The Ferrari 296 GTB immediately catches the eye. Its chassis, which is only 4565 mm long but 1958 mm wide, impresses with aerodynamically optimized lines – without spectacular wings and wings. The aluminum outer shell is relatively simple, low-profile and in perfect proportions. It is also surprising that the two-seater compact car, despite its completely new and modern design, is subtly reminiscent of its legendary predecessors such as the LM 250 or Dino 206.
Technically, the 296 GTB opens a new era, as it is the first mid-engine car with hybrid rear-wheel drive, and it also guarantees a V6 renaissance. The mid-engine V6 chassis – of course without an electric motor – was already in place in 1961, when the 246 SP engine caused a stir as the winner of the Targa Florio. In the same year, Ferrari also won its first Formula 1 World Championship with its 156 F1 and 120° V6. Since 2014, the V6 turbo hybrid concept has been used in all Formula 1 cars.
Midships plug-in hybrid
The car now also has the new dimensions in its name: 29 stands for cubic capacity – although not exactly, since the cylinder capacity is three liters. 6 stands for cylinder number and GTB according to the traditional template of Gran Turismo Berlinetta. With the drivetrain positioned between the driver and the rear axle on the new 296 GTB, literally everything revolves around the hybrid unit.
The 120-degree, six-cylinder combustion engine has been redesigned from the ground up. In order to achieve the extremely high output power of 221 hp / l for a production car, a lot of detailed work was required in the selection of materials and in the thermodynamic design. The powerful three-liter unit adopts a combustion chamber concept with a central injection nozzle and spark plug first used on the SF90 Stradale. The intake and exhaust ports have been redesigned to ensure a high rate of turbulence in the combustion chamber. Two IHI mono turbochargers create powerful compression at top speeds of 180,000 rpm. The forged and nitride crankshaft is designed for the 1-6-3-4-2-5 firing order, which results in regular firing intervals. Thanks to the large V angle, it is also possible to lower the center of gravity and create enough space between the cylinders.
An advanced exhaust system made of nickel steel and steel not only contributes to increased engine performance, but also opens up new worlds of sound. The three-liter V6 screams as loud as a naturally aspirated, high-speed V12, which is why it was called the Piccolo V12. The limiter finally ends the orgy at 8500 rpm.
Two compact aggregates in combination
Ferrari’s new engine, like the three-liter 120-degree V6 turbocharged that Ricardo developed for the McLaren Artura, is equipped with a magneto-axial-flow compact machine with two rotors and one rotor. The MGU (Engine Generator Unit) provides up to 122 kW of boost and enables the vehicle to be driven solely by electric because it is arranged between the engine and transmission and can be separated by the clutch. With a 7.45 kWh battery, the distances can be up to 25 kilometres. In addition to the traditional manettino, the e-manettino is now available for mode selection.
Drive power flows to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and E-Diff. If 610 kW (830 hp) is brought safely to the ground on public roads, then electronic aids are indispensable. Brembo’s new by-wire braking system – although not the Sensify system with four individual actuators – improves traction control like the ABS Evo. Pedal movement has been reduced to a minimum, increasing the sporty character without restricting the pedal feel. Since the grip limits of the rear tires can be pushed higher, performance can be improved even more when cornering. Even at higher speeds, it is now possible to depress the turn without any problems. A few laps at Autódromo Portimão (P) showed this admirably. SSC (Side Slip Control) is also integrated into the drivetrain, which allows drift control in Race mode.
Colorful but subtle enough
According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the interior of the 296 GTB should emphasize the concept of official purity. The cockpit has been developed around the fully digital user interface concept, which Ferrari first introduced on the SF90 Stradale. When the engine is turned off, the on-board devices go black. While driving, the many control functions on the steering wheel must first be activated by pressing the button to prevent accidental, unintended operation.
The main aerodynamic features of the new model include a flat bottom structure and an active rear spoiler, which not only provides additional downforce, but also helps when braking from high speeds. At the front of the car, details such as the so-called tea tray ensure that air flows around the car as efficiently as possible. From the aerodynamic point of view, the distinctive design of the rear section also includes the new roof spoiler profile, which merges into two side slats of the rear bonnet.
The hybrid process gets used to it
The 296 GTB engine unlocks a new Ferrari experience when driving on public roads in hybrid mode. If a little bit of engine power is needed, for example before a slow bend, the combustion engine immediately stops working and allows the electric machine to run – driving without sound is very annoying at first, because something fundamental is missing. In terms of driving dynamics, on the other hand, there’s hardly any complaints about this control, because the V6 instantly delivers an abundance of power again when you’re out of turns.
However, one briefly asks oneself whether CO2– Hybrid system optimization really fits this car. The continuous concert of the combustion engine will be more beneficial for the most intense driving experience. Far from densely populated areas, you tend to switch instantly from hybrid to performance mode – this creates a very exciting driving experience. The steering reacts very sensitively to the slightest movement of the steering wheel, and thrust is provided at lightning speed when the gas pedal is depressed. Depending on the situation, the transmission automatically makes gear changes in such a way that it cannot be ramped up manually. However, the manual transmission via the long paddles firmly attached to the steering column is a special pleasure.
Top marks for dealing
Since the new model’s wheelbase has been trimmed by 50mm compared to the previous mid-engined berlinetta, the 296 GTB has also gained slack. Of course, the low weight of the car also contributes to the excellent driving dynamics. Although the hybrid technology entails additional weight, this is more than offset by the V6, which is about 30kg lighter than the 4.5-liter V8, and the use of many new lightweight materials. When dry, the small Ferrari weighs in at 1,470 kg, which leads to a record value of 1.77 kg / hp in terms of power-to-weight ratio. Acceleration values are correspondingly very impressive.
on the racetrack
If you want to drive the Ferrari 296 GTB frequently on the tracks, you can opt for the Assetto Fiorano package. This includes various weight-reduction measures, sporty carbon components on the front bumper, adjustable Multi-Matic dampers, an ultra-light polycarbonate rear window and special paint finishes inspired by the Ferrari 250 Luman. This design appears on the hood in the form of a hammer and extends across the roof to the rear spoiler. The Assetto Fiorano package also includes Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R high-performance semi-slippery tires.
Technical data for this model can be found in the print version and in the electronic sheet of AUTOMOBIL REVUE.