Ferrari 296 GTS 2024 review: Is this the future of supercars?

Cars

The concept of a near-$800,000 plugin hybrid might be a hard sell to your traditional Ferrari diehard, who, like many of us, have marvelled (from afar) at the Italian marque’s iconic 8 and 12-cylinder engines, but rest assured there is a lot to love about this convertible 296 GTS which adds an intriguing layer to the Prancing Horse’s lineup for 2024.

From the ritzy streets of Paddington to the ocean-fronting mansions along Palm Beach, it doesn’t matter which part of Sydney you’re driving through, nothing quite turns heads like the roaring internal combustion engine of a new Ferrari. So, what about when you get rid of that noise? The answer, as we found out, is still an unequivocal yes.

Then again, turning heads has never been an issue for a brand like Ferrari. Nor has finding buyers for their marquee products. But will a pivot away from its DNA into the ever-looming rise of electric vehicles be able to win over its customers and fans? Only time will tell – but in the meantime, we put this new-age supercar through its paces to see how it stacks up.

The drive

Performance-wise, the GTS is equipped with a hybrid system combining a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 and an electric motor, delivering a total of 610 kW and 740 Nm of torque. This setup allows for a 0-100 km/h acceleration in just 2.9 seconds.

Notably, the integration of the hybrid system serves dual purposes: enhancing performance and adhering to stricter emissions standards – with the former undoubtedly the priority.

But this is not your average hybrid. Now that might seem like a rather obvious statement when writing about an $800,000 Ferrari, but allow me to explain. After powering on the car with the touchscreen button on the steering wheel, you are met with four drive modes – qualifying, performance, hybrid and EV.

Rolling out of the driveway in hybrid mode, you’d be forgiven for thinking the car was yet to start. It’s only once you reach a certain a point of acceleration does the V6 kick in. Let’s be honest though, driving a Ferrari in EV mode is like choosing to fly in economy when you have a first-class ticket – absolutely unhinged.

Which brings me to my next point, that classic Ferrari roar. Do not one for second be disheartened by the prospect of a V6 because chances are you’ve never heard one quite like this. It sounds even deeper than the V8. In fact, Ferrari has achieved a resonant sound with the 296 that it rivals the bellow of a V12, which they aptly nicknamed the “piccolo V12.”

Step on the accelerator in either Performance or the wildly exhilarating Qualifying mode, and you’ll experience the instant torque familiar in electric cars, combined with the engine’s surge to peak power. It is something else.

But perhaps what truly showcases the brilliance of this hybrid is Ferrari’s ability to not only use standard braking regeneration to recharge its battery but also to harness the excess torque generated during aggressive driving. In short – the harder you drive it, the more you recharge the battery.

As expected with the badge, handling remains precise and engaging, with the car’s rigidity largely uncompromised by the convertible weight and design – a feat not many convertible supercars can boast.

The design

14 seconds. That’s the time it takes to make the roof on the 296 GTS disappear. Sure, the convertible mechanism essentially adds another $100,000 to the price tag of its hard-topped brother, the 296 GTB coupe, but as far as first-world dilemmas go, this is a pretty nice one to find yourself in.

In terms of overall body design, the GTS maintains the sleek, aggressive lines characteristic of Ferrari while integrating that retractable hard-top that operates seamlessly at speeds up to 45 km/h.

The additional 70 kg the convertible mechanism adds is minimal, ensuring the car’s performance remains largely unaffected. This design choice also manages airflow effectively with aesthetic and functional elements like the ‘Air Bridge’ at the rear. Even driving over the harbour bridge with the roof down, you still feel protected from the elements.

From a safety perspective, the GTS includes essential features like multiple airbags and advanced stability control but lacks some of the more common advanced driver assistance systems found in luxury vehicles.

Where the 296 does fall down is the digital instrument cluster. While sleek, it comes with some usability issues, particularly with the haptic controls on the steering which can be unresponsive and unintuitive at times.

The price

The 2024 Ferrari 296 GTS starts at $668,146 before optional extras and on-road costs.

The verdict

Ferrari is no stranger to making eye-wateringly beautiful cars and the 296 GTS might just be the perfect example of blending the old with the new – combining the thrill of its traditional engines with forward-thinking hybrid technology. Any skepticism about how it stacks up against the rest of the Ferrari lineup was short lived.

Mind-blowing engineering.

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