Motoring Ferrari

My favourite Ferrari of all time is the Dino, so named in honour of Enzo Ferrari’s late son, Alfredo Dino Ferrari, credited with designing the V6 engine used in the Dino. It was a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive beauty, produced from 1957 to 1976. In my eyes, it is one of the most beautiful cars ever created. The Dino was a sub-brand and was phased out to ensure all their cars were branded purely Ferrari.

So, here is its replacement, the 296 GTB. It is very beautiful and proves that finally, Ferrari has got its heads round the electric revolution, with its V6 hybrid powertrain. The aluminium chassis and strictly two seats help with limiting the weight, while slotted under the parcel shelf is a 7.45kWh, 70kg battery pack. That feeds a 165bhp electric motor. This motor can be used up to 84mph but the main aim is for the car to be quiet as a church mouse as it crawls thought traffic.

It’s a bit of a revolution; it’s Ferrari’s first ever production V6. The Dino was a sub-brand, remember. Look deep and you’ll spot the famous red crackle covers, but they’ve been prised further apart, with the banks opened out to 120 degrees. Pride of place in the engine bay now goes to a curvaceous burnished metal heat plate. Under it, nestling in the ‘hot vee’ of the cylinder banks, lie a pair of IHI turbos shared with the SF90. The turbines at both ends are slightly smaller, so they can spin faster (180,000rpm), run more efficiently (by 24%) and respond quicker.

‘Is it quick?’ l hear you say… Well, how about 830bhp, V6 twin-turbo, launching to 8,500rpm with max torque only arriving at 6,250rpm? Nor does it come across as particularly electrified. The turbos and e-motor are there to enhance the V6, not to be the stars of the show in their own right. Of course there’s masses of zero lag bottom end grunt, but the way it’s blended is genius. You can deceive yourself into thinking you’re driving an especially healthy naturally aspirated engine.

And it sounds good too, higher pitched and richer toned than the F8 Tributo’s flat V8 blare, it’s more fizzy and energetic. Ferrari claims its engineers nicknamed it the piccolo V12 – little V12 – it doesn’t have the trumpeting baroque glory, the proud Roman pomp of an 812 in majestic full flow, but l can see where they’re coming from.

On the road it’s smooth, intimate and connected. The steering’s super fast, but Ferrari is on top of that now, so trust in the front end comes naturally. It’s not super-rich in road detail, but it’s massively satisfying to turn: the weighting, the resistance, the connection – all are superb. Body control on smooth surfaces is immaculate, traction effortless, everything operates in balance and harmony, it never feels heavy or caught out. It just carries you along, wants to entertain and amuse; alert and playful.

And when you get to a village you can press the ‘haptic eD’ button on the lower left of the steering wheel and have a claimed 15 miles of e-range. OK, it’s more like 10, but the point stands. You can go into stealth mode and roll silently through. Supercars are attention seekers, heard before they’re seen, but here’s that extra dimension that electricity brings – soundless progress and a more accepting audience.

The interior is not much changed from many other models but it is all well laid out; vital buttons at your fingertips. I have to say it has a whiff of McLaren about the interior and sadly, the Ferrari peeps will now likely send me to Coventry for uttering such sacrilege.

McLaren’s having some sleepless nights, that’s for sure. Both firms will say the Artura (670bhp and £182,500) isn’t a direct rival, but they’re just dancing around each other. Right now, no-one builds a better mid-engined supercar than this. And it’s a V6. I think it’s less of a step change to lose a pair of cylinders than it was to add a pair of turbos. The purity of the product shifted fundamentally when 458 became 488 back in 2015. This, in a very modern way, is getting back there.



Model tested: Ferrari 296 GTB
Power: 830 bhp
Speed: 0-62 - 2.9 seconds
Top:205 mph
Economy: 44.1 mpg combined
Price from: £241,560

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