Ferrari’s 2023 296 GTB is a genuine look to the future, while still acknowledging the past. A stunning execution of styling and pace, it’s as capable as it is beautiful. Trent Nikolic samples Ferrari’s latest take on hybrid technology on local roads.
- Styling is fantastic
- Incredible pace and easy to drive
- Leaving home in silence is genius
- Some options should be standard
- Steering wheel has a lot going on
- We’ve got nothing else…
Ferrari has been keen to emphasise from the outset that the 296 GTB is its ‘first ever’ V6. If we’re being pedantic, we have to agree. The now-legendary Dino (206 GT, 246 GT and 246 GTS) was exactly that, a Dino, not a Ferrari, so technically the brand is right to choose its words the way it has. However, even the Ferrari faithful have come to recognise the Dino with the same reverence as any other Ferrari of that era.
Semantics aside, from birth, and through the ’80s and ’90s, the Dino copped plenty of stick for being ‘just a V6’. Especially from Ferrari owners with eight or 12 cylinders in their garage.
Reckon the 296 GTB will cop the same negativity? I think not. 610kW and 740Nm should sort that argument out quick smart. As will a 0–100km/h run in a searing 2.9 seconds. In just 7.3 seconds, you’ll be punching through the 200km/h barrier.
Make no mistake, the 296 GTB is seriously, mind-bendingly fast. And, from the first second you lay eyes on it in the flesh, it’s every bit the Ferrari too.
The visual drama afforded by our yellow test car is a slap-in-the-face reminder of why Italy continues to be the home of the outrageous supercar. So long as cars like the Ferrari 296 GTB exist, all is good in the world.
The inevitable move to full electric power will rob us of the glorious engine note we get – yes, it does sound amazing despite being a V6 – but the styling is sensational.
Depending on what you’re looking at, and from which angle, there are some legendary references in that styling too. For example, you’ll find Lancia Stratos, Dino, or even the iconic 250 LM in the 296 GTB’s flowing curves. Less brutal than some pretenders to the throne, the 296 is a sensuous, evocative take on supercar styling, proving definitively that form can work hand in hand with function.
When he first drove the 296 GTB at its international launch in February, Rob Margeit noted the upright rear windscreen at the international launch. It’s a subtle look rearward – no pun intended – to the Dino, but practical, too, with rear visibility much more expansive than it otherwise would be.
In many ways, the 296 is diminutive in stature. At 4564mm long, 1958mm wide, 1187mm tall and with a 2600mm wheelbase, much like a Porsche 911, the 296 GTB would look small in comparison to some of its competitors. For reference, an F8 Tributo has 50mm more between the wheels.
After three days behind the wheel, one thing is patently clear. Ferrari’s street presence and level of worship among punters are almost unmatched. You can’t drive a 296 GTB anywhere without people smiling, waving, taking photos and giving you the thumbs up. If you measure satisfaction by the reaction of the public, the 296 gets an 11 out of 10.
The all-new twin-turbo V6 engine is what gives the 296 its – refreshingly simple – name. Following Ferrari’s tradition, 29 references 2.9 litres, while the 6 is for six-cylinder, and GTB stands for Gran Turismo Berlinetta.
It might seem obvious, but that mid-mounted V6 engine is the most important piece of the 296 puzzle. And what a piece it is. More on that later, though.
Of real importance is the fact that this V6 engine is set to power a number of future Ferrari models, and if you’re wondering whether it’s worthy consider this. The 296 might be priced higher than the F8 Tributo, but it’s significantly quicker around Ferrari’s famed Fiorano test track.
Mission accomplished? The 296 is certainly a razor-sharp focus on where we are headed.
How much does the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB cost in Australia?
If you want to buy a 296 GTB, you’ll need to have two things – money and some patience. That there is already a waiting list should be of little surprise in a market where you’re even waiting for run-of-the-mill cars from Hyundai and Toyota. Ferrari always had a way of keeping its owners keen. The Italian phrase ‘piano, piano’ or slowly, slowly, might have been created for Ferrari buyers.
That said, the price of entry is significantly more attainable than the SF90, for example. And while the 296 sits above F8 Tributo, it holds that middle ground that supercar manufacturers like to call ‘attainable’. Pricing starts from $568,300 before on-road costs, and you will have seen customer vehicles on Australian roads at the tail end of 2022.
As ever, there’s a dizzying array of options that personalise your 296, but also add to the price with some gusto. For mine, I love a Ferrari devoid of any options, hard as they are to find, but I also support the concept that a buyer at this level can do whatever the hell they like with their more than half million dollar investment. Just don’t paint it pink…
|Key details||2023 Ferrari 296 GTB|
|Price||$568,300 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Giallo Modena|
|Options||Forged glossy diamond wheels
Yellow brake calipers
Carbon-fibre front bumper insert and under door cover
AFS system adaptive headlights
Front suspension lifter
Scuderia Ferrari shields
Electric racing seats with yellow seat strips and yellow stitching
Leather headliner and lower cockpit zone
Wireless smartphone charger
Premium audio system
Carbon-fibre kick panels and steering wheel with LEDs
|Price as tested||$604,000 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Maserati MC20 | Lamborghini Huracan | McLaren Artura|
How much space does the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB have inside?
The cabin is a classy execution of exactly what you’d expect of a supercar, but with enough of a nod to modern comfort and amenity. There’s also a familiarity there if you’ve spent any time with other Ferrari models.
SF90 particularly is silhouetted in the steering wheel and its pretty hefty control functionality. Some of the controls on the wheel itself take some time to work out and get used to.
The 296’s digital driver display also works as the infotainment screen, something we’re seeing more of recently across a variety of brands. It does clean up the centre of the dashboard area, but it can be very info-heavy once you factor smartphone connectivity into the equation.
You could argue that the driver display should be only that in something as focused and fast as the 296, but I’m not set either way. There’s something premium and high-end about a clean interior with one integrated screen.
The choice of materials – some of them optional in our test car of course – are up with the best as you’d expect, and the 296 retains a bespoke, handmade feeling of attention to detail. I love the way Ferrari has integrated contrast stitching, lashings of carbon fibre, and high-quality leather throughout the cabin to come up with a finished product that feels integrated and exclusive.
Back to the steering wheel, the old-tech feeling of Ferrari’s Manettino dial is genuinely fantastic. In a generation of increasing haptic touchscreens, the reassuring click of the red dial as you change drive modes is one of the simple joys of interacting with the 296 GTB.
On that note, haptic control pads work everything from the windscreen wipers to electric powertrain settings. There’s also the start button and blinkers of course too. As expected, the column-mounted gearshift paddles are a machined work of art.
You’ll find storage for your phone, wallet and keys, and the 198L boot is useful for a two-up weekend away. There’s even a cupholder for your espresso… Our test car had comfortable seats, too, even after spending a good few hours hooking into the 296 on twisty, rutted, bumpy country roads. If you’re thinking the electric nose lift got a workout, you’d be right. Definitely tick that option box.
|2023 Ferrari 296 GTB|
Does the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB have Apple CarPlay?
Smartphone connectivity is available with the 296 GTB, but the test car that we spent our time with didn’t have that feature available to us. We’ll take a closer look at the smartphone usability when we spend a longer period with the 296 post this initial launch drive.
Our test car did have the optional slimline passenger screen, which can display audio controls, as well as satellite navigation mapping. That’s an option box I wouldn’t be ticking, given I’m not sure how much your passenger would want to be staring into a screen.
Is the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB a safe car?
As is the case with cars at this level, the 296 GTB is untested by ANCAP and unlikely to be tested throughout its sales run in Australia.
|2023 Ferrari 296 GTB|
What safety technology does the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB have?
The 296 GTB gets Ferrari’s most advanced traction and stability controls, as well as ABS and braking performance that has improved significantly over the F8 Tributo. There are also front and side airbags.
How much does the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB cost to maintain?
Maintenance has become the hallmark of Ferrari ownership, in that it costs nothing once you buy the car. Included servicing across the first seven years of ownership means you don’t have to spend a cent on what would be considered regular servicing.
It’s a way that Ferrari can ensure only its dedicated technicians work on the car, and that it keeps running as it did when it was new after you take ownership. As far as ensuring a solid relationship between owner and service centre, it’s hard to beat.
|At a glance||2023 Ferrari 296 GTB|
|Warranty||Three years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 20,000km|
|Servicing costs||Included (7 years)|
|Driving range claim (WLTP)||25km|
|Charge time (11kW)||1h 30min|
Is the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB energy-efficient?
While it’s easy to brush the 296 GTB’s 25km pure electric range as naff, it does have benefits beyond the extra power it brings to the table. Firstly, you can creep into and out of your garage or street in silence, which is a bonus when it comes to staying on good terms with the neighbours. Secondly, it works smartly with European cities that already feature a ring into which you pay no penalty to zero-local-emissions electric vehicles.
What the 296 GTB does do, though, is recoup charge at a rate we’ve not seen before. We’ll have to test it more precisely when we get some dedicated one-on-one time behind the wheel, but the harder you push the V6 engine, the more energy the system recoups, such that you can harvest as much as 50 per cent back in a 50km run. Which means you have enough charge to roll silently back into your street.
The fuel consumption claim of 6.4L/100km of course takes into account the first 25km being fuel-free, but on a regular run through the country, we saw live figures well under 10L/100km. Keep the engine screaming like a banshee and you’re going to use more than that, but on face value, given what it’s capable of, the 296 GTB is quite efficient.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||6.4L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||Not recorded|
|Fuel type||98-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||65L|
What is the 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB like to drive?
Mind-boggling. The end… Oh, you want more? Okay, here goes.
Any thoughts of a V6 not delivering the spine-tingling emotion you’d expect of a Ferrari turn to dust after two things. One, read the figures on paper. 610kW combined and 740Nm. In fact, the engine makes a whopping 478kW on its own before you factor in the assistance of the electric motor. But 610kW combined is stratospheric from a powertrain underpinned by a 2.9-litre V6.
Two, the engine note. Once you hear the V6, either at idle or soaring toward redline, you’ll swallow any thought you had of mouthing off at your mate who ‘only bought the Ferrari with a V6’. It’s even brilliant when it fires into life after you’ve depleted the battery. You don’t always expect it, and it puts a smile on your face every time, and at idle it emits a deep, throaty burble.
We continue to be confounded at how Ferrari manages to harness so much performance through two driven wheels, and once again, the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is a masterpiece as part of that drive equation. The 296 is a fantastically easy car to drive either around town or with the wick turned up. It matters not the road, the pace, or the driver, the 296 is near flawless.
The twin-turbo engine – the snails are mounted inside the vee – is as close to devoid of lag as any engine I can recall testing. Ask Ferrari and they’ll tell you the packaging of the turbos inside the vee shortens the travel of the compressed air, and therefore sharpens response. Whatever the engineering explanation, the result is searing pace, at any time, with no perceptible lag.
Spinning up to 180,000rpm, the turbos ensure the engine would be a modern icon on its own, without the need for electrification. In this instance, though, that simply adds even more spice to the recipe.
Factor in the axial-flux electric motor and you’re laying waste to the bitumen and running from 0–100km/h in just 2.9 seconds. It doesn’t stop there either, with the 296 continuing on to 200km/h in 7.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 330km/h.
Top speed is irrelevant in this country, of course, unless you’re at a racetrack, but the way in which the 296 leaves the line and continues relentlessly accelerating isn’t. This is a car that will require you to reset the way your brain works in an attempt to keep up with how fast everything is happening. It’s that rapid.
There’s little doubt Ferrari engineers would have spent plenty of time ensuring the V6 lived up to the expectations of the buyer – not so much in terms of the power and torque numbers, but more so the exhaust note. It was time well invested, too, with the angry, thrashy, aggressive engine delivering an addictive soundtrack.
Do you feel like you’re missing six cylinders? Not for one second. It’s hard to describe why the best engines sound as alluring as they do, but the 296’s is utterly brilliant, especially approaching its screaming redline.
The default driving mode when you hit start is ‘Hybrid’, and in silence you’re greeted by a screen that claims the 296 is ready. It’s something you might need to get used to initially, as I did the first few times.
What you might also need to get used to is the frequency with which the 296 kills its combustion engine in Hybrid mode. Cruising around town, at low city speeds, the petrol engine is often out of action, ensuring real-world efficiency at odds with the supercar mantra of speed above all else.
You control the powertrain via what Ferrari calls e-mannetino in the lower left section of the steering wheel, and here you have the choice of eDrive, Hybrid, Performance and Qualifying. This is separate of course to the regular Mannetino control dial that toggles between Wet, Sport, Race and CT Off.
As you might expect, the latter is for only the very best, or most stupid, of drivers. As you’d expect also, full silliness is available in Qualifying mode on the e-mannetino control panel, where if the battery is in a full state of charge, you get maximum everything basically.
From the very first details we read about the 296 when it was in development, Ferrari claimed it wanted to deliver a car that was as fun to drive as it was agile. I read the latter as being sharp, responsive and balanced. You might expect that any sports car manufacturer would make such a lofty claim, but we can tell you that few deliver.
The 296 is hardly heavy at 1470kg in this guise, and it feels supremely balanced, light, responsive and reactive to every subtle input, just as we had hoped it would be. What’s most impressive is how effortless the 296 GTB is for the average person to access.
I’ve not driven too many other RWD vehicles that are this forgiving and balanced, especially given the power on offer. Ultimately, the 296 will oversteer. It is a hugely powerful RWD car after all. However, Ferrari’s electronics, combined with the exceptional Michelin tyres, mean it never feels scary or unhinged. This is a masterful execution of getting power to the ground safely.
That the 296 is simply too much sports car for regular roads is a moot point. Yes, you need to book into regular track days to fully experience the performance envelope, but you can appreciate the savagery with which the 296 accelerates. It’s a savagery that’s not matched by a feeling of unwieldy fear, though.
Treacherous though they might be, we headed out onto the rain-ravaged roads in the Hunter Valley on the drive to Sydney. As mentioned elsewhere, the electric nose lift got a workout, as did the brakes, often pulling the 296 up with little notice before disappearing into a monumental pothole or washout. And yet, the 296 was composed, comfortable, and able to soak up bumps in a way that puts a few sports SUVs to shame.
As far as liveable supercars go, the 296 is up there with the best of them. And behind the wheel, it’s everything we expected and more.
|Key details||2023 Ferrari 296 GTB|
|Engine||2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 plug-in hybrid|
|Power||478kW @ 8000rpm petrol
|Torque||740Nm @ 6250rpm combined|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||415kW/t|
Should I buy a 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB?
The 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB is many things – the fact that it’s a supercar with ‘just’ six cylinders is quite possibly the least of them. It’s proof positive that less can be more.
It’s searingly fast and effortless to drive at speed. It’s a clever technical execution that shows what electrification can bring to the equation. It’s complex, but in many ways refreshingly simple.
It’s evidence that Ferrari understands exactly how to hybridise an internal combustion powertrain. It’s as beautiful as it is brutal when you nail the throttle. And it’s every inch a supercar from the Scuderia of the Prancing Horse, which is the most important fact of all of them.