Ferrari 296 GTB review

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Ferrari's 296 GTB is the brand's first Plug-in Hybrid. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

Ferrari's 296 GTB shows that Maranello can incorporate Plug-in Hybrid technology into a supercar without compromising its character. It's a mighty achievement.

Background

Did you ever think you'd see a Ferrari Plug-in Hybrid? If you did, then you might expect such a thing to appear on a more sensibly-orientated model - the brand's Purosangue SUV perhaps? But no, here's a PHEV powerplant plumbed into a proper out-and-out Ferrari sports car, the 296 GTB. And generating 819bhp - yes you read that figure right.

So much is new here - from a car of extremes. Silent in e-Drive; shriekingly voluble when the V6 is revved to 8,500rpm. Yes, a V6 Ferrari. Something else that's unique (as long as you discount the old 246 GT, which never actually wore a Ferrari badge). Let's take a closer look.

Driving Experience

A V6 Ferrari sounds like a contradiction in terms but this 3.0-litre Hybrid powerplant is as charismatic-sounding as any Maranello V8 or V12. It's twinned to an 8-speed dual clutch gearbox and an electric motor / generator powered by a 7.45kWh battery. That e-motor adds weight - but it also adds 165bhp, which when combined with the engine's 654bhp means a total system output up at 819bhp. Hence the mere 2.9s needed to get to 62mph en route to a maximum of 205mph.

At one extreme, the V6 will spin to a shrill 8,500rpm. At the other, it doesn't have to be heard at all if you select 'e-Drive' and perambulate along on battery power for up to 15.5 miles at a maximum of 84mph. The more focused driving modes, marshalled by Ferrari's usual e-mannetino switchgear, are 'Hybrid', 'Performance', 'Qualifying' and 'Race'.

A wide portfolio of systems help you get the torque to the tarmac. A 6w-CDS six-axis sensor senses grip levels and driver preferences, better informing the Side Slip Control and the active e-differential to maximise cornering speeds. And an 'ABS-evo' set-up works with the brake-by-wire system to shorten braking distances. Plus active aerodynamics technology reduces drag while increasing downforce - there's over 360kg of that at 155mph, up 200kg of that generated by a rear wing that deploys at the back of the car.

Design and Build

You'll struggle to find anyone not admiring of the way this 296 GTB looks. You don't have to have it as a coupe: it's also available in 296 GTS form with a retractable hardtop panel, in which form the car is even more fabulous to look at. With either body style, as usual on a Ferrari, all the various wings and creases are there for precise dynamic reasons. The brakes are cooled by rectangular apertures next to the headlamp units. There's a lower nasal intake to feed underbody ground effect aero and the upper nose is angled to direct air over the roof and back over the Kamm-style tail. There are a couple of radiators in the nose for cooling the gearbox and engine, plus further condensers which cool the battery.

And inside? Well if you're familiar with Ferrari's SF90, the cabin architecture will seem straightforward. If you're not, you might find the digital interface somewhat complex, with all its haptic switchgear, found on the steering wheel and on pods either side of it. It all feels suitably special though. You're provided with two e-manettino controllers, one digital one for drive modes and an analogue one for dynamics. You fire everything up with a capacitive starter button. A surprisingly reasonable 201-litre luggage Bay sits between the front wheels.

Market and Model

At the time of this Review's compilation in early 2023, Ferrari wanted around £241,500 for this 296 GTB. If you want the alternative 296 GTS, which has the same powertrain but with a removeable hardtop roof panel, you'll need another £40,000 more. It's quite usual for owners to load this car up with around £50,000-worth of extras.

For owners likely to occasionally take to the track, both variants are available with an extra cost 'Fiorano Performance Pack', which adds weight-saving panels, a larger rear spoiler, stickier tyres and passive Multimatic dampers. The pack also adds carbon aerodynamic devices on the nose, said to increase front downforce by up to 20kg. Use of carbon fibre in this pack contributes to an overall weight saving of 12kg - or 15kg if you pay for the optional Lexan rear engine cover. With this pack, you can also order an exterior graphics package inspired by that seen on the 250LM back in the 1960s. Those who will spend more of their time on a circuit may want to wait for the rumoured track-focused 'Pista' variant, which is expected to appear in the future.

Cost of Ownership

It seems very strange to be talking about Ferrari - any Ferrari - with a combined cycle fuel figure of 44.1mpg and a CO2 reading of 149g/km. These figures are of course artificially inflated by the 7.45kWh battery's provision of 15 miles of EV-only driving range. But they provide for a (slightly) more affordable 34% BiK tax band than you'd normally expect for a supercar. That driving range figure is 4 miles down on that of a rival McLaren Artura Plug-in Hybrid. And that McLaren provides better efficiency stats too - up to 61.5mpg and 104g/km of CO2. But the difference between the two cars is unlikely to be a deal breaker if you've decided you really want this 296 GTB.

Ferrari's warranty is only three years, but it does cover you for an unlimited mileage. Servicing will be expensive because parts are very pricey. And if you're tempted to go showboating on track days, remember that tyre replacement costs will be huge. All of which will be forgiven when the time comes to sell; expect exceptionally good residuals; after all, who wouldn't want a well looked after 296 GTB?

Summary

Any residual disapproval you might be feeling towards the idea of a Ferrari Plug-in Hybrid is likely to evaporate pretty quickly behind the wheel of a 296 GTB. In real-world driving, it'd be quicker than an SF90. And the F8 Tributo's two extra cylinders aren't enough to match this 296 model's extra e-power. A better comparison to make is with the other Plug-in Hybrid supercar in this sector, the McLaren Artura. That's quite a lot cheaper, but it also has quite a lot less power and, let's face it, isn't a Ferrari.

If it had been half this good, the 296 GTB could have traded on that famous badge and sold out just as easily. But it's actually a triumph, proof that great sports cars are still being created in this electrified era.

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