, paired with the black roof and carbon fiber engine cover. Carbon fiber wheels, black brake calipers, and the exterior carbon fiber package all look sublime, finished off with Black Ceramic exhaust pipes. Inside, the Daytona Racing seats are a little excessive for our liking, but the standard carbon fiber racing seats are a treat, finished in Blu Medio leather. With an abundance of carbon fiber everywhere else, though, we'd forego the carbon interior upgrade, while finishing it off with the classy Grigio Scuro carpets.
The 720S is McLaren's staple - the core of the mid-ranking Super Series of vehicles, with a mid-mounted 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 developing 710 hp and sending it to the rear wheels via a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It punches well above its weight, regularly taking on hypercar exotica and winning, and despite a 200-hp deficit, being nearly as quick as the iconic McLaren P1. The SF90 Stradale, on the other hand, follows a similar recipe - a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8, but with 59 hp more - however thanks to three electric motors, the Ferrari's outputs total 986 hp. With more power and grip, the Fezza is naturally quicker, racking up a 0-62 mph time of 2.5 seconds and a 0-124 mph time of 6.7 seconds compared to the McLaren's 2.9- and 7.8-second sprint times, respectively. However, the 720S is geared more towards outright performance, and while the SF90 is certainly not short in that department by any stretch, it's a little more focused on being a grand tourer. As for which is best, well, value for money goes the way of the McLaren at almost half the price of the Ferrari. But, in the grand scheme of things, the Ferrari is the future of the supercar as we know it, and the arresting style, performance, and approachability of it are winning attributes.
Ferrari has only ever built two hybrid cars, and while the SF90 might not be the successor to the LaFerrari, it certainly learned a lot from it. Both make use of mid-mounted engines and electric augmentation, but the LaFerrari used a 6.3-liter naturally aspirated howler of a V12 for a combined 950 hp all sent to the rear wheels. In contrast, the SF90 generates 36 hp more, but also sends it to all corners and relies on turbocharging for a less enthusiastic, but more environmentally friendly, approach. The performance figures are close, although the LaFerrari's 2.9-second 0-62 mph time and 6.9-second 0-124 mph sprints fall short of the SF90, but the LaFerrari is faster up top, racking up 217 mph to the 211 of the SF90. The LaFerrari was built as a halo hypercar, and as such, it's more visceral in the way it behaves, while the 'commonplace' SF90 is more approachable, and has a 15.5-mile electric range. The Stradale is also not limited in the number of units that will be produced, while just 500 LaFerrari coupes were built. This means the LaFerrari is rarer, and arguably the better definition of a visceral performance hypercar, but the Stradale will appeal to more people, be easier to drive, and shows that even a proverbial mid-tier supercar from 2020 can punch at the level of an all-out hypercar that's just a few years old.
Think of the SF90 Stradale as somewhat of a hybrid between a Ferrari F8 Tributo and a LaFerrari, sharing the basic V8 architecture with the former and adopting the electric motor technology of the latter. But while it shares the F8's V8, it carries an extra 100cc of displacement and generates 769 hp to the F8's 710 ponies. The SF90 Stradale is 0.4 seconds quicker to 62 mph, 1.1 seconds quicker to 124 mph, and laps the Fiorano circuit a full 3.5 seconds quicker, while having all-wheel-drive means it's arguably the better partner in wet conditions. However, in a strange turn of events, the SF90 - which is intended to be a grand tourer - has a smaller trunk and is far less practical than the F8. Both are stunning to look at, and the driving experience - speed aside - is remarkably similar. But at around $200,000 less than the SF90 Stradale, the F8 Tributo is an excellent value proposition.