Words: Ross Brown
When the 296 GTB debuted last year, its new plug-in hybrid powerplant represented a revolution for Ferrari as the 120° V6 engine arrived in a Prancing Horse road-car for the first time.
Today, that belief in the engine’s epoch-changing importance to Maranello continues with the arrival of the 296 GTS, although this time the sound of the ‘piccolo V12’ is even more dramatic, thanks to the retractable hard top (RHT).
The 296 GTS is the first V6 turbo to feature in a convertible Prancing Horse road-car and it is also the first rear-wheel drive spider PHEV Ferrari. Power lives and breathes at the rear of the car, with the combined V6 turbo and electric output delivering 830cv to the rear wheels, sending the car from 0 -100 km/h in 2.9s, reaching 200 km/h in 7.6s and onwards to a top speed of 330 km/h. And in pure electric mode the car can reach 135 km/h before the V6 kicks in.
The Assetto Fiorano package exploits the car’s extreme power and performance thanks to significant weight reduction and aero content, while the special livery is inspired by the Ferrari 250 Le Mans
All of that is made truly exhilarating through the RHT. Lighter than a conventional soft top, and extremely compact, Ferrari’s extensive experience with RHTs means they can sculpt surfaces that work in tandem with the car’s lines, guaranteeing the effect of a truly convertible coupé. The folding roof splits into two sections that fold flush over the front of the engine. This has allowed the designers to introduce a window in the rear section of the engine cover through which the new V6 is clearly visible. When the top is retracted, the cabin and the rear deck are separated by a height-adjustable glass rear screen which guarantees cabin comfort, even at exhilarating speeds.
Of course, combining high performance with brand-new technological contents has ensured that one key feature is more prominent than ever – the famous Ferrari sound. In this sense, the 296 GTS’s V6 engine rewrites the rulebook, combining two characteristics that are normally diametrically opposed: the force of the turbos and the harmony of the high-frequency notes of a naturally-aspirated V12.
Thanks to the famous Ferrari retractable hard top, the 296 GTS adds an extra dimension to the thrill of driving
The RHT can be deployed in just 14 seconds at speeds of up to 45 km/h, but even with the roof up, Ferrari’s patented exhaust resonator system (otherwise known as the Hot Tube and positioned just before the exhaust system) channels the engine’s pure sound directly up into the cabin. With the roof down the harmonics from the single tailpipe exhaust are even more dramatic.
Every Prancing Horse is rooted in 75 years of racing innovation, and there are elements throughout the 296 GTS of technological advancements found on other models. The active spoiler is inspired by LaFerrari for example, integrated into the rear bumper to generate a high level of rear downforce. The brake cooling system was developed around the Aero callipers that debuted on the SF90 Stradale, with ventilation ducts integrated into their castings, while the design itself – sporty, sinuous and compact – references the likes of the 1963 250 LM, a perfect marriage of simplicity and functionality.
The Ferrari 296 GTS is Maranello’s new mid-rear-engined two-seater Berlinetta spider that redefines ‘fun to drive’
Just like the 296 GTB, the 296 GTS will be available with the Assetto Fiorano package, which involves new livery (based on the 250 LM), lightweight features and impressive aero modifications (the rear high-downforce configuration delivers the equivalent of 360kg at 250 km/h). The package’s dedication to weight and aerodynamics requires some parts to be redesigned, including the door panel, to lower the weight by 8kg. All that increased performance also means a tyre upgrade, and optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2R high-performance tyres provide the required grip for track performance.