Ferrari 296 GTB, the road test (and on the track)

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A constant surpassing of the previously established records: this is the fate of Ferrari, promptly confirmed with the launch of each new Red, called to be “more” than previously seen. The axiom is reflected in the 296 GTB, which in itself represents an epochal turning point: it is the first model of the Cavallino powered by a V6 engine, moreover electrified at the highest levels.

Chronologically, the 296 GTB is Ferrari’s third hybrid vehicle (after LaFerrari and the SF90 Stradale), as well as the first to combine rechargeable mechanics with rear-wheel drive. And if it is true that plug-in technology allows you to travel for 25 km in 100% electric mode up to a speed of 135 km / h – a plus in urban driving or when more discretion is sought – it is also true that this car it was designed above all to be “fun to drive”, that is (extremely) satisfying to drive.

The details of the V6 …

First of all it is a matter of the heart, made up of connecting rods, pistons and supporting electric machines. And it is capable of a maximum power of 830 hp: it results from the synergy of the V6 biturbo – alone it delivers 663 hp and 740 Nm of torque – and an electric engine. The V6 features a supercharging system with two turbochargers housed within the 120 ° ‘V’ formed by the cylinder banks and weighs 30 kg less than the V8 provided by the F8 Tributo. It comes to squeeze 221 HP for each liter of displacement, equal to 2992 cm3 (limiter set at 8500 rpm) thanks to pressures in the combustion chamber – fed by injectors working at 350 bar – 10% higher than in those of the aforementioned V8. The counter-rotating turbochargers are custom engineered, have redesigned turbo impellers and provide 24% more pressure than the V8 turbos, as well as having a more compact design and minimized rotor inertia due to the smaller compressor wheels .

The crankshaft is new, designed to ensure a combustion frequency with equidistant bursts: all this is related to the sound performance of the drive unit, which closely resembles that of a V12 engine. Also thanks to the turbo ducts of equal length and the sound propagation system in the passenger compartment: in short, it is clear how the “men in red” have worked hard to make the V6 sing as if it were a much more noble splitting engine and typology. , minimizing the typical sounds of supercharging and emphasizing the highest notes it can touch. But there are also totally new intake and exhaust ducts to maximize volumetric efficiency, with the intake lungs integrated on the heads, in the lower part of the thermal unit. While the exhaust, made of very light Inconel – an alloy mainly based on nickel and chromium – is placed at the top and without the traditional rear silencer (the scale thanks): it starts from the heart of the V up to the single rear port; its very linear design helps to enhance the voice of the V6 – modulated by a new generation by-pass valve – and to reduce back pressure.

… And those of the electric motor

The 7.45 kWh lithium battery-powered engine – located immediately behind the passenger compartment, in front of the V6 – is the same as seen on the SF90 Stradale: it delivers 167 hp and an additional 315 Nm. It is an axial flow unit that performs various functions: from restarting the thermal unit to hybrid or zero emission driving, passing through the energy regeneration phases, which occurs during braking or when you lift your foot from the accelerator. The electric unit is located behind the internal combustion engine and in front of the 8-speed double-clutch transmission, which in turn is connected to an electronically controlled self-locking differential; the coupling between thermal and electrical is entrusted to an intermediate clutch. The accumulator weighs 73 kg and is made up of 80 cells placed in series and laser welded, continuously monitored by a system that takes into account their temperature. The hybrid system works at a voltage of 330 Volts.

Short wheelbase and movable wing

The center-engined architecture – therefore placed in the middle of the axles – is structured around a frame made of aluminum, related to that of the SF90 Stradale. Compared to the previous reference berlinetta, the F8 Tributo, the wheelbase is shortened by 5 cm to a total of 260: an altitude that emphasizes the sense of visual compactness transmitted by the car and amplifies its agility on the road, thanks also to a lower center of gravity than 1 cm. The “Assetto Fiorano” set-up is also available for the more demanding, which allows for a further increase in performance, especially on the track, thanks to technical features that reduce weight and optimize aerodynamics. The latter uses an active rear bumper spoiler, inspired by that of the LaFerrari, which generates up to 360 kg of vertical load at 250 km / h and also functions as an air brake. But it is also a matter of lightness: despite the sophistication of the mechanics, in fact, the dry weight of the 296 GTB amounts to 1470 kg, for a weight / power ratio of 1.77 kg / Hp.

“Iconic native” design

The inspiring muse of the 296 GTB is the 250 LM of the 1960s, created under the supervision of Giotto Bizzarrini and the pencil of Sergio Scaglietti. The relationship is evident above all at the level of the rear window and the very muscular rear fenders. But even the front ones are powerful, headed on tubular section sides. However, the rest knows about the future: the headlights, for example, are integrated with the air intakes for cooling the front brake system. At the rear, on the other hand, the lights show unusual shapes – which abandon the classic circular shape – but typically Ferrari. The idea is to make form and function coexist under the same sculptural and essential lines. While the technical and fluid dynamic functions of the vehicle are entrusted to the lower portion of the car body.

The result is a successful combination of formal cleanliness and strong personality, further accentuated by the short wheelbase and compact dimensions, which speak the language of a refined and “agile” sportiness. The compactness of the passenger compartment, “embraced” by a visor formed by the windshield with no chromatic-visual continuity with the side windows, contributes to enhancing the sculptural aspect of the vehicle. Do not miss the traditional bonnet with engine view, hidden under a futuristic burnished panel with tapered shapes. The cockpit, with driver-oriented dashboard, is minimalist but hi-tech thanks to the presence of the virtual cockpit, widely configurable and from which you can check information relating to the car, entertainment and GPS: everything is managed from the steering wheel, equipped with touch controls and manettini used to set the operating modes of the power-train and electronic driving aids. Another homage to the heritage is the gear selector, which follows the shape of the classic gate of the old manual transmissions.

Behind the wheel is a marvel

The driving position is low to the ground, collected, with the legs partially extended and the front fenders in the foreground, as befits sports cars. The seat is pleasantly containing but comfortable. The V6 starts with a not too subdued bark and immediately lets pleasant guttural notes filter into the cockpit. From the very first kilometers you can appreciate the readiness of the front axle, connected to an electric power-assisted steering with a very direct calibration. Between the curves of the streets bordering Seville, a toboggan of ups and downs, the rhythms that can be maintained are at the limit of heart-pounding: the car enters the curve like a flash, supported by a fast rear end nailed to the asphalt, kept in check by the invisible bridle of electronic controls. The thrust ensured by the electrified powertrain is impressive, in every gear and juncture, as is the traction capacity: the electric motor eliminates any thermal response delay and ensures extra horsepower over the entire rev range, which the V6 eagerly grabs up to limiter. The linearity of the delivery is typically from an aspirated engine, while the torque ensured by the turbos is no less than overwhelming.

The eManettino, on the left side of the steering wheel, allows you to manage the performance of the engine, but it is the traditional Manettino, on the right side of the steering wheel, that acts as an “emotionometer”: recalling the sportier driving modes, the tail becomes more alive, more prone to oversteer. In summary, the car’s electronic brain helps the driver feel like a driver, allowing him to better tame the enormous power available. The whole can be summarized in one word: accessibility; the same one that allows every Ferrari driver, more or less shrewd at the wheel, to get the best out of himself and the vehicle. On the road the limits of the latter are almost unattainable – as long as you know what you are doing – and you can maintain very high speeds with minimal effort. In this sense, the ability of the car to predict the grip of the asphalt is precious by intertwining the data coming from the sensors installed on the steering rods, with those coming from the steering wheel angle and from the tires. Based on this data, the intelligent electronics that manage the powertrain and traction-control adjust accordingly.

On the track it makes drivers feel

The aforementioned sensations are more enhanced on the track, where the synergy between the front and rear ends is even more evident and where the latest evolution of ABS allows braking to be brought far inside the curve, almost to the apex. And what a braking: the command is by-wire, but ensures a feeling of a traditional command, with a short brake pedal with an immediate bite; it is almost superfluous to mention that the plant uses tireless carbon-ceramic discs. In this context, the grip ensured by the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R of the Assetto Fiorano version (the standard has the Pilot Sport 4S) – equipped with carbon components to lighten the weight, passive shock absorbers with titanium springs and components made of lexan – it is very high and allows very late braking (at the end of the straight of the Monteblanco circuit, where the test took place, you can reach 285 per hour) and lightning-fast cornering distances, possible thanks to the great stability of the rear.

The 830 HP of power is delivered in the Qualifying mode, the sportiest, which puts performance first and sends all the amount of energy available in the battery to the electric motor: in this engine mapping, the autonomy of the accumulator is sufficient to complete a 20 km track session. In Performance mode, on the other hand, the power is approximately 780/790 HP, but the contribution of the electric unit to the thrust is constant and virtually inexhaustible (due to the continuous exchange of energy flows into and out of the battery). And if the judgment of the writer of these lines were not enough to testify the dynamic effectiveness of the 296 GTB, then all that remains is to rely on the cold numbers: 0-100 km / h covered in 2.9 s, 0-200 km / h from 7.3 s and lap time in Fiorano of 1 ’21 “, where the very fast F8 Tributo stops the clock at 1’22” 5. Finally, the price, which contributes to making the 269 GTB a dream for a few: it starts from 269 thousand euros to reach 302 thousand of the Assetto Fiorano edition.

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