Electrification is happening in the car industry – but it remains a bit of a dirty word among true petrolheads. So there will be mixed emotions at the reveal this week of Ferrari’s 296 GTB, a mid-engined supercar that mixes V6 grunt with the ability to go up to 25 kilometres on electric power alone.
The Maranello brand isn’t alone in making this sort of move, of course; the 296 GTB already has an obvious rival, in fact, in the shape of McLaren’s Artura. Even so, this will be, for some, a watershed moment, as one of the most emotional car brands in the world bows its head to legislation and the environmental lobby.
But is that really the case? I’ll admit that as soon as the 296 GTB was released, I started searching for video clips to hear its all-new V6 engine – and it sounds fantastic. And let’s face it: the car still weighs less than a tonne and a half, and has 610kW driving its rear wheels, a 0-100km/h time of less than three seconds and a top speed of more than 320km/h.
Ferrari’s Side Slip Control will no doubt have been recalibrated to cope with the extra mass of the battery and electric motor, so are we really saying that the 296 GTB is going to be dull to drive?
The world of production cars is evolving now at a faster pace than we’ve seen in a generation. Ferrari has to play its part in that or it will cease to exist, its high-end customer base driven towards pure-electric rivals not only by legislation but also by society’s own conscience. Sustainability, after all, is a very shiny badge for the ultra-wealthy to wear, and there are fresh electric-only start-ups arriving on a monthly basis, ready to offer it.
Pure-electric Ferraris are coming – along with an SUV. But in the meantime, we’re fascinated to see how this ‘mainstream’ plug-in vehicle stacks up. It’s a very different solution from what we’ve seen before from Ferrari – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a thrilling one.