2023 Ferrari 296 GTS—We drive Ferrari’s plug-in hybrid convertible

Enlarge / Ferrari has abandoned the V8 for its newest mid-engined supercar, the 296 GTS.

Jonathan Gitlin

IMOLA, ITALY—Time is running out for the combustion engine. Impending bans on new vehicles powered by combustion engines will come into effect around the world by the mid-2030s, from California to China, but even now, there are dozens of European cities enforcing low-emission zones that restrict occupants. from cars to hybrids and EVs. And unlike the average CO2 Regulations governing automakers do not have any exemptions for construction at low volumes.

This means that if you’re making supercars like Ferraris and you want to sell your supercars to people living in the center of cities (which is what supercar owners usually do), it’s time to get electrified. This is something Ferrari has been working on for a while, first in Formula 1 and then in its ultra-expensive, ultra-low volume models like the LaFerrari and the SF90. But now, that technology has trickled into the manufacturer’s bread and butter model, a mid-engine machine called the 296. In the spring, Ferrari released the hardtop 296 GTB. More recently, it has unveiled the 296 GTS with folding roof tested here.

Visually, it’s easy to place this as a mid-engined Ferrari, and if you put a 296 next to an F8, 488 and 458, the evolution of the shape will be obvious. Also, a mid-engined car has a lot of places to put the engine and radiators, and where they go, ducts, vents, etc. determines where you need it. However, pull out a tape measure and you’ll find that the wheelbase has been shortened by a few inches (50mm).

The visual similarities are skin-deep, as the heart of the 296 is truly all-new. And for the first time, Ferrari fitted one of its road cars with a V6 and gave it its name: 2.9 L and six cylinders. (Pedants will note that the 206 GT, 246 GT, and 246 GTS produced in the 1960s and 1970s only wore Dino badges, never prancing horses.)

The V6 is shorter and much lighter than the V8 it replaces.
Enlarge / The V6 is shorter and much lighter than the V8 it replaces.

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The 2.9 L V6 engine uses a 120° V angle with turbochargers located above and between the two rows of cylinders – the so-called “hot v” arrangement. Putting the turbos on top of the engine rather than hanging them from either side helps pack the engine into the chassis, which Ferrari says also reduces the center of gravity and the mass of the engine.

The engine’s combustion chambers are an improvement over those found in the SF90 engine with direct fuel injection at 350 bar. The symmetrical counter-rotating turbocharger pair spins up to 180,000 rpm; They’re bigger than what you’d find connected to the 3.9 L turbocharged V8 Ferrari used to use, but they have less inertia and much greater boost efficiency. Power output is 218 hp/L (163 kW/L) or 654 hp (488 kW).

On its own, this is almost as powerful as the Ferrari 488 we tested in 2017, but the 296 is a plug-in hybrid, so you’ll find a ring-shaped transmission between the V6 engine and the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Twin rotor, single stator axial flux electric motor generator unit (MGU), producing 165 hp (123 kW) and 232 lb-ft (315 Nm), 7.45 kWh lithium-ion traction battery located behind the seats. MGU was built by Law.

With the engine and MGU working together, the 296 GTS has a maximum peak power output of 818 hp (610 kW). However, the MGU can run on its own in eDrive mode without starting the V6 at speeds up to 135 km/h. The battery stores enough energy for an EPA-rated electric-only eight-mile range, though Europe’s less realistic WLTP test rates this range at 25km.

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