The 'little' engine that could

The 'little' engine that could

The new Ferrari hybrid may have a V6 engine, but it drives like a V12, boasts the carmaker

Ferrari has introduced its latest plug-in hybrid supercar that comes with as much as 830hp along with an all-electric range of 25km.

The 296 GTS made its Thailand debut recently with official importer Cavallino Motors offering the new model at a starting price of 25.29 million baht.

While it stands alongside the 296 GTB that was previously launched, the 296 GTS boasts a retractable hard top that takes 14secs to open or close. Ferrari says that the 296 GTS further emphasises the clean, sophisticated lines of the 296 GTB, while adding that open-air hybrid concept with the top down.

While designers focused on minimising the impact of any exterior design modifications, the need to stow the roof inside the engine compartment called for a new tonneau cover design. In the 296 GTB, the engine bay is completely horizontal and dominated by two flying buttresses (similar to the 250 Le Mans) but the rear end of the 296 GTS is totally unique.

However just like the 296 GTB, the signature "aero bridge" stands out as a dominant feature in its architecture. The buttress theme, meanwhile, is enhanced by contrasting sculpted extensions around the see-through engine cover.

According to Ferrari, the cockpit of the 296 GTS was developed with a an entirely digital interface concept. Apart from exclusive Italian leather trim for the seats, there are also notable technical materials used for the functional components.

The 296 GTS is the first on-road Ferrari open top to be powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo mated to a plug-in electric motor. The internal combustion engine, with the turbocharger being located within the V, pumps out 654hp, but with the electric motor, powered by a 7.45kWh battery and positioned between the engine and 8-speed DCT gearbox, the system output increases to 830hp at 8,000rpm with maximum torque of 740Nm at 6,250rpm.

Ferrari claims 0-100kph acceleration in 2.9secs, 0-200kph in 7.6secs and a top speed of above 330kph.

Apart from eDrive and Hybrid modes, there are also Performance and Qualify modes, the first ideal for "press-on" driving and the latter for maximum performance with lower battery charging.

In electric mode, the 296 GTS can reach speeds up to 135kph but the range is just 25km. However in hybrid mode, the engine backs up the electric motor when higher performance is required, with the transition between the two power sources being managed fluidly by a transition manager actuator to offer a smooth, constant acceleration and quicker response time.

Ferrari said in terms of soundtrack, the V6 engine combines the whine of the turbocharger to a high-frequency note that's usually offered by a V12 engine.

The first in the F163 engine family, this V6 earned itself the nickname "piccolo V12" (little V12) during the development phase. The 120-degree V architecture guarantees a symmetrical firing order while the equal-length, tuned exhaust manifolds combined with the single exhaust line outside the hot-V amplify the pressure waves.

The patented "hot tube" adopted on the 296 GTB has been completely redesigned for the 296 GTS to further enhance the engine sound both when the top is deployed and retracted. It is positioned prior to the exhaust gas treatment systems so that it channels the pure sound into the cabin, further enhancing driver involvement and excitement.

The wheelbase of 2,600mm is 50mm shorter than previous Ferrari mid-engine berlinettas. The lightweight V6 and other weight-saving measures help maintain a dry weight of 1,540kg, which Ferrari says is class-leading in terms of overall weight to power ratio.

The chassis of the 296 GTB has redesigned and optimised for the 296 GTS to improve torsional rigidity and bending stiffness mainly at the A-pillar, B-pillar and sills.

Just like other hybrids, there is regenerative braking, in this case at the rear in normal driving conditions as well as when the ABS intervenes.

Brakes are by-wire that reduces pedal travel to a minimum while maintaining efficiency while braking lightly or travel feel when on the track. Ferrari said the ABS control module, which is integrated with the 6-way chassis dynamic sensor, allows the grip limits of the rear tyres to be pushed further, providing greater repeatability of stopping distances and thus improving performance when turning into corners as it permits the driver to trail brake towards the apex.

A new function is the ABS EVO controller, which uses the data gathered by the chassis sensor, and the grip estimation integrated with the electric power steering.

Assetto Fiorano

For buyers who want to drive the 296 GTS on track, the optional Asseto Fiorano package features improved aerodynamics and well as weight reduction.

For example, there are carbon fibre appendages on the front bumper that adds 10kg of downforce, and carbon fibre materials for the body as well as interior, such as the door panel which is 8kg lighter.

The package also includes multimatic shock absorbers derived from GT racing that's optimised for track use, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2R tyres with high grip.


Q&A with Ferrari president Dieter Knechtel

Please give us five reasons to own a Ferrari

First, I would say exclusivity. I mean there is not a volume approach to our business, so the Ferrari community remains a compact community that can enjoy the value of the brand in a more exclusive manner.

Second, the performance. We are always careful about offering the top performance in the segment. Also, we have achieved top performance in the rear-engine sports car segment, and open-top version. So I think for quality, we are a very trustworthy company. We have developed over the decade and are delivering consistent quality, thanks to our optimised production line.

Now comes tradition. Why tradition? Our company has been around for 75 years and we have always been true to our values. As I've mentioned before, the DNA of Ferrari is special. There are a lot of things we have achieved in the past, but we are mindful of that and also look to upcoming models and innovations in the future. We are a traditional company with old values but, at the same time, very innovative.

Craftsmanship. I think we can be proud of Italian engineering and what we are able to do, especially in terms of engine performance, aerodynamics, and the little details in every car that we develop or make lighter, and more aerodynamic. We can derive innovations from our 'Formula 1' experience.

Passion. Passion because we are a brand with a racing history. We've always had a passion for racing. We are the only brand in Formula 1 since its beginning.

What makes Ferrari different from the other supercars in the market?

I think there are many things we could talk about. Personally, I'd like to point out the following elements. First, I believe we manage to fulfil the expectation and dreams of our customers. They are already seeing the new models we bring to the market. We are upgrading massively, and we are very consistent in that. Customers trust us because they know what they will get with Ferrari. Even if they haven't seen the car yet or know much about it, they know that we provide a distinct design, top-notch technology at the performance edge, innovative tech support, driving ability and safety.

And the most important point is exclusivity. We are not a brand driven by sales but by value. We want to make sure that when someone buys a Ferrari, they buy a product of value that can make them happy over time and consistently deliver positive feedback. In other words, as long as we keep it exclusive, we also control the residual value of the car, which is important to clients. We are very strict about it so we are not selling always in terms of numbers.

We should also mention the Ferrari community. I think we have a very strong community and it's not only organised by us centrally but regionally by dealers. We have a strong Ferrari community in Thailand and the customers organise themselves. Like-minded people come together to share passion, stories and moments.

What is Ferrari's marketing strategy for Thailand?

To be frank with you, there's not much difference between the Thai market and the rest of the world. We follow the same concept and that is to stay true to our DNA and please loyal customers. We want to treat them right. We are also constantly involved in the organisation of events in Thailand and abroad to let customers become part of the Ferrari family, which is an exclusive community.

And then of course, we continue developing cars in line with the expectation of our clients. We always offer the best car and introduce lots of performance upgrades, new technologies, and innovation, and remain at the edge of performance. I think it is what our customers love.

The last two years have been successful for us in Thailand now we are talking about a totally different level of volume than a couple of years before. We are very happy to see that.

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