Normally, due to the area’s speed bumps (not to mention very large palaces), it’s always a respectful 1st and 2nd gear saunter the perfect time to let a Ferrari V8 or V12 warm up. But today is different; in the five minutes it’s taken me to go from the showroom to the ‘7th Street’ slip road, I’ve already decided that the V6 hybrid Ferrari 296 GTS is one the most fun, enjoyable, and engaging supercars I’ve ever driven… and I’ve not been over 70 km/h.
Open air fun: The 296 GTS is the evolution of Ferrari’s mid-rear-engined two-seater berlinetta spider concept
Maranello’s engineers are well known for creating characterful, living, and breathing engines, but the 296’s V6 powertrain is simply something else. I have to admit it, I wasn’t massively enthused about a V6 hybrid Ferrari, but after only minutes sitting in front of 830 BHP worth of engines (1x 663bhp V6 + 1x 167bhp e-motor), it’s become obvious that Ferrari’s engine artisans really, really knew what they were doing with this set up.
Unlike almost all other performance/supercars, which come alive high up in the rev range, the 296 will have you grinning from ear to ear in part throttle in 1st and 2nd gear – basically, under the speed limit and it’s all about the sound, torque and instant acceleration.
Drop the retractable hard top, dab the accelerator and you’re treated to a soundtrack that’s unlike any other machine. The exhaust is drowned out by huge amounts of glorious induction noise; a symphony of air being sucked into the V6’s twin turbos – and all at low road speeds. It’s completely usable power, and incredible fun, as the 296 is encouraging you to have a good time. It’s like taking an excited bulldog for a walk after it’s been stuck inside all day – it just wants to sprint about with all its soul, and in the Ferrari, you can almost feel a smile forming on the nosecone.
The 296 has no idea that it’s a V6 hybrid, it thinks its a twin-turbo V8, or even a V12 (yes, really) and from the driver’s seat, it’s only the ‘boost’ and ‘charge’ gauges that give you any idea that there’s an electric motor in there somewhere.
The first Ferrari to sport a mid-rear V6 was the 246 SP in 1961 and since 2014, the V6 PHEV turbo architecture has been standard on all Formula 1 cars.
You can drive the 296 in full electric mode – a strange experience as you waft along in total silence for up to 25 kilometres, however, with two hungry turbos sitting behind your head, it’s not long at all before you’ll be engaging angry ICE mode. Yes, it’s interesting to have the PHEV option and to recharge the battery, you just drive normally, or as normal as you can when you have arguably one of the world’s greatest powertrains at your disposal.
To conclude, not only is this the best V6 engine ever produced, but with the 296’s ability to massively entertain under the speed limit, it’s one of the most enjoyable and usable supercars, too.