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Ferrari 296 GTB Track Test : Lightning Bolt

Derryn Wong
14/07/2022
2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - Car on track apex cornering

Ferrari’s PHEV coupe driven on Sepang: 296 GTB marries lightning pace and mighty acceleration with controllability that defies on-paper specifications and expectations


Sepang, Malaysia

“Do you know Sepang?” asks my instructor/minder Andrea Nori. 

“Yes…I think!” I’ve driven here many times, but not in the recent. In fact, I haven’t driven on a proper race track for at least three-and-a-half years in any car, let alone Ferrari’s latest and greatest.

As Ferrari’s plug-in hybrid replacement* for its mid-engined Berlinettas, the 296 GTB has a lot to negotiate, but perhaps the biggest test is how it behaves on a racetrack. I just hope I’m up to the task. 

*Ferrari says the 296 GTB is introduced alongside the F8, offering more performance and fun-to-drive factor than that car. Nevermind that you can’t order an F8 anymore.

Its big brother, the SF90 Stradale, has blazed the hybrid flag for the Italian sports car maker, but the 296 GTB has the arguably tougher job of normalising Maranello’s newly-deployed PHEV tech in a challenging era for a brand that has a history powered solely in the sound and fury of ICE engines up until now. We had a go at the 1,000hp hybrid on a short gymkhana course in Singapore, but the 296 on Sepang is a totally different thing.

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - two cars going through corners racetrack
The 296 GTB isn’t the first electrified Ferrari and definitely not the last

Leading up to the charge, Ju-Len got to grips with the 296 GTB on the road and track, the latter with the Assetto Fiorano dynamic package. In short, with the 296 Ferrari’s short-circuited its own historical process, and now the F8 Tributo’s name (a tribute to Ferrari’s V8 road car engines) makes total sense, since it’s very likely the last petrol-only V8 car from Maranello.



2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - man putting on helment with constipated look
Despite the getup, Derryn did not end up trimming Sepang’s grass in the 296 GTB

Read our stories to get up to speed, but to sum up, the 296 has a higher revving engine with a ridiculous specific output, and a wheelbase shorter than the F8’s (2,600mm, or 50mm less). It’s a compact package too, the V6 allowing the car to be shorter than a BMW 3 Series, and Ferrari says it’s all about making a powerful, yet more agile car. Ju-Len’s take, plus TG editor David Khoo’s, all point to it being an absolutely brilliant road car.

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - car going past grandstands

But with 830hp and more than 700Nm sent only to the rear wheels, I’m wondering how it will cope with fast, tricky, and technical Sepang. Fiorano is one thing, but Sepang is quite another, a place where agility-biassed cars can seem slow, no matter how pointy the nose. 

More importantly, I’m wondering how I will cope with fast, tricky Sepang after years away from my last circuit drive, in a car that’s just 1.4-tonnes and packs 830hp – and what could possibly be a twitchy package when things get unstable.

Enjoy the silence

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - hot test pitlane
What we don’t miss about Sepang : Scorching hot days!

After minimal tweaking, the 296’s cockpit is exceptionally comfortable to the driver, with a low-rise position and good visibility – like almost every Ferrari we’ve driven to date. Like the F8, the console-mounted controls have almost been entirely done away with, other than the shift/drive section modelled on the classic H-gate of vintage Ferraris.

Everything crucial is done on the steering wheel – the four drive modes for the hybrid system, signals, paddle shifters, and the classic Manettino – which is useful when you want to switch things up at speed.

The classic feat of bark and roar down the pitlane like a hoon is entirely absent. 25km is the quoted range on the 7.65kWh battery pack, and since the maximum speed for e-mode is 135km/h, the 296 even rolls through turn one and two without its V6 kicking in. For most other cars, this would be odd, but in a red car with a Prancing Horse badge on the bonnet it’s downright weird.

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - crest of hill green backdrop
A new breed of Ferrari that’s (sort of) friendly to the background


On turn three it does the V6 wake up, a burbling that delivers mild vibrations through the cabin, but it’s hardly spine-tingling stuff yet, so we cruise through the warm-up lap without much drama.

Cathedral of sound

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore -  grandstands Malaysian flag backdrop

Ferrari devotes more than a few paragraphs in its release to how the design of the V6 is meant to emulate a V12 in both sound and power, about equal length intakes this, and higher-order harmonics that, lots of internal sound-piping to ensure the driver receives aural bliss. 

It sounds fabulous.

The process makes out like Ferrari was designing a Stradivarius, but it actually made a shredding metal guitar. Maybe not one capable of naturally-aspirated-style face-melting solos, but one that rocks harder than almost any other turbo engine we’ve experienced, and certainly more than any other V6 we’ve tried. 

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - kerbs racetrack

High-performance V6’s aren’t exactly common for us, Nissan’s GT-R, Lotus supercharged unit from the Evora, Lexus’ IS 350’s naturally-aspirated unit. GT-R aside, none of those have comparable power, and with the added punch of the motor filling in all the ICE ‘power gaps’ there’s no comparison either. It’s hugely powerful and fast, we can’t imagine what the 1,000hp SF90 would be like here.

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore -  engine bay


I’m still getting up to speed, and the weird thing is, the 296 doesn’t feel fast at all. I wonder if I’m doing something wrong, so I ask Andrea. Besides a wide apex or two, he says I’m doing fine, and I don’t think he’s just being polite as his posture is far from ‘cat trapped in a carrier on the way to the vet’ stance I’ve seen other instructors adopt. Must be the car, then. 

BMW shows us why V8s still rock

Thunder, not frightening

The other thing that really stands out is the mid-range punch. On paper, the car rocks 0-200km/h in just 7.3 seconds. For context, that’s shit-kickingly fast. More than a second quicker than the 488 GTB, and a mere half second off a LaFerrari in the same metric.

On Sepang, this translates to making short work of the track’s fast corners, of which there are many. It blitzes the stretches through turn 3, 5 and 6, 7, all up to tight 8, if a 296 pilot didn’t have track knowledge it’s fast enough to make Sepang seem like its rushing toward you. Even if you do, corners seem a lot less further away than before. And if a car makes wide, wide Sepang feel less than expansive, you know it’s hella powerful.

But this is big power married to even bigger control. It turns out my fears are unfounded – despite the compact dimensions and huge power, the 296 is very planted and forgiving. 

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore -  rear car apex kerb

Given how much effort Ferrari threw into aerodynamics – not just drag reduction but also downforce optimisation – it doesn’t feel viscerally fast because it’s so planted at speed, no vagueness of the nose even with heavy acceleration (turn 3 again). And again, it’s hard to put across just how fast this car is, the midrange oomph is truly something. Andrea still looks like a relatively relaxed (large and hirsute) cat. Because I’m a nice person and I don’t want to scare him Ju-Len Style, we’re not pushing very hard – but still, the 296 reaches 270+km/h by the end of the main straight.


Braking very heavily from that speed, there’s only the slightest twitch from the rear of the car, and our gripe is that the brake-by-wire doesn’t feel as immediate as a regular hydraulic system. On the road, it’s probably not going to be an issue, but very hard track braking – you just have to have faith in the anchors. They are carbon-ceramic units as standard, and seem powerful and enduring having already gone through another media session before mine – but just more feel would be nice here. 

Specific impulse 

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore -  Sepang turn 2 and 3

The 296, dynamically, has beastly power with fine-grained control and predictability. Now we didn’t drive in Corsa mode, nor with TC off, so we can’t say how this car behaves at 9/10ths or the like, but owners who want that would spring for the Assetto Fiorano pack rather than the stock car. But on the whole there’s not much re-acquainting needed if you jump from a petrol sports car to this, brakes aside. 

The only other observation we have is that Ferrari’s brief positions this car as a fun to drive, involving machine with plenty of agility. Sepang is a fast, technical track with few side-to-side transitions, so it isn’t the best place to illustrate this. If on-road experience of our colleagues is anything to go by, the 296 has it down, and is also able to pull blistering pace on a modern circuit without breaking a sweat – or having you do that too.

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore - top down rear of car

What has Ferrari created? A monstrously capable sports coupe that sounds fabulous and deploys insane pace. It’s obviously better than an F8, but all Ferraris are better than their predecessors. The fact that Ferrari has made it all tie together in such a convincing fashion is lightning in a bottle – or in a drivetrain, at least. 

Ferrari 296 GTB

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB - Track test at Sepang - CarBuyer Singapore -  interior Ferrari badge
Drivetrain typePlug-in hybrid petrol-electric
Engine2,992cc, V6, biturbo
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 / 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
VESC2
Price$1,240,000 without COE, options
AgentItal Auto Pte Ltd
AvailableNow

Tags:

296 GTB berlinetta Coupe EV Ferrari high performance Hybrid PHEV sports car

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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