Originally Published June 1, 2023.
The 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB’s arrival marks the beginning of a new era for the brand. The last time the Prancing Horse built a six-cylinder engine was for the final year of the Dino 246 GT in 1974. Flash forward nearly 50 years, and the 296 GTB doesn’t just draw power from an all-new 120-degree V6. It adds an electric motor for a total system output of 818 horsepower. All of which does to its rear wheels.
The power by itself, although impressive, isn’t unique. All modern supercars now have physics-defying stat sheets. What sets the 296 GTB apart is how well it can deploy its outrageous performance on a twisty road. However, it’s not just fast. It’s also engaging, allowing for a level of immersion behind the wheel that few competitors can match.
It’s also gorgeous, combining functional design with breathtaking styling. Although this $507,751 Assetto Fiorano’s two-tone paint isn’t a personal favorite, the 296 doesn’t have a bad angle. And while its interior functionality is still questionable, Ferrari’s latest feels special, quite a feat when high-tech supercars continue to become increasingly homogenous.
|Engine||Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-Liter V6 Hybrid|
|Output||818 Horsepower / 546 Pound-Feet|
|0-62 MPH:||2.9 Seconds|
|Base Price:||$317,986 (Including a $5,000 Destination Fee)|
The Ferrari 296 GTB’s epic styling pays dividends thanks to its functional design. Just by looking at it, it’s tough to tell that there’s active aero at play, but a rear spoiler hides in its back deck, deploying only at speed. Coupled with an extended front splitter included in the Assetto Fiorano package and with high downforce mode engaged, this elegant two-door can still produce 794 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. This is comparable to the high-winged Lamborghini Huracan STO at similar speeds, which is essentially a street-legal race car.
The GTB keeps its engine and transmission cool with two radiators nestled ahead of its front wheels. The pair and two condensers for its battery pack are fed by air via its sizable lower grille. With those main components needing a steady flow of air, Ferrari added two smaller intakes next to each headlight to cool the 296’s carbon-ceramic brakes. Twin intercoolers sit just before the wheel arches. The whole package dumps hot air via the car’s underbody to avoid affecting the cool air flow up top.
While the 296 is impressive from a design standpoint, Ferrari wasted no opportunities to make that functionality beautiful. The GTB has a mini SF90 vibe, although it’s curvier with protruding front and rear arches, a sloping roofline, and a widened stance. Its engine cover wasn’t left alone as a flat piece of Lexan. It’s shaped to evacuate hot air and follow the rear’s body lines tying the whole aesthetic together.
As part of the Assetto Fiorano pack, this car sports a dark Canna Di Fucile base color with a racing livery applied in contrasting Giallo Modena. And while this configuration isn’t a personal favorite, it highlights the 296’s unique styling elements, such as its lower grille and rear bumper. Given a choice, I’d opt for brighter shades for the body to accentuate the GTB’s elegant body lines.
At the 296 GTB’s core sits an all-new 120-degree 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 dubbed the F163. Ferrari chose this layout partly because it resulted in a smaller and lighter engine. The added distance between the banks allows for two turbochargers to sit between them in a hot vee setup. Both counter-rotating turbos are the same size but are considerably smaller than those found in the F8 Tributo’s F154 V8, allowing them to spool up quickly.
By itself, this new powerplant develops 654 hp, but of course, it’s not alone, as it couples with an axial flux electric motor nestled between it and the eight-speed dual-clutch out of the SF90, pushing out an extra 165 hp. The pair deliver 818 hp and 546 pound-feet of torque, allowing the GTB to hit 62 mph in 2.9 seconds and top out at 205 mph.
That power comes on quick and relentlessly. Whether we have the smaller turbos or the torque-filling electric motor to thank, the 296 GTB responds to throttle inputs instantly. It doesn’t matter the gear or revs. There’s enough power for the elegant Ferrari to propel forward with tremendous aggression. The DCT makes full use of its output, and despite only going to the rear wheels, the 296 puts all of its power down thanks in part to its 305-section rear tires. As an added bonus, the new engine’s note becomes V12-like as you reach its 8,500 rpm redline.
With most of its weight and power out back, the GTB’s front is agile and eager to turn in. Its steering, although electric, is light and communicative with no added programmed heaviness. The rack is quick, requiring only subtle inputs for significant direction changes. Thanks to its added feedback and the vibrations it transmits to your fingertips, it’s easy to connect with the 296 despite all the tech at play.
The Assetto Fiorano pack adds Miltimatic adjustable shocks, which may be stiff for around-town driving. However, they redeem themselves on a back road by eliminating body roll and keeping the 296 flat around tight bends. Its composure is what sets the GTB apart most from its predecessors. An F8 Tributo, for example, would start to act up as you pushed its limits, requiring caution. Its successor invites you to push it with confidence.
The consequence of all of these innovations is weight. Ferrari claims a 3,240-lb dry weight figure when equipped with lightweight options, meaning the 296’s actual curb weight should fall somewhere north of 3,600 lb with fluids. For context, a McLaren Artura, which also features a 120-degree V6, an electric motor, and a small battery pack, has a 3,384-lb claimed curb weight. That said, the Ferrari hides it well with its stiffer suspension and wider tires. It’s only on very tight roads that its added heft becomes apparent.
The benefits of the GTB’s electrification shine around town and during early mornings as it only fires up with electric power. Thanks to a 7.5 kWh batter pack hidden in its floor, the 296 will waft silently for up to 15 miles on a full charge, at which point its throaty V6 comes to life. Ferrari employs a new Transition Manager Actuator to handle the switch between its electric motor and the V6, resulting in a seamless integration.
The switch between power sources and drive modes happens via the 296’s SF90-style wheel, full of haptic feedback buttons. Their presence on the carbon fiber and leather flat-bottom wheel leaves little for the rest of the cabin to do. There are A/C controls to its right and mirror adjustments to its left. As such, the wheel is your go-to input to control the digital instrument cluster sitting just before it.
Unfortunately, these controls remain as finicky as in the Roma I tested a few months ago. The infotainment system’s layout and graphics are excellent, but its haptic feedback surfaces require multiple presses just to wake up, while the added effort distracts considerably from the road ahead. A second smaller display sits in front of the passenger and displays either media or performance figures.
As this is an Assetto Fiorano car, its interior is slightly different than a standard 296, mainly its doors, which are one solid piece of carbon fiber. The lightweight material makes its way to the rest of the cabin to places like its door sills, center console, and column-mounted paddle shifters. Its carbon fiber seats offer aggressive side bolsters and minimal padding but are surprisingly comfortable once in them.
The cabin is quiet at speed but lets just enough of the 296’s engine note through to feel dramatic. Although this Assetto Fiorano is supposed to be the most hardcore 296 to date, it’s perfectly comfortable for around-town driving. Its cozy cabin and electric drive could easily replace your daily driver.
The 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB starts at $317,986, including a $5,000 destination fee. However, this Assetto Fiorano equipped tester comes in at $507,751.
The 296 GTB feels like the culmination of many innovations coming together to deliver a powerful, electrified, engaging, and properly exciting car. Although this Ferrari has truly impressive stats that grab headlines, what it does best is immerse its diver in the experience behind the wheel.
The 296 GTB accomplishes what every Ferrari should. It’s gorgeous, produces a unique sound, and is thrilling to drive. The added flexibility of its electric drive makes it a joy to use just about anywhere. While its interior functionality is still lacking, it’s only a tiny blemish on an otherwise spectacular car. This may start the brand’s V6 era, but it’s setting off with a thrilling first act.