Ferrari 296 GTB review: Electrifying

Lionel Kong

Eventually, the rain had the decency to fade away. Buttocks unclenched and my grip on the wheel loosened up, not merely because patches of dry tarmac began to appear, but mostly due to the fact that the 296 GTB is, for all the brute force channelled through its rear tyres, is an amazingly easy car to get to grips with. 

It is, it goes without saying, a ridiculously fast car. 200km/h takes just 7.3 seconds from standstill. Yet, the 296 GTB isn’t explosively or unevenly quick. Instead, the power is impossibly linear, doled out by the hybrid drivetrain in a steady flow as the revs climb and what begins as an urgent rush to the horizon turns into a violent charge. 

What a sound from the exhaust when it happens, too. The engineers went on endlessly during the technical briefing about the voice they gave the new V6, and having heard it I can understand why. It doesn’t have the F8 Tributo’s rasp or bark, and instead emits a smooth, distinctive bass-heavy tone that’s full bodied at low revs, rising to a cultured howl that makes the small hairs stand. At the factory they’ve nicknamed it the “piccolo V12”, and for good reason. Apart from the 812 Superfast, which has an actual V12, the 296 GTB is now the best-sounding Ferrari on sale.

Between the ultra-quick steering and the “little V12”, there’s no shortage of pure excitement, and I won’t lie, some of it is tinged with fear when you’re on a skinny bit of road. Like many of the modern Ferraris, the 296 GTB is a wide car, and it feels like it. It’s broader than a Mercedes S-Class (though the F8 was, apparently, broader still). Yet, there’s a deftness to the handling that makes it feel every bit like the lean athlete it is. Despite the addition of the plug-in hardware, including a battery pack that weighs 73kg by itself, the 296 GTB weighs 1,470kg, only 35kg more than the F8 Tributo.

Sometimes it accelerates furiously enough to make you feel as if you’re merely along for the ride, but then the brakes have titanic stopping power, so there’s always a sense of control if you stay alert to what’s happening. There’s a sense of balance, too, with neither end of the car fidgeting to get away from you.

A few fast corners later, you’re full of newfound confidence in the Ferrari’s abilities, more so than in your own, if you’re honest with yourself. Mind you, if you’re willing to trade some of the car’s daily drivability for some extra sharpness, there’s the Assetto Fiorano version (pictured below) to consider, which costs S$133,500 more.

It doesn’t come with extra power, but it does have more downforce, stickier tyres and weighs up to 15kg less, plus go-faster stripes that are guaranteed to knock five-tenths off your laptimes.

Either way, the new Ferrari is ultimately an easy car to sum up. It’s stupendously fast, of course, but also supremely balanced in terms of its abilities: all set to make the slog through rush hour traffic on Shenton Way an unruffled affair, but just as ready to bolster your confidence in being able to handle 830 horsepower.

It was nice of the weather gods to let me find that out eventually. But the 296 GTB is such a fascinating addition to the Ferrari line-up, there’s every chance that they wanted to see what it could do in the dry, too.

Ferrari 296 GTB

Drivetrain typePlug-in hybrid petrol-electric
Engine2,992cc, V6, turbocharged
Power663hp at 8,000rpm
Torque740Nm at 6,250rpm
Gearbox8-speed dual-clutch
Electric Motor167hp, 315Nm
Battery Type / CapacityLithium ion / 7.45kWh
Charging Time / Type1.5 hours (estimated) / AC 11.4kW
Electric Range25km
System Power830hp, 900Nm
Top Speed>330km/h
0-100km/h2.9 seconds
Fuel consumption7.5L/100km
Electricity consumption13.8kWh/100km
Price$1,240,000 without COE
AgentItal Auto Pte Ltd

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2 seat 2-door 296 GTB Coupe Ferrari Hybrid

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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