Getting behind the wheel of any Ferrari is a special occasion, and we’ve been lucky enough to be among the selected few to try the latest Italian Stallion – the brand’s new ‘green’ 296 GTB.
While its plug-in hybrid might be green by supercar standards, the motor waiting for us at the Monteblanco race circuit near sunny Seville in Spain is finished in the traditional Rosso Corsa red – as it should be too.
Ferrari tells us the 296 GTB is an ‘everyday supercar’ that’s both fun behind the wheel when you are pushing the car to its limits and also when tootling around in relaxed or engaging day-to-day driving. That’s why we’ve taken it on track as well as the street to find out if it lives up to these promises.
It might be red but Ferrari’s 296 GTB is its latest green supercar: Ray Massey takes the £240,000 Fezza on the road and track to test the the 205mph plug-in hybrid ahead of UK deliveries arriving this summer
At first blush it’s certainly a stunner, but deep-pocketed Ferrari enthusiasts will have to wait a few months before first UK deliveries of right-hand-drive models begin this summer.
Prices start from £241,550, with the Fiorano pack (named after Ferrari’s own in-house test circuit in the Italian town) costing a further £25,920.
This option adds a Lexan glass cover over the engine, enhanced sports suspension, and a host of styling tweaks.
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And if you really want to push the boat out there’s a full list of tantalising, but pricy, accessories. These include carbon fibre wheels, which are a staggering £19,200 for a set of four.
The new 296 GTB is a significant new entrant for the iconic Italian brand.
That’s because at the heart of the 200mph-plus electrified supercar is a new V6 engine that marks a leaner, cleaner – but no less meaner – chapter for Ferrari, which it declares to be ‘epoch-changing’.
The elegant mid-rear engined berlinetta-style grand touring sports car is boosted by an electric motor high voltage 7.45 kWh battery pack located under the floor. This enables it to sprint to 62mph in under three seconds and travel more than 15 miles in zero-emissions electric-only power.
The new 296 GTB is a significant new entrant for the iconic Italian brand. That’s because at its heart is a new V6 engine that marks a leaner, cleaner – but no less meaner – chapter for Ferrari, which it declares to be ‘epoch-changing’
While its plug-in hybrid might be green by supercar standards, the motor waiting for us at the Monteblanco race circuit near sunny Seville in Spain is finished in the traditional Rosso Corsa red – as it should be too
Prices start from £241,550, with the Fiorano pack (named after Ferrari’s own in-house test circuit in the Italian town) costing a further £25,920
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Ferrari says it marks a ‘revolution’ for the car firm by ushering in a new era of highly efficient V6 hybrid engines after years of dominance by the traditional petrol V8.
As well as the electrification, it is also significant because it is the first six-cylinder engine installed on a road car sporting the Prancing Horse badge – more of that later.
Ferrari chiefs say the lighter 3.0-litre V6 engine and hybrid powertrain has allowed them to shorten the wheelbase by 50mm, which in turn has allowed them to boost the car’s dynamic agility, improve ride and handling, and create an even livelier driving experience.
But there’s a big twist.
The one thing you expect firm any Ferrari is a big noise as it roars into life.
You can still experience this when the engine is at full throttle. But the slightly weird thing about its new grand tourer is – in the words of Simon and Garfunkel – how you can echo to the sound of silence.
In zero-emissions pure electric mode it is eerily quiet. No roar. Not even a whisper. Yet it can travel at up to 93.7mph with a range of 15.5 miles – enough to get in and out of city centres without emitting CO2 or any pollutants.
With a whopping 830hp available in the dip of a pedal, a thrash through the 8-speed F1-derived automatic gearbox will propel the Ferrari from zero to 62mph in just 2.9 seconds and to 124mph in 7.3 seconds, up to a top speed of more than 205mph
Ray said he felt secure and comfortable on the track with a Ferrari test driver up ahead in a support car urging him on. The car has enough electronic driver support to do most of the skilled stability control for you
The Fezza sticks to the track like glue on the tightest of bends taken at speed. And we could have pushed it far harder, had we the nerve
What’s it like to drive at [not quite] full throttle?
Driving any new Ferrari is always an occasion.
The 296 GTB an exceptionally elegant car whose aerodynamic styling also gives a nod to much-loved classical Ferraris of the past most notably the 1963 250 LM.
But the rear-wheel drive car is ultra-modern in terms of tech and cleverly packaged for space.
It looks great from the front and side. But arguably the best view is the rear three-quarter view from behind which allows you to appreciate the flowing lines, the rear haunches, a hint of the V6 engine beating beneath its glass cover and a view through the sporty cockpit.
Now, I’m no snake-hipped Italian waiter or racing driver, so getting in through the door and into the seat required a little physical gymnastics and pulling in of legs and stomach muscles to get inside. But once seated, even I was completely at home snuggled into the supportive sports seats.
I’m no racing driver either – and have no pretense or ambition in that direction. But my first outing was on the track and that’s always a little nerve tingling – especially when handling so much power.
Purists and advanced drivers will turn off most if not all of the ‘nanny’ buttons. But we were grateful for them. If you do fancy a blast on a circuit, you will likely unleashed more than the fraction of its performance ability as I did
Ferrari says the new V6 punches above its weight and emulates a V12 in terms of its sound and even earned itself the nickname ‘piccolo V12’ (little V12) during the development phase
Even at low revs, inside the cabin, the soundtrack features the pure V12 orders of harmonics which then, at higher revs, guarantee that typical high-frequency treble
The new 296 GTB also saves a lot of weight, weighing just 1470kg with lightweight options. The V6 engine itself is 30kg lighter than the V8 engine
With a whopping 830 horsepower available in the dip of a pedal, a thrash through the eight-speed F1-derived DCT automatic gearbox will propel the Ferrari from zero to 62mph in just 2.9 seconds and to 124mph in 7.3 seconds, up to a top speed of more than 205mph.
Yet even I felt secure and comfortable on the track with a Ferrari test driver up ahead in a support car urging me on.
The car has enough electronic driver support to do most of the skilled stability control for you. It stuck to the track like glue on the tightest of beds taken at speed. And I could have pushed it far harder, had I the nerve.
Purists and advanced drivers will turn off most if not all of the ‘nanny’ buttons. But frankly, I was grateful for them. So if you do fancy a blast on a circuit, you will likely unleashed more than the fraction of its performance ability as I did.
Thankfully its powerful performance requires powerful brakes and the 296 GTB can be brought to a standstill from 124mph in just 107m. And for those who keep track of such things, it lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano training and test circuit in 1 minute and 21 seconds – somewhat quicker than I’d ever manage.
Designed and engineered ‘from a clean sheet’ Ferrari says the 296 GTB is the first Ferrari road car to sport a V6 turbo with a ‘vee’ with an angle of 120° between the cylinder banks, coupled with a plug-in electric motor
At the end of our run on the road, the dashboard said we’d travelled 161km (100 miles) in total, of which 30km (19 miles) was in electric ‘e-drive’ mode
How does the hybrid Ferrari perform on the road?
But it’s out on the road that the bright red – but deeply ‘green’ – Ferrari showed its true colours.
Powerfully quick on a long stretch, gentle through town, and a demon on twisting and turning Spanish mountain roads where it proved an absolute delight.
And that’s when it unleashes its roar. For the hybrid power has two advantages. It gives you silent zero-emissions driving in electric mode. But it also adds electric power to the petrol engine when you really want to gun it.
And that’s when you get the shrill Ferrari wail.
Ferrari says the new V6 punches above its weight and emulates a V12 in terms of its sound and even earned itself the nickname ‘piccolo V12’ (little V12) during the development phase: ‘Even at low revs, inside the cabin, the soundtrack features the pure V12 orders of harmonics which then, at higher revs, guarantee that typical high-frequency treble.’
It’s particular agile in tight spots, too.
I managed, by mistake, to drive into a small Spanish mountain top village where the roads funnelled me into increasingly narrower lanes and bends, so tight I began to fear for the paintwork and wondered if I’d get stuck. But the car managed admirably and I emerged unscathed.
The V6 hybrid package means Ferrari could create a shorter wheelbase.
For driving there are four set ups which prioritise engine or electric motor accordingly: electric-only ‘e-drive’; Hybrid; Performance; and race-inspired Qualify. For most of the time I was in Hybrid mode– letting the car do the work – but performance and beyond gives an added buzz and frisson.
Ferrari says 296 GTB’s plug-in hybrid system aims to it make an incredibly usable car as well as cutting pedal response times to zero. Dynamic control systems as are designed to provide the driver instantly with astonishing agility and responsiveness to commands. And it does.
Despite the green tech, fuel consumption is still relatively thirsty, averaging 21.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 149g/km
The new 296 GTB has an active rear spoiler (like the LaFerrari) which is designed to increase downforce and will manage up to 360kg at 155mph
The 296 GTB has lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test circuit in 1 minute and 21 seconds (though not with Ray at the wheel)
Will it fit in my garage? Ferrari 296 GTB
Price: from £241,550
First UK deliveries: Summer 2022
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Dry weight: 1470kg
Engine: 2992cc V6 petrol
Electric power: 167hp electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed F1 DCT automatic
Maximum power: 830 horsepower (610 kW)
Top speed: 205mph-plus
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds
0-124mph: 7.3 seconds
Electric-only range: 15.5miles
Electric-only top speed: 93.7mph
Braking distance 124mph-0mph: 107 metres
Fuel consumption: 21.5mpg (average)
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Fuel tanks capacity: 65 litres
There are a number of technical innovations worth talking about.
The new 296 GTB has an active rear spoiler (like the LaFerrari) which is designed to increase downforce and will manage up to 360kg at 155mph.
Previous flaps on diffuser have been designed to reduce drag.
On this car, by contrast, it is designed to increase downforce and help it stick to the road.
Designed and engineered ‘from a clean sheet’ Ferrari says the 296 GTB is the first Ferrari road car to sport a V6 turbo with a ‘vee’ with an angle of 120° between the cylinder banks, coupled with a plug-in electric motor.
The new 296 GTB also saves a lot of weight, weighing just 1470kg with lightweight options.
The V6 engine itself is 30kg lighter than the V8 engine.
Comparing notes after our outings, one fellow driver was troubled, however: ‘It’s almost too good’, he said.
I have a sense of what he meant.
Has Ferrari sacrificed raw passion for clinical performance and precision? Is Italy’s flagship brand becoming a bit too German?
But you do need a bit of grit in the oyster to create the pearl and Ferrari must be careful not to lose too many of its quirks.
Despite the green tech, fuel consumption is still relatively thirsty, averaging 21.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 149g/km.
Imagine what that would be if it weren’t a hybrid. And ‘average’ I suspect is a word that covers a multitude of sins given the temptation to drive this car at its engaging best.
At the end of my run on the road, the dashboard helpfully told me I’d travelled 161km (100 miles) of which 30km (19 miles) was in electric ‘e-drive’.
Throughout my journey I’d spent 39 per cent of my time in some form of electric mode, which will keep Green Peace protesters from my door, at least.
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