Unleashing the $1.4 million, 736kW Ferrari SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano.
The numbers are mind blowing and the experience is spellbinding. Unleashing the Ferrari SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano on the road is extreme; part blood sport, part narcotic. I don’t think that I’ve driven a car on road that focused the mind quite like this Ferrari – not even the Bugatti Chiron.
It sells the SF90 AF short to define it by its numbers, but it would be remiss of me not to give you a quick run through. At $929,888, the SF90 Spider sits $83,000 above the mechanically identical SF90 Stradale. Our test example was fitted with the track-focused Assetto Fiorano package (more on this in a tick) that adds just over $111,000. From there, our Grigio Scuro example wore a further $400,000 in options, bringing the total figure to over $1.4 million. Yes, you read that correctly.
Okay, so that’s one set of numbers, but here’s an even more interesting collection of figures. Whether in Stradale, Spider or Assetto Fiorano form, the SF90 produces a combined output of 736kW from a twin-turbocharged mid-ship-mounted V8 and a trio of electric motors. The V8 is a heavily revised version of the F154 flat-plane crank engine found in the F8 Tributo.
Capacity is up from 3902cc to 3990cc thanks to a larger bore (now 88mm) and it makes 574kW at 8000rpm. The internal combustion engine also produces 800Nm at 6000rpm – Ferrari doesn’t quote a total system torque output but it feels like at least 1000Nm is crushing you into your seat when the SF90 hammers through the mid-range.
The V8 is augmented by an electric motor sandwiched between it and the new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, plus there’s a pair of electric motors on the front axle. Combined they bring an additional 162kW to the party for the 736kW total. Not only is the SF90 the most powerful Ferrari production car ever made, it’s also the first in the brand’s history to offer double the power of the iconic 356kW F40.
Ferrari claims that the all-wheel-drive SF90 takes just 2.5 seconds to 100km/h and 6.7 seconds to 200 (the F40 took 11 neat). To save you reaching for the calculator, the SF90 accelerates from 100-200km/h in just 4.2 seconds. Ferrari claims a 340km/h-plus top speed but a company insider says that the true vmax is closer to 360.
In addition to the familiar manettino chassis settings of Wet, Sport, Race, CT-Off and ESC-Off, the SF90’s steering wheel adds an eManettino that steps you through the powertrain modes of eDrive, Hybrid, Performance and Qualify.
As the name suggests, eDrive is the pure EV mode, with the SF90 silently running as a front-drive Ferrari. Top speed is limited to 135km/h and the range is just 25km, but the car certainly isn’t slow and the sharp steering and clever torque vectoring disguises which end is driving.
Speaking of range, the SF90 is a plug-in hybrid, but the brake regen and herculean V8 replenish the battery in a handful of hard-driven kilometres. It’s an absorbing process to watch as the charge level runs up and down as you demolish a stretch of tarmac in the SF90.
As the name suggests, Hybrid switches between EV and V8 to maximise efficiency based on road speed and throttle inputs. Performance mode rules out electric running, while Qualify prioritises delivering every ounce of shove from the V8 and the electric motors. It is quite something else.
Hybrid works well and I can see many owners using this mode the most, though the eDrive is handy for quiet getaways or arrivals and was a boon on our photoshoot, allowing us to turn around near a farm house without upsetting anyone.
There’s a pronounced step between the various powertrain modes and Qualify does feel a bit unhinged on the road. But such is the brilliance of Ferrari’s chassis engineers, and those tuning the safety software, that I spent a fair chunk of time in Qualify mode and with the manettino wound up to CT-Off. There was even a very brief peer over the edge with all safety nets packed away.
I’d previously driven the ‘regular’ SF90 Stradale at Sydney Motorsport Park but this Assetto Fiorano-equipped Spider is a noticeably different animal. Ferrari says that the global take-up rate of the Assetto Fiorano option is running at around 40 per cent of total SF90 sales and for your $111K you get a weight saving of 30kg. There’s a titanium exhaust system, plus titanium springs and aluminium-bodied fixed-rate dampers from Multimatic, carbonfibre sheathing beneath the car and carbonfibre door cards. Our test car was also fitted with swathes of optional carbonfibre, including Carbon Revolution wheels made in Geelong (I was a nervous wreck parking near a kerb).
The Spider adds 100kg to the 1570kg (dry) SF90 Stradale and Ferrari attributes 80kg to the roof mechanism and 20kg to chassis strengthening. Taking the Assetto Fiorano’s weight saving into account, the Spider weighs 1640kg dry, or low-1700s ready to rumble (though the additional carbonfibre on this particular example would help a little more). Regardless, 736kW is an awful lot of power and the SF90 Spider AF has a power-to-weight ratio of around 430kW per tonne. That’s the same as having a Mercedes-AMG E63 S with 860kW. And the SF90 feels genuinely light, changing direction with all of the benefits of Michelin Cup 2 tyres and the incredible sophistication of chassis electronics and EV torque vectoring.
There’s a growing school of thought that modern cars are too fast and that their abundance of pace is too easily accessed. Some also believe that any driving thrills only come from the speed and rather than the challenge of driving. The SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano certainly possesses more than its fair share of speed and could very well be the poster child for that train of thought. And yet, it also asks that the driver fully commit to the process of extracting its speed and performance. It doesn’t give the game away easily and it’s anything but a point-and-shoot hypercar for the unskilled.
The steering is very fast and surprisingly light, and off throttle its rate of response is absolutely linear. Bring throttle inputs into it and you do sense the front electric motors pulling the car through the corner and away from the apex. Really dial into the driving experience and you can detect the motors vectoring the torque across the front axle. Running back and forth through a well-worn set of corners for the photographer’s lens, familiarity with the system begins to build. Confidence follows and I’m soon in maximum attack Qualify powertrain mode and I gradually work the manettino around to ESC-Off. I don’t spend too much time staring into the abyss, you know, because $1.5 million, but despite the complexity of the chassis and drive systems, flying solo doesn’t completely change the character of the car.
You can feel the systems nibbling at excesses in Race mode, but CT-Off feels transparent and Qualify stuns with its ferocity. The Michelins – 255/35 ZR20 up front and 315/30 ZR20 at the rear – find grip and traction despite the onslaught from the powertrain, but you can hear and feel the rear tyres clawing at the surface at the turbos swell the torque. Keep the throttle steady and the SF90 storms away from the apex right on the edge of oversteer. It feels dramatic with everything tensed, especially knowing that just a smidge more throttle will overwhelm the rear Cup 2s.
There are two cautions I’d apply to driving the SF90 Assetto Fiorano in such a manner (three if you include wet roads – don’t!). Firstly, the new titanium springs and fixed-rate Multimatic dampers mean that the AF is considerably firmer than an SF90 with the standard magnetorheological dampers. Striking an undetected bump with the chassis fully loaded in a more lenient manettino setting could become ugly very quickly.
Secondly, the SF90 is so fast and its reactions so intense that you might not be able to keep up. Driving it hard requires next-level concentration and commitment, and slamming the throttle shut because you’re surprised by its arrival at a corner might cause the chassis to ask you some serious questions. Be smooth, stay in charge and commit to your inputs and there is probably nothing that can stay with an SF90 Assetto FIorano.
The eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox is another masterpiece, answering almost before the slender carbonfibre paddles request a new ratio. I’ve always loved the way that Ferrari dual-clutch gearboxes allow downshifts right on the point of lock-up. It just adds to the drama of braking hard into a corner, sighting the apex while still on the left pedal and plucking ratios with the left paddle.
When we drove the SF90 Stradale at SMP, you could feel a slight change-over point between the regen and the friction braking of the brake-by-wire system. This feeling was banished in the Spider AF, replaced by a consistently gritty feeling that provides the kind of feedback that you crave in something so fast and serious.
And so, this leads me back to that massive price mentioned at the top. It’s so much money for a car. But then, it’s so much car for the money. The SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano is significantly more useable (and likely faster) than the bauble hypercars from brands such as Pagani and Koenigsegg.