Two words that I never thought would be together in the same sentence unless it was, “No way in hell will there ever be a mainstream hybrid Ferrari!” But after spending the day at Ferrari’s private test track with the 2022 Ferrari 296 GTB, I have to say the unthinkable. Ferrari has made my favorite hybrid car ever. With this technology, Ferrari joins the club of supercar manufacturers using hybrid powertrains—not to increase fuel economy, but to increase performance.
Obviously, the LaFerrari was a pioneer in this regard, but it was an unobtainium hypercar in the same vein as the Porsche 918 Spyder. Same goes for the new Ferrari SF90, more or less. The 296 GTB, however, is the first hybrid Ferrari that we unwashed masses could buy—that is, if we mortgaged our houses, sold our firstborn, and got top dollar for our spare organs on the black market. But you already knew that.
Basem Wasef has already penned a 296 GTB first drive review for us here at The Drive. But today? I'm taking my very particular set of skills as a professional racing driver and throwing it around a track to see if Ferrari's V6 contender can still dance like the rest of Maranello's finest.
In short, yep. The thing absolutely rips.
2022 Ferrari 296 GTB Specs
- Base price: $317,986 ($5,000 destination fee included)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 plug-in hybrid | 8-speed dual-clutch | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 818 @ 8,000 rpm
- Torque: 546 lb-ft @ 6,250 rpm
- Curb weight: 3,527 pounds
- Seating capacity: 2
- 0-60: 2.7 seconds (est.)
- Top speed: 205-plus mph
- Cargo volume: NA
- EPA fuel economy: TBA
- Quick take: Even though it's a hybrid, the 296 GTB is still quintessentially a Ferrari. And a fast one at that.
- Score: 9/10
The Power of Six
So while the 296 GTB isn’t the first supercar to have a go at this marriage of electric motors and internal combustion engines thing—Porsche and McLaren have had a few variations of it—what makes the 296 GTB unique for Ferrari is that not only does it feature an electric motor, but the ICE portion of the powertrain is a lowly V6. Unheard of for a manufacturer that prides itself on its glorious V8 and V12 engines of days gone by, I know.
Yet, Ferrari (like several other performance-car manufacturers such as McLaren with the Artura) is starting to understand how to package a V6 with an electric motor to create some seriously impressive power units to rival anything it's ever made. What powers the 296 GTB is a combination of a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 making 654 horsepower and 546 pound-feet of torque, and an AC motor making 164 hp and 232 lb-ft powered by a 6.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This motor is placed in between the ICE and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and combines for a massive 818 hp and 546 lb-ft all sent to the rear wheels only.
Those stats are mightily impressive, but it's the way that the power is delivered that makes this such a stellar package. Integrating two completely different types of motors to perform in sync in a high-performance car is no easy task. When pushing the limits of something with the GTB’s capabilities, the last thing you need is lag in the power—or worse, a big hit of torque when you least expect it. There are no such worries with the GTB, however, as the powerband is as linear as I could ever hope for. It drives like it has the power of the old school V12 but with even more low-end torque than the 6.0-liter that powered the Enzo. It’s simply amazing for a car that Ferrari is marketing as its “mid-range” car.
Impressing the Locals
The fun bit is that you can drive around for around 15 miles (and up to 83 mph) on battery power alone. The stunned looks I got from the pack of school kids in a small, quiet, quintessentially Italian town in the hills above Modena I drove by in e-Drive mode were priceless. The GTB was so silent that I could hear them all going “Ferrari! Ferrari!” I could hear them right up until I switched over to Performance mode, which immediately fired up the V6 with a snarl. From then on, I had just to guess what they were saying, as the sonorous engine note drowned out their shrieks of joy.
Knowing that Ferrari planned for me to spend close to three hours behind the wheel of the GTB, I was a bit concerned upon first opening the door. The GTB’s interior was, without a doubt, gorgeous—albeit on the minimalistic side. But what concerned me were the non-adjustable (other than fore and aft) carbon fiber seats with minimal but strategically placed padding. Seats that I figured would be beautiful to look at but less enjoyable to spend hours in on somewhat punishing Italian roads. To my surprise, however, these seats were stunningly comfortable, and I made it through my drive without needing chiropractic support or a couple of days in a back brace. The seats were far more comfortable than the carbon offering from other manufacturers. (Not naming any names, but one rhymes with Morsche.)
I’ll also give kudos to Ferrari for its digital dash. It was stylish, functional, and informative without overloading the driver with too much useless detail. However, a demerit for the haptic touch trackpad thingies (that’s the technical term) on the steering wheel. They didn’t control the functions they were supposed to control, like the menu settings, and I spent far too much time staring at them and not the road, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Not something I recommend on tiny Italian mountain roads filled with cyclists whilst driving an 818 hp car that costs north of $300,000.
There is also a narrow display on the passenger side of the dashboard that Ferrari says was placed there to make the passenger feel more like a co-driver. I don’t buy into this too much, however, as the last thing you want to do while sitting in the passenger seat is mess with a screen.
But those quibbles aside, driving the GTB through the hills above Maranello was an … experience. Blend the beautiful scenery and the amazing exhaust note of the Ferrari and you can create something very special.
In my past experience, the one thing that had always stood out every time I got behind the wheel of one of Enzo’s creations was the super-direct steering feel. This, to me, was the signature characteristic of every Ferrari, and not one I always welcomed. Combine that direct steering feel with the short wheelbase in most Ferraris and you get a car that can sometimes feel a bit nervous as you approach the limit.
Not the GTB though. While the feel of the front end was what I had come to expect from Ferrari, gone was any nervousness as well. The GTB felt stable and planted, even on the uneven, bumpy, twisty roads that my drive took me on. I could push the GTB, hard, into the multitude of hairpin corners and get immediately back to throttle without having to wait for the car to settle down.
Under braking, I could feel a little bit of the extra weight the GTB carries in its hybrid system (curb weight comes in at 3,527 pounds) but the weight is so low in the car that once you get into the corner, the low center of gravity minimizes it and allows the Ferrari to corner flat. And once back on the throttle, the seemingly limitless torque makes quick work of any extra baggage the GTB may be carrying.
GTB, Meet Fiorano
To test out that seat-of-the-pants feel from my road drive, Ferrari allowed me to have a bunch of laps at its private test track, Fiorano. Fiorano is tight and twisty, located on the ground of the Ferrari factory and smack-dab in the middle of Modena. Considering how compact the circuit is, it was surprising to me that I was able to get up to 250 kph (150 mph) on the short main straight, and that was with Ferrari’s test driver (whom I was following around the circuit) slowing us up at the start of every lap. Otherwise, I could easily see 175-plus mph being achievable. But with about 50 feet of runoff before the retaining barrier at the end of the main straight, I agreed with Ferrari that discretion was the better part of valor here.
Professional driver Robb Holland took the new hybrid V6 Ferrari to the track. As a spoiler, the car was incredible.
My takeaway from my time on track with the GTB? This is one hell of a car.
The acceleration of the GTB was insanely fierce but at the same time, superbly manageable. And I don’t use those words lightly. When you’re dealing with that much power on tap, it’s as much about having the power as it is being able to use it that makes a car fast. I can name several cars off the top of my head that make much less power than the Ferrari but also are not as good at transferring that power to the ground (I’m looking directly at you, Chevy Corvette C7 Z06). This was especially true coming off Fiorano’s tight corners.
With the mode set to Qualify, everything is turned off. No stability control and no traction control. The only thing keeping 818 hp in check is your right foot. Without aides and while still loaded up coming off a corner, trying to put that much power to the ground is a delicate balancing act. And one that many performance cars get wrong by not giving the driver enough feel for what the rear end is doing to manage the grip. But Ferrari managed it get it right with the 296 GTB. Very right.
The GTB I drove on track definitely had the help of sticky Michelin Cup 2 Rs. But I’ve driven many a car wearing that rubber, so I know that they weren’t the sole reason for the GTB’s stellar track showing. No, a lot of credit has to be given to the Ferrari engineers who created a car that successfully treads the fine balance between performance and excess. And that is no mean task.
You can check out my onboard track footage below:
One of the biggest determining factors in any given car’s performance around a race track is driver confidence. You can have all the power in the world, but if the car doesn’t give you the confidence to go full throttle immediately on corner exit and trail the brakes all the way to the apex of the next corner, then that person in the Spec Miata will be all over your ass until you have to embarrassingly pull over and give him a point by.
Trying to balance a seamless transition of power from an electric motor to ICE is incredibly difficult to manage, even if you are just talking about a standard road car. Having top drivers pushing your car to the limit on a track is a whole other animal. Pro drivers are super sensitive to everything a car does, and we notice even the smallest deviation in power. Those deviations make it hard for us to know exactly where the limit of grip is and that, in turn, causes a loss of confidence. It's an incredibly tough thing to get right.
That's why cars like the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS are hero cars. They give their drivers miles of confidence and that enables them to explore the limits of not only the car but of themselves as well. But the GT4 RS has a simple (albeit powerful) normally aspirated engine. The Ferrari 296 GTB is one of the most powerful hybrids ever made, and the way the engineers have crafted it definitely puts it on the shortlist of hero cars. Maybe, just maybe, even near the top of that list.
I’ll admit I was more than a bit skeptical of the 296 GTB. A plug-in hybrid Ferrari goes against everything that I thought I knew about the brand. But my time behind the wheel proved me very wrong. Not only has Ferrari mastered the transition to our new electric future, but it did it in a way that manages to maintain the very soul of Ferrari, sans natural aspiration or a V12. That is something to celebrate.
Having a “favorite hybrid” was not something that had ever crossed my mind. And now I have one.
Robb Holland is an American race car driver and automotive journalist. He has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, Pikes Peak, the World Touring Car Championships and more.
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