Ferrari 296 GTB, is it a real Ferrari? 

We test the Ferrari 296 GTB at the Yas Marina circuit. 

Ferrari is a name that evokes passion and speed from the get-go. It also brings to mind a red two-door sports car with a beautiful, loud sonorous soundtrack. Some elements of the above vision have changed. A red two-door sports car remains, but the soundtrack has changed. Say hello to the Ferrari 296GTB. Ferrari’s first-ever V6 hybrid sportscar.

LOOKS

Taking inspiration from its bigger brother, the SF90, the 296 GTB looks like a younger version of the SF90. It looks like a Ferrari; that is a given. You cannot mistake it for any other car.

The rear is inspired by Ferrari’s 1963’s 250 LM race car. Prominent broad rear haunches and smooth lines define the back end. The taillights are an amalgamation of design elements from the SF90 and the Roma.

The entire design language is minimalist and elegant. A lot of aero work is in place, but nothing stands out. You have to pay attention to where actual aerodynamics comes into play.

I love elegant and minimalist designs, and I approve of this style. The front has a lower lip with what Ferrari calls the ‘Tea-Tray’. A feature that channels air smoothly below the car. There are louvres, ducts, vents and spoilers, all neatly packaged and tucked away over and under the car’s smooth lines. You have to pay attention and find them.

Customers can buy the 296 in two versions. One is the hardtop, and the other is a hardtop convertible with a retractable roof which folds and opens in 14 seconds flat below the speeds of 40 kph.

Customers can spec both cars with the Asseto Fiorano pack. The pack brings in more track-focused performance upgrades to the 296. Such as lighter seats made of carbon fibre, more focused aerodynamics, lighter CF wheels and a paint scheme inspired by the Le Man racecar.

PERFORMANCE

You will be wondering about this, I am sure of it. This is Ferrari’s first V6 hybrid and second car after the SF90 with a hybrid powertrain.

The V6 turbocharged engine combined with the battery pack produces 819 hp and sends all the power to the rear wheels. The battery provides 164 hp, and the engine offers the remaining 655 hp. The entire powertrain is mated to Ferrari’s new 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The 296 is also a PHEV, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. You can charge the battery via a wall charger at your home.

If you are used to starting Ferrari’s, it will take you by surprise; you expect that deep sonorous engine noise at startup. On startup, the car starts up in battery mode and is dead silent. This is something that takes getting used to.

Drive off in pure electric mode, and the car glides along silently. It is funny and ironic when you see the prancing horse on the steering wheel, and there is no sound coming from the car. You can drive the car up to 25 km, enough to do a grocery run in full EV mode.

But floor it, the battery combined with the engine roars to life, and the car completely changes character. From a silent skulking cheetah, it goes into attack mode and sprints like one. The 296 does 0-100 kph in 2.9 seconds, then destroys the 200 kph mark in 7.3 seconds.

You can choose which mode you want to drive the car in via the eManettino switch on the steering wheel. You have options of eDrive, Hybrid, Performance and Qualify. Each mode uses different combinations of the engine and battery.

We have to talk about the engine sound. The V6 on this genuinely sounds good. It sounds nice and deep, just like a V12. It sounds so much like a V12 that it has an in-house nickname, piccolo V12, or little V12.

HANDLING

It handles precisely like a Ferrari. You will be wondering what the hell does that mean now?

Cars like the F8, 488, 812, and F12 have a very active and sensitive steering wheel. Turn it slightly, and the vehicles follow like an agile fighter jet, almost like getting sucked into a vacuum. Driving the 296 is exactly like that, only faster.

The wheelbase is short, and the powertrain sits low to ensure the centre of gravity is low. The steering is precise and provides good feedback on what is happening with the tires. The SWB helps the car be even more aggressive on corners.

Under hard acceleration and braking, you can feel the car finding traction and grip and making sure it is pointed in the direction of the steering. You must continuously pay attention to the steering and manage it during aggressive driving. If you decide that you want to cruise down the highway, the 296 will do that as well. However, I prefer it on the track or on a set of twisty roads mountainous roads.

The brakes on the 296 are fly by wire and take some getting used to. Once you figure that out, which is easy, you are good to go.

It even has drift mode if you want to feel like a driving god and show off to your friends. Choose the level of the angle of attack you and the car will help you drift and hold the drift as well.

INTERIORS

The Roma and the SF90 inspire the interiors of the 296 GTB. It has gone digital—no more red starter button. You now start the car via a digital touch button on the steering (I miss the old red button).

The driver’s dashboard gets newly updated graphics, HUD and updated software from the Roma. It takes some practice, but you get used to it.

The centre console gets a dedicated spot to put the enamel and leather key. The key reminds everyone of the old-school Zippo lighters.

Carrying forward modern Ferrari traditions, the 296 has all the switchgear on the steering wheel. New drivers can get a bit overwhelmed, but it is a matter of spending time with the car.

The rest of the car is covered in supple leather, and the owners have a wide range of colours and combinations to choose from. Overall quality is good, with the touch and feel of all materials feeling premium.

VERDICT

The 296 sits at an interesting spot. It sits above the F8 but below the SF90 and 812. It does not replace any car and is a segment by itself. With prices starting at $321,000, it is more expensive than the F8 Tributo. The car is brilliant and faces competition from its stablemates rather than outsiders.

Customers who want to embrace new technology and are forward-thinking will adopt this model with a bear hug. I genuinely cannot think of any negatives for this car and think it is absolutely brilliant. I recommend getting track driving lessons before taking this car onto the track. You need good experience to exploit its full potential.

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Yash Agarwal
Admin
9 days ago

Looks like a V6 ain’t a bad thing in a Ferrari

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