The 2022 Ferrari 296GTB Makes a Devastating Use of Electric Assist

Despite its technological sophistication, Ferrari's V-6-powered 296GTB delivers a scintillating driving experience.

By now, it's fairly obvious that the machines have triumphed, so submit to our new robot rulers. However, technology has long been viewed as a diluting and polluting agent of the involvement and interaction exemplified by sports cars, a perception that dates all the way back to the invention of power steering. Stability control, yaw control, torque-biasing differentials, electric power steering, brake-by-wire, active aerodynamics, and hybrid assistance have all been added to the list of high-tech aids in recent years. The Ferrari 296GTB has them all and yet retains the same pure and unadulterated driving experience as its most analog predecessor. And its concealed intelligence makes piloting this 819-horsepower part-electric supercar and utilizing a sizable portion of its towering abilities feel almost ridiculously simple.

The most significant development is the arrival of Ferrari's first road-going V-6 since 1974's 246 GT Dino. And, because the Dino never received the Cavallino Rampante shield (at least not officially), this is the first Ferrari street car to be powered by a V-6 engine. The new engine has a displacement of 3.0 liters and is equipped with two turbochargers located within the V of its widely spaced, 120-degree-apart cylinder banks. Each turbocharger powers three cylinders, as evidenced by the engine's 654 horsepower output, which Ferrari claims is the highest of any production car currently on the market.

The advanced 164-hp axial-flux motor that sits between the V-6 and the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission provides electric assistance. A third clutch can isolate the combustion engine from the driveline, allowing the 296GTB to operate entirely on electric power for brief periods up to 84 mph. The 6.0-kWh battery pack located behind the seats offers an estimated range of 10 miles. Unless the GTB is locked into electric drive mode via the steering-wheel-mounted selection switch, officially dubbed the eManettino, any acceleration beyond the top inch or so of the accelerator travel will fire the V-6.

Ferrari engineers dubbed the new engine the piccolo V-12 during development, and it sounds convincingly like a 12-cylinder when subjected to the kind of abuse we couldn't resist, revving to an 8500-rpm limiter with unbridled enthusiasm. At low engine speeds, turbocharging is audible, with an induction sound reminiscent of a rushing stream, until the exhaust note and mechanical symphony become loud enough to mask it. However, due to the electric motor's instant response, there is no discernible turbo lag—in fact, as boost pressures increase, the electric motor reduces its contribution slightly to maintain a linear power delivery.

When the powertrain is fully engaged, the 296GTB feels every bit as quick as its 819 horsepower rating suggests. The new car is slightly slower than the more powerful, all-wheel-drive SF90 Stradale it replaces in the company's hybrid hierarchy. Acceleration is ferocious, and we estimate that launch control will deliver a 2.9-second 60-mph time and a quarter-mile in the low nineties. Additionally, the 296GTB's lap time of 1:21 seconds at Ferrari's Fiorano Circuit is only two seconds slower than the Stradale (and 1.5 seconds quicker than the V-8-powered F8 Tributo.)

Despite its outrageous output and rear-wheel drive, this Ferrari, fitted with street-friendly Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, exhibited incredible grip on Spanish mountain roads—the traction control utilizing varying regen from the electric motor to prevent slip without winding back the engine. On the tight, dusty Monteblanco circuit near Seville, another GTB equipped with the track-oriented Assetto Fiorano package and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires demonstrated even greater adhesion but remained benign when its elevated limits were deliberately exceeded. Ferrari's chief development driver, Raffaele de Simone, insisted we experience the 296GTB without traction control, and the resulting yaw angles were expertly managed by the Side Slip Control system. This car is just as easy to drift as a Mazda Miata on a track.

Among the numerous other technical highlights, the GTB's steering and brakes were particularly impressive. Despite the rack's use of electric power, it delivers feedback that feels completely natural and unfiltered, accurately reporting on everything from surface texture changes to slip angles under the most rigorous track use. Although the electrically boosted brakes eliminate the direct hydraulic connection between the pedal and the calipers gripping the carbon-ceramic discs, the weighting and response appear to be identical. An active feature enables the system to be pre-charged prior to hard stops and to subtly clamp individual brakes to assist the front end in cornering.

The presence of so much technology would seem to detract from the 296GTB's emotional engagement, but the reality is quite the opposite. The assistance is imperceptible—it assists the car in slowing down, turning, and deploying its enormous power while maintaining the visceral excitement associated with unleashing that much sound and fury. Although it lacks the rawness of the V-8-powered F8 Tributo, the 296GTB feels no less exhilarating.

The more obvious comparison is to Ferrari's other plug-in hybrid, the 458 Italia. The 296GTB's V-6 engine and rear-wheel drive put it below the 986-hp, all-wheel-drive SF90 Stradale; the new car is also claimed to be 220 pounds lighter, smaller, and—in our opinion—more elegantly proportioned, particularly from the side. Due to the GTB's lack of all-wheel drive, it also avoids the slight steering corruption that the Stradale occasionally experiences due to its powered front axle. Additionally, the 296GTB's $322,986 price makes it nearly $200,000 less expensive. It is most emphatically not $200,000 worse.

The 296GTB's cabin feels roomy for a two-seater Ferrari, and the front trunk has a respectable amount of luggage space. The glass engine cover on the back reveals both the V-6 and, in a very 2022 twist, the orange high-voltage cables that carry current to the electrical motor. Complaints are limited to minor annoyances: a clumsy infotainment system and Ferrari's continued obsession with steering-wheel-mounted switches. As a result, ergonomics are muddled, particularly when audio controls, the headlight flasher, and the windshield washer all compete for space on the back of the wheel. A couple of traditional column stalks would improve usability.

The 296GTB demonstrates that hybridization and the advancement of technology in ultra-high-performance machinery are not to be feared. At the very least, not when Ferrari is involved. It took considerable effort to make something so complicated appear so straightforward, a digital supercar that feels almost entirely analog. It is a technical marvel as well as a thrilling machine, as any Ferrari should be.

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