Fully equipped with technology, the 296GTB powered by Ferrari’s V-6 engine still offers a great driving experience.
Now, it’s clear that the machines have won, so let’s bow to our new robot masters. However, technology has been considered a diluted and polluting agent of engagement and interaction that is typically sports cars, a concept that has been around since very long before the advent of power steering systems. In recent years, the list of high-tech support tools has become a heap: stability control, deflection control, torque trend differentials, electric power steering systems, wire brakes, active aerodynamics and hybrid support. The Ferrari 296GTB has all and more but still delivers the same pure and uninterrupted driving experience as its most similar predecessor.
And its latent intelligence makes driving this 819-horsepower partially electric supercar and approaching its sky-high talent ratio almost uncannyly easy.
The biggest news was the arrival of Ferrari’s first long-distance V-6 since the 246 GT Dino retired in 1974. And since Dino has never had to wear a Cavallino Rampante shield (at least unofficially), that makes it the first V-six Ferrari cars to run the streets. The new engine has a capacity of 3.0 liters and uses two sets of tanks imposed in the V of the cylinder compartments are widely spaced, set apart by 120 degrees. Each turbo enhances three cylinders, their potency is reflected in the engine’s 654 horsepower, which Ferrari claims is the highest per-liter figure of any production car being sold today.
The power support comes from an advanced 164 hp axial throughput motor located between the V-6 and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. A third clutch can separate the combustion engine from the actuator, allowing the 296GTB to operate only on electric power, although it can only do this for a relatively short period of time at speeds of up to 84 mph. The 6.0 kWh battery pack behind the seat provides an estimated range of 10 miles. Unless locked into electric drive mode through a steering wheel-mounted selection switch, officially known as the eManettino, the GTB will keep the V-6 alive if it uses anything more than the top inch of the acceleration journey.
Ferrari engineers named the new engine the piccolo V-12 while developing it, and it produced a convincing sound impression of the 12-cylinder engine in the form of difficult use that we couldn’t resist giving it, turning to the limit of 8500 rpm without being enthusiastically restrained. At lower engine speeds, it is not to be confused with turbocharging, with a touch sound like a rushing stream, until the exhaust note and mechanical symphony are large enough to cover it. But the immediate reaction of the electric motor means that there is no clear turbo lag – the electric motor actually turns back a bit when the increased pressure is generated to keep the power distribution as linear as possible.
With the powertrain to its full potential, the 296GTB feels so fast that 819 horsepower shows. The new car is less fast than the four-wheel-drive, more powerful SF90 Stradale located above it in the company’s hybrid hierarchy, but only slightly. Acceleration is not good and we estimate the boot control will yield a time of 2.9 seconds 60 mph and a quarter of a mile out of nine. And the lap time of 1:21 of the 296GTB at Ferrari’s Fiorano Circuit was only 2 seconds slower than Stradale’s (and 1.5 seconds faster than the V-8-powered F8 Tributo).
Despite its exotic output and rear-wheel drive, this Ferrari, equipped with street-friendly Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, exhibits enormous traction on Spain’s mountain roads — a traction control system that uses regens that change from an electric motor to resist slippage without wind. Back to the engine.
On the narrow, dusty Monteblanco road near Seville, another GTB equipped with the track-oriented Assetto Fiorano package and riding on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires had even better adhesion but was still quite benign as its enhanced limits were deliberately violated. Raffaele de Simone, Ferrari’s head of development, confirmed that we will experience the 296GTB with road grip control turned off and the resulting tilt angles professionally managed by the Side Slip Control system. This car is not harder to float on the track than the Mazda Miata.
Even among many other technical highlights, the GTB’s steering and braking systems still stand out.The rack uses electric power support, but it manages to provide completely natural and unfiltered feedback, accurately reporting on everything from surface texture changes to sliding angles under the most difficult conditions of use. The electrically enhanced braking system removed the direct hydraulic link between the pedal and the carbon-ceramic disc brake clamp, but the weight and reaction seemed to remain true. An active feature that adds both the ability to pre-charge the system before a hard stop and the individual brake clamp in a subtle way to help the front of the car into the corner.
The presence of too much technology will probably make the 296GTB feel emotionally disconnected, but the reality is that. This support is invisible — helping the car slow down, turn, and deploy its immense power, without dampening the visceral excitement that comes from emitting too much sound and rage. It’s not as rudimentary as the V-8-powered F8 Tributo will sit closest to it in Ferrari’s hierarchy, but the 296GTB really doesn’t feel like an experience.
The more obvious comparison is with Ferrari’s other plug-in hybrids. The V-6 engine and rear-wheel drive of the 296GTB place it below the SF90 Stradale four-wheel drive, 986 hp; The new car is also lighter, smaller than 220 pounds and – to our eyes – more elegantly balanced, especially when viewed from the side. The absence of all-wheel drive also means that the GTB never suffers from a slight steering error as the Stradale sometimes encounters from its powered front bridge.
The $322,986 price of 296GTB also makes it nearly $200,000 cheaper. It’s definitely no worse than $200,000.
The cabin of the 296GTB feels very spacious for a two-seater Ferrari, and there’s even a respectable amount of luggage in the front trunk. At the rear, the glass engine cover shows both the V-6 engine and, in a very 2022 twisted style, the orange high voltage cables bring the current to the electric motor. The complaints are limited to minor annoyances: a clumsy infotainment system and Ferrari’s enthusiasm for putting all the switch buttons on the steering wheel. The result is ergonomic confusion, especially with sound controls, headlights and windshield washers scrambling for space at the back of the steering wheel. Usability will be improved by a few old-fashioned column bodies.
The 296GTB is proof that the growing hybridization and technology in super-efficient machines need not be feared. At least not when Ferrari does it. It takes a lot of effort to make something so complicated, a digital supercar can feel almost exactly the same. It’s both a technical masterpiece and as emotional as any Ferrari should have.