Ferrari 296 GTB and Assetto Fiorano Special Feature


With a hybridised twin-turbocharged V6 drivetrain, the new 296 GTB delivers 610kW and a glimpse into the future of Ferrari. Perhaps most importantly for enthusiasts, Ferrari says that the new car will be the most fun-to-drive model in its range.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia badge

PRANCING FORCE

Words by Jesse Taylor

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he 296 GTB is not a 21st Century Dino and Ferrari is very clear on this subject, as explained to us by Enrico Galliera, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer for the Maranello-based brand. “The Dino concept is one of the most iconic concepts in Ferrari history. It’s true that there are some similarities, obviously with the engine. The Dino was developed to attract new clients into a new segment. To do that, Ferrari was willing to take some compromises in terms of space and even performance. The new 296 GTB is not this kind of concept. It is a new segment, yes, but it’s a true Ferrari and it’s not an entry-level model. Using the Dino name would have been a nice marketing strategy but not true to this car. So, we decided to give dignity to the 296 GTB and give it its own name.”

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia

The new 296 GTB continues Ferrari’s tradition of mid-engined sports cars, one that begun with the aforementioned Dino in 1967 with the 206 GTB. Of course, the Dino models never officially wore the Prancing Horse, so the first Ferrari-badged mid-engined production model was the flat-12-powered 365 Berlinetta Boxer of 1973, followed by the V8-powered 308 GTB of 1975. It’s the latter’s lineage upon which the new 296 GTB builds, and as alluded to by Enrico Galliera, the new car is neither an entry-level model, nor a direct replacement for the twin-turbocharged V8-powered F8 Tributo that will continue to be offered in a very full Ferrari range.

And while the 296 GTB is officially the first Ferrari road car to be powered by a V6, the brand’s storied racing history featured V6-engined competition cars as far back as 1957 with the 1.5-litre Dino 156 F2 single-seat race car. Ferrari historians will note that the first use of a V6 came only three years after the first Lancia-Ferrari V8 that was used by both Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio in the earliest years of the Formula 1 World Championship.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia

An increase in capacity for the Ferrari V6 for 1958 introduced the 246 nameplate on the 246 F1 used by Mike Hawthorn to win the F1 World Championship. The front-engined 246 F1 was the first V6-powered F1 car, the first V6 to win an F1 race (the 1958 French GP) and the last front-engined car to win an F1 GP (the 1960 Italian GP).

Ferrari’s first mid-mounted V6 competition car was the 246 SP (sports prototype) of 1961 – a winner of the gruelling Targa Florio in 1961 and 1962.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia rearPowered by a mid-mounted 120-degree V6, the 156 F1 delivered the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship to Phil Hill, and secured Ferrari’s first Constructors’ title. The V6 layout has continued to be used by Ferrari throughout the years since Phil Hill’s title, and like the engine in the 296 GTB, Ferrari’s F1 racers since 2014 have used turbocharged hybrid V6 engines.

Even without a marketing link to the classic Dino, it’s obvious that the new 296 GTB has deep roots within Ferrari folklore. Ahead of our much-anticipated first drive in a few weeks, we dive deep into the design and technology of a car that Ferrari promises to be the most fun to drive in its range.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia full front

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB

Engine 2992cc twin-turbo 120-degree V6, variable DOHC per bank, 24-valve, electronic fuel injection and engine management Power 610kW @ 8000rpm Torque 740Nm @ 6250rpm Transmission Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential Steering Rack and pinion, power-assisted Suspension Front and rear: independent double wishbones, multi link, magnetic dampers Brakes 398mm front, 360mm rear discs, ABS Weight 1470kg Top speed 330kph 0-100kph 2.9sec

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia design

PARADIGM SHIFT

The 296 GTB represents a new era for Ferrari and a radical rethink of powertrains and aerodynamics.

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s with any new Ferrari, it is difficult not to start with the engine, especially when the engine in question ushers in a new era for the brand’s road cars. At the heart of the 296 GTB is a 2992cc V6 that uses an 88mm bore and 82mm stroke, figures that some of you might recognise as being identical to those from the SF90’s 3990cc V8. While there is some material commonality between the two engines, the V6 is very much an all-new powerplant, something clearly delineated by its broad 120-degree included vee-angle. Whether we’re talking about the 3855cc version in the nose of Roma and Portofino, or the 3902cc version in back of the F8 Tributo, or even the abovementioned 3990cc monster in the SF90, all of Ferrari’s V8s use a 90-degree vee-angle. Meanwhile, the V12 in the 812 variants features a 65-degree included angle.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia engine

Ferrari has form with very wide-angle engines, using a 120-degree V6 to win the company’s first Formula 1 Constructor’s title in 1961, along with Phil Hill’s World Drivers’ Championship. And then there’s the ‘boxer’ or ‘flat-12’ used in the 365 and 512 Berlinetta Boxer models of the 1970s and early ’80s, and the Testarossa and its spin offs from the 1980s and early ’90s. Technically Ferrari’s flat-12 engine was a 180-degree V12 as each pair of horizontally opposed conrods used shared crank pins rather than individual crank pins that define a true boxer or flat engine.

Back to the 120-degree V6 in the 296 GTB and such a wide angle means a very low centre of gravity, on which Ferrari’s engineers further capitalised by completely redesigning the intake plenums. On the F8 Tributo’s V8, the intake plenums sit high and proud between the cylinder heads as the turbochargers are outside the vee. With the new F163 V6 engine, the plenums are integrated into the side of the cylinder heads and are made from lightweight thermoplastic.

Ferrari 296 GTB Australia 2

Drawing on lessons learnt during the development of the SF90 Stradale’s 3990cc V8, the 296 GTB’s V6 uses a central injector and spark plug, with fuel delivered at 350-bar. The combustion chamber features a new design of intake and exhaust ducts that help promote a high level of turbulence in the chamber, leading to a cleaner, faster and more complete burn. A static compression ratio of 9.4:1 is in line with the turbocharged V8s employed by the company’s various models (they range from 9.4:1 to 9.6:1) and suggests a crisp throttle response, something that we expect will be further enhanced by Ferrari’s traditionally clever torque management through the gears.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia engine side

The wide vee-angle allows the pair of IHI turbochargers to be easily positioned between the banks – a first for a Ferrari road car, though this was first used by Ferrari on its 1981 126 CK Formula 1 racer. Redesigned for their application in the 296 GTB using higher-performance alloys, the turbochargers now spin to 180,000rpm. The turbos themselves are single-scroll, symmetrical units and compared to those employed on the F8 Tributo’s V8, they feature a compressor wheel that’s five percent smaller in diameter, with an 11 percent smaller turbine wheel. This brings an overall reduction in rotating masses of 11 percent, with an obvious benefit in spool-up time and response.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia rear engine cover

When it comes to gases exiting the engine, the 120-degree layout again brings additional benefits, with a short and straighter path reducing back pressure and improving engine response and performance. The manifold and housings for the catalytic converters are made from Inconel (a lightweight steel-nickel alloy) that is extremely resistant to high temperatures. During the development of the F163 engine, the V6 was nicknamed ‘Piccolo V12’ by the engineers as it displays the high-frequency aural qualities of the company’s V12 engines.

Revving to a maximum of 8500rpm, the V6 produces its 487kW peak at 8000rpm, while the 740Nm torque peak arrives at 6250rpm. But as with the SF90, the internal combustion engine is just part of the story of the 296 GTB’s powertrain. Sandwiched between the V6 and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox that is also used in the SF90, Roma and Portofino M, a dual-rotor axial flux motor provides an additional 123kW, bringing the total system output to 610kW. Borrowing the MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit, Kinetic) moniker from Formula 1, the electric motor communicates with the V6 and dual-clutch gearbox via the Transition Manager Actuator (TMA), the software for which was developed entirely in-house at Ferrari. The TMA manages when the electric motor is augmenting the V6, when it’s decoupled and when it is running solo and driving the rear wheels through the gearbox in pure EV mode. As with the SF90, the plug-in hybrid 296 GTB features an electric-only range of 25km and an EV-top speed of 135km/h.

With a dry weight of 1470kg, the 610kW 296 GTB delivers astounding performance, with a 0-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds, 0-200km/h in 7.3 and a top speed in excess of 330km/h. Thanks to a traction advantage off the line, the 736kW all-wheel-drive SF90 is four tenths quicker to 100km/h, but the 296 GTB is almost line ball on the run from 100-200km/h – 4.2 seconds for the SF90 and 4.4 for the 296 GTB.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia artAs the Roma looks to the 250 GT Lusso for aesthetic inspiration, the new 296 GTB is said to have drawn styling cues from the 1963 250 LM. This influence is most noticeable in the dramatic flying buttress, striking B-pillar design and delicate Kamm tail, along with the pinched waist and overall compact proportions. Ferrari’s designers have modernised these elements from the 250 LM and seamlessly combined them with truly modern touches, highlighted by the wraparound windscreen. Limited-edition and one-off Ferrari models such as the J50 and P80/C have previously featured wraparound windscreens, but the 296 GTB pushes the concept to the extreme. The screen wraps into the side glass that in turn leads to the flying buttresses that extend down to the rear deck and frame the transparent engine cover. It’s interesting to note that the flying buttresses start near a pronounced hoop that suggests a Spider or GTS variant was always part of the original design brief…

And while beauty and drama are expected of any Ferrari, aerodynamic excellence is also a given for any modern supercar from Maranello. Much like the new V6, those aerodynamic choices have come from a clean sheet of paper, starting with a Ferrari first of an active aerodynamic device used to produce downforce rather than to decrease drag. Inspired by that fitted to the LaFerrari, the 296 GTB’s active rear spoiler is integrated into the rear bumper, and when extended can produce an additional 100kg of downforce, bringing the total to 360kg at 250km/h.

In addition to the aerodynamic and aesthetic requirements of a Ferrari body, there are significant cooling challenges to resolve. The exhaust manifolds of the V6 can reach temperatures of 900 degrees Celsius, but the 7.45kWh battery, electric motor and electronics must operate at significantly lower temperatures.

Ferrari 296 GTB Australia 3

Radiators for the engine and gearbox are located either side of the nose, behind which are condensers for cooling the high-voltage battery. Once air has passed through the radiators, it is extracted under the car and away from the intakes for the intercoolers in the upper side body. Radiators for the hybrid system are also located here.

As the 296 GTB’s powertrain shares concepts from the SF90’s PHEV drivetrain, so too does the cabin of the new car draw from the SF90. Like that in the SF90, the interface is entirely digital and was chosen by Ferrari’s designers to demonstrate the significant shift that has occurred with the introduction of PHEV drivetrains. From our experience in the SF90 Stradale and Spider, the system works well after a brief period of familiarisation. The displays can be adjusted to be sharp and minimal (perfect for distraction-free fast driving) or rich and dense with information. Screen clarity is industry leading.

Ferrari 296 GTB Australia 5

The steering wheel mimics that of the SF90 with both a traditional Manettino for chassis settings and the newly introduced eManettino for powertrain settings. Four options are presented on the latter; eDrive for purely EV driving with a range of 25km and a maximum speed of 135km/h; Hybrid, which is the default ignition-on mode that manages the electric motor and V6 to provide maximum efficiency; Performance mode where the V6 is always running to ensure that the battery can deliver its full charge (the setting Ferrari recommends for “press-on” driving); and Qualify mode where both the V6 and electric motor deliver their maximum outputs but at the cost of battery charge. Qualify mode in the all-wheel-drive SF90 is something else, so we can’t wait to experience the full fury of the rear-drive 296 GTB.

Our first drive of the 296 GTB can’t come soon enough as we’re intrigued by both the performance and dynamic potential of the new car.

Ferrari GTB 296 Australia hero cover scaled

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

You’d think that a 610kW mid-engined supercar would be enough for most people, but there’s always an audience who demand more. Ferrari is happy to help with the 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano.

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s we recently discovered with our 48-hour dalliance with the 736kW Ferrari SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano, the optional track-focused Assetto Fiorano package has a transformative effect even on a car with a stratospheric baseline – a baseline that Ferrari set out to redefine when developing the 296 GTB. While cars such as the SF90 and 812 Competizione are ultra-focused in delivering maximum performance, Ferrari wanted the new 296 GTB to target pure driving enjoyment and class-leading driver engagement.

The fundamental agility of the 296 GTB comes from its mid-engined layout and its size. At 4565mm in length, the 296 GTB is 46mm shorter than the F8 Tributo and it sits on a 50mm shorter wheelbase (now 2600mm). At 1958mm wide, it’s 21mm narrower and the 1187mm height is 19mm lower than the F8 Tributo, itself hardly a towering car.

Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano 1

In developing the 296 GTB as a benchmark of driving fun, Ferrari’s engineers targeted five indicators: lateral response from steering inputs and its effect on both the front and rear axle (in conjunction with incredibly sophisticated chassis electronics); the speed and smoothness of throttle response; gearshift times and engagement as you shift up and down through the ratios; brake pedal feel in terms of response, progression and efficacy; and sound level and quality as the engine revs rise and fall.

The chassis’ electronic armoury starts with the way in which the Transition Manager Actuator (TMA) seamlessly controls the outputs of the 487kW V6 engine and the 123kW electric motor into one harmonious driving encounter. Having experienced the SF90 Spider Assetto Fiorano both in full flight and crawling in traffic, it’s clear that Ferrari’s software engineers earn their keep. And with the 296 GTB, they’ve a new toy to programme, with Ferrari introducing the 6-way Chassis Dynamic Sensor (6w-CDS), a first for the automotive sector.

The 6w-CDS measures both the acceleration and rate of rotation on three axes, providing critical information to various other systems, including the latest version of Ferrari’s renowned Side Slip Control (SSC) and the new ABS module. This level of detail now allows the stability and traction control systems, along with the SSC to be primed for the correct response, whether that’s minimal or maximum intervention.

SSC uses a grip estimator that draws information from a second device integrated within the electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), and can now estimate the grip of the tyres in all scenarios, not only when the 296 GTB is being driven on the limit. During track driving, the grip estimator is 35 percent faster at calculating available grip than in previous versions of SSC.

The accuracy of the 6w-CDS, in conjunction with the new ABS module that provides ultimate braking performance when the Manettino is switched to Race mode or higher, translates to significantly improved stopping distances. From 200km/h, the 296 GTB takes just 107 metres to come to a complete stop, an improvement of 8.8 percent compared to the F8 Tributo. In addition to that result, the braking repeatability of the 296 GTB improves by 24 percent compared to the F8 Tributo. For the record, the 296 GTB runs carbon-ceramic rotors measuring 398mm/360mm front/rear.

Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano 9

From this extraordinary baseline, Ferrari offers clients the chance to push their 296 GTB even farther by optioning the Assetto Fiorano package. On the SF90, the global take-up rate for the Assetto Fiorano package is presently running at around 40 percent and the brand is expecting a similar or slightly higher percentage on the 296 GTB. Such is the character and dynamic difference wrought by the addition of the Assetto Fiorano package, we’re hearing that some customers are ordering one with and one without. Nice problem to have.

As with the SF90, the Assetto Fiorano package brings no more power to the 296 GTB, instead it delivers a modest but welcome weight reduction, an increase in downforce and even more focused dynamic prowess. When fitted with the Assetto Fiorano package, the 296 GTB weighs in 15kg lighter at 1455kg dry. Most of the weight saving comes from redesigned door panels that save 12kg, while the remaining 3kg is saved by switching to a Lexan cover for the engine. Another 7kg can be trimmed, plus a healthy reduction in unsprung weight, if you option the carbonfibre wheels made in Geelong by Carbon Revolution.

Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano 4

Carbonfibre is used more liberally in the interior and on the exterior, with the carbonfibre splitters on the corners of the front bar adding an additional 10kg in downforce over the standard 296 GTB.

As with the SF90 Stradale and Spider, the addition of the Assetto Fiorano package on the 296 GTB replaces the standard SCM-Frs magnetorheological dampers with aluminium-bodied units from motorsport specialist Multimatic. Famous for supplying dampers to the majority of the Formula 1 grid, Multimatic has been a long-time partner of Ferrari in GT racing, and it’s this experience that translates to the track-focused chassis tune of the 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano.

To best exploit the increased chassis focus, the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres are replaced by Pilot Sport Cup 2R rubber in the same size – 245/35 ZR20 up front, 305/35 ZR20 at the rear.

Finally, the Assetto Fiorano package allows clients to option a striking special livery that draws inspiration from the 250 LM. Ferrari has nine outright triumphs at Le Mans, and the 250 LM took the last of those victories in 1965. For that reason, we suspect that the livery will be a popular option on the 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano.

Ferrari 296 GTB Assetto Fiorano 2