Homage to the Dino |
“Redefining fun behind the wheel,” is Ferrari’s description of the new 296 GTB, the latest evolution of Maranello’s mid-rear-engined two-seater sports car, or “berlinetta” in Ferrari parlance. Yet, “fun behind the wheel” may well be the most significant under-promise in more than 70 years of Ferrari having over-delivered on every promise. More to the point, the 296 GTB represents a revolution as Ferrari introduces a new V6 engine coupled with an electric motor to flank the marque’s iconic 8- and 12-cylinder power units.
Strictly speaking, and even though the first 6-cylinder car to emerge from Maranello was the Dino 156 F2 race car in 1957, the all-new Ferrari 296 GTB is the first 6-cylinder engine installed on a road car sporting the Prancing Horse badge. Many Ferrari enthusiasts would argue that the 1967 Dino road-going car was the first Ferrari to sport a 6-cylinder engine, but that is not the case. Dino was a subsidiary of Ferrari, named after Dino Ferrari (1932-1956), the oldest son of Enzo Ferrari. The Dino name was therefore used to brand models with engines smaller than 12-cylinders and, later with the Dino two-seater road car, it represented an attempt by the company to offer a relatively low-cost sports car through its Dino subsidiary without diluting the Ferrari brand. The Ferrari name remained reserved for its premium 12-cylinder models until 1976, when the Dino brand was retired in favour of full Ferrari branding.
What’s in a name?
Hinting at its Dino origins, the new 296 GTB follows the same naming convention as the first road-going Dino, the Pininfarina designed Dino 206 GT that made its first appearance in 1967. Like the first Dino road car, the name of the new 296 GTB combines its total displacement (2.9-litre) and number of cylinders (6), indicated as 296, with the addition of the GTB (Gran Turismo Berlinetta) acronym in synonymous Ferrari tradition. The name underscores this new engine’s epoch-changing significance to Maranello. Ushering in a new V6 era intrinsically rooted in Ferrari’s unparalleled 70-year-plus history, the new V6 engine in the 296 GTB represents much more than the living, beating heart of Ferraris’s latest road challenger. Sentimentally, the significance of the 296 GTB resonates with a time in which a grieving father anointed a series of cars in honor of his son who sadly passed away from muscular dystrophy before his 25th birthday.
A Hybrid Prancing Horse
The 296 GTB is the first Ferrari road car to sport a V6 twin-turbo coupled with a plug-in electric motor, and is the first Ferrari to feature the turbos installed inside the ‘vee’. Including significant packaging advantages, a lower centre of gravity, and reduced engine mass, this particular powertrain architecture delivers near insurmountable levels of power. As a result, the new Ferrari V6 has set a new specific power output record for a production car of 162.5 kW/l.
The powertrain comprises a V6 twin-turbo engine, coupled to an 8-speed double clutch transmission (DCT) and electronic differential (E-Diff), and an F1 derived kinetic energy recovery system (MGU-K) located between the engine and the gearbox. The 7.5kWh battery and inverter are located under the floor and a clutch located between the engine and the electric motor functions to decouple them in electric-only eDrive mode.
With the V6 twin-turbo integrated with an electric motor at the rear, combined maximum power output of 610 kW at 8,000 rpm and 740 Nm torque at 6250 rpm places the 296 GTB at the top of the rear-wheel-drive sports car segment. This highly efficient powertrain accelerates this moving sculpture from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 7.3 seconds, and on to a top speed of 330 km/h.
The 296 GTB is also an extremely flexible car. The electric powertrain allows for instant and smooth accelerator pedal response at all engine speeds, and a range of 25 km in electric-only mode – not particularly practical or needed on a supercar, but perhaps useful and considerate of the neighbours when departing for an early Sunday morning breakfast run.
An Emotive Tone
The famous adage among the Tifosi rings true: “You have never heard an emotive tone until you have heard a Ferrari V12 at full throttle.” The 296 GTB rewrites the rulebook by harmoniously combining two characteristics that are inherently diametrically opposed: the monotonous sound of the turbos and the harmony of the high-frequency notes of a naturally-aspirated V12. This particular Ferrari’s soundtrack matches its performance, creating a sense of unprecedented involvement, and marks the turning of a new page in Maranello’s berlinetta history.
A patented “hot tube”, completely redesigned for the 296 GTB, is positioned ahead of the exhaust gas treatment system in order to channel the pure sound into the cabin, further enhancing driver involvement and exhilaration. Inside the 296 GTB cabin the soundtrack features pure V12 harmonic orders, even at low revs, and in turn, at higher revs, guarantees that distinct high-frequency treble. And to on-lookers the shrill sound of the engine makes the 296 GTB instantly recognisable as a classic Ferrari.
The main aerodynamic signature of the rear of the 296 GTB is an active spoiler that generates extra downforce and maximises the car’s handling and braking performance at high speeds.
The beautifully designed derriere features an active rear spoiler, seamlessly integrated into the bumper design, taking up the bulk of the space between the taillights. When maximum downforce is not required, the spoiler is stowed in a compartment in the upper section of the tail. But as soon as acceleration exceeds a specific threshold, the spoiler deploys and extends from the fixed section of the bodywork. This combined effect results in a 100 kg increase in downforce over the rear axle, further enhancing the driver’s control in high-performance driving situations while minimising stopping distances under braking.
Made for the Track
The 296 GTB’s dynamic development is focused on boosting the car’s pure performance, delivering class-leading levels of driver engagement through full use of the new hybrid system architecture. Easy access to usable performance is entrenched in the Ferrari DNA, and even in electric-only eDrive mode, the 296 GTB can reach speeds of up to 135 km/h without engaging the internal combustion engine. In Hybrid mode, the internal combustion engine backs up the electric motor when increased performance is required.
The transition between electric and hybrid modes is fundamental to the sports car characteristics of the 296 GTB. Both modes play a fundamental role in the integration with the car’s dynamic functionalities, which explains why Ferrari added a power management selector (eManettino) alongside the traditional Manettino. The eManettino offers four drive modes: eDrive, Hybrid, Performance, and Qualify.
A wheelbase that is 50 mm shorter than previous Ferrari mid-rear-engined berlinettas benefits the car’s dynamic agility. Additional solutions that enhance the car’s handling and performance include a brake-by-wire system, ‘Aero’ brake callipers, electric power steering, rear active aero, and magnetorheological dampers.
Meticulous attention to detail is evident in the notable weight reduction, ensuring the car’s balance and delicacy of handling is perfectly proportioned. The result is a dry weight of just 1,470 kg, which is class-leading with regard to the overall weight-to-power ratio of 2.4 kg/kW.
The 296 GTB also features a new ABS control module developed exclusively for Ferrari, which explains the excellent improvement in braking distances: compared to the F8 Tributo the 296 GTB reduces the 200-0 km/h braking distance by 8.8% and also improves the repeat braking efficiency from that speed by 24%.
For those clients who wish to exploit the car’s extreme power and performance to the utmost, the optional Assetto Fiorano package is unreservedly uncompromising in terms of maximum performance. The package includes special GT racing-derived adjustable Multimatic shock absorbers optimised for track use, high downforce carbon-fibre appendages on the front bumper capable of delivering an additional 10 kg of downforce, a Lexan rear screen, and more extensive use of lightweight materials such as carbon fibre for both cabin and exterior.
A special livery inspired by the 250 Le Mans can also be ordered exclusively by owners who opt for the Assetto Fiorano package. Other exclusive content available with the Assetto Fiorano package includes Michelin Sport Cup2R high performance tyres which are especially suited to track use due to their phenomenal grip.
The 296 GTB’s impeccably clean, simple architecture appears as the work of a single pencil stroke. With its short wheelbase and its monolithic, sculpted structure, the 296 GTB abandons the typical berlinetta fastback configuration in favour of a cabin architecture that visually appears as an imposing volume. The combined effect of the short wheelbase, prominent muscular wings, the visor-style windscreen, robust flying buttresses, and a new vertical rear screen is striking. Its exceptional modernity references 1960s’ Ferraris, which made simplicity and functionality their signature characteristic. The 250 LM from 1963, in particular, inspired designers with elements such as the sinuous, sculpted look of the body, the design of the B pillar, the unusual composition of the wings into which the air-intakes are set, and the delicately proportioned Kamm tail.
Wheels doth maketh the car, and the 296 GTB does not disappoint with its new 20-inch alloy wheels with a twin-spoke design accentuating the sculptural effect of the starburst shape. Also available are specific five-spoke forged wheels where the effect is highlighted by a diamond-cut finish, as well as a carbon-fibre wheel option, which is 8 kg lighter than their forged counterpart and sets a new performance benchmark.
The 296 GTB’s cockpit was developed around the new concept of an entirely digital interface which Ferrari first debuted on the SF90 Stradale, resulting in a pure, minimalistic aesthetic that perfectly mirrors the design of the exterior.
When the engine is off, the onboard instruments fade to black, further enhancing the minimalist aesthetics of the cabin. Once the capacitive ‘Start Engine’ button is touched, all the components gradually spring to life and the 296 GTB reveals its technological glory in the form of an exceptionally modern, ergonomic and completely digital interface. The instrument cluster is complemented with two side screens on the dashboard, each with its own capacitive touch area, and an air vent. A passenger-side display that allows passengers to ‘live’ the driving experience more so as a participant, almost a co-driver, is a notable feature.
Boasting custom made diapason-style seats using contrasting grooves, highlighted with exclusive Italian leather trim, this sophisticated detailing complements the luxurious cabin aesthetic. The sculptural door panel is a seamless continuation of the dashboard in terms of both materials and colour. The tunnel incorporates the SF90 Stradale-inspired modern take on the classic gear-shift gate and a compartment for stowing the ignition key with its characteristic Prancing Horse badge.
An example of the application of Ferrari’s philosophy of maximum formal purity, the Head Up Display is seamlessly integrated into the leather trim. The design of the speakers follows the same principle. Rather than metal, the designers opted for a thermoplastic cover mirroring the accent colour on the dash.
The 296 GTB’s plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain guarantees incredible versatility, including cutting pedal response times. The car’s compact dimensions and the introduction of innovative dynamic control systems, as well as meticulously honed aerodynamics, ensure that the driver will instantly experience its astonishing agility and responsiveness to commands. Its sporty, sinuous design visually underscores its exceptional modernity, expertly referencing the likes of the 1963 250 LM and the 1967 Dino, signifying a perfect marriage of simplicity and functionality.
The Dino, arguably the most beautiful design to emanate from Maranello until now, was also the most underpowered car. The 296 GTB, also featuring a V6, rectifies this imperfection with a design that is even more arresting than that of the Dino, and includes both power and performance to match the best in class. The 296 GTB pays true homage to a grieving father and his stricken son, who both defined the legacy that is Ferrari.
Report by Wilhelm Loots | Images © Ferrari