Ferrari 296 GTS review

Taking the top off the sublime Ferrari 296 creates the GTS, a beguiling hybrid supercar.

Pros: breath-taking performance, theoretical efficiency, driving experience

Cons: infotainment interface takes time to learn

The Ferrari 296 GTS is the new open-topped sibling to the almost-as-new 296 GTB. It shares its plug-in hybrid powertrain, but that’s used more for performance than it is outright efficiency. Make no mistake: this is very much a supercar, one that you can now easily remove the roof of for the full wind-in-the-hair experience.

Ferrari 296 GTS Design

In true Ferrari tradition, the 296 GTS is nothing short of spectacular, though it’s hardly a traditional Ferrari design. The front end is quite minimal and clearly shaped by the wind tunnel as much as it was by Ferrari’s stylists. See those curious looking holes below the slender headlights? They bring cooling air to the front brakes, for example.

From the side, it’s obvious how far forward the two-seat cabin is located, making room for the hybrid powertrain behind. With the roof up, the GTS could be mistaken for the GTB coupe, as it shares its silhouette, and the folding section of the roof is an aluminium hardtop that sits between the windscreen and the rear buttressing.

At the back, there’s a redesigned deck, but the GTB’s retro-inspired haunches have been retained, as have the distinctive central exhaust outlet and modern LED lights.

Images can’t quite convey how low and wide the car appears in person. It’s stunning, as you’d hope.

Ferrari 296 GTS Interior

You press a small button on the doors to gain access to the interior and you have to drop down into the low-set seats. These are gorgeous to look at and were trimmed in firmly-padded leather in our test vehicle. Ferrari buyers usually spend tens of thousands of Euros personalising their cars, so there are dozens of options to consider, including the possibility to add a lot more carbon-fibre trim and Alcantara upholstery.

The core cabin is cosy, but not cramped, with plenty of width in the car and loads of legroom. There’s even a shelf behind the seats to store a few bags (the main ‘boot’ is actually under the front bonnet). The dashboard itself appears quite simple, with the driver’s digital instrumentation, a little cluster of controls for the heating and ventilation to the side of the steering wheel and a thin touchscreen strip on the passenger side to access the infotainment.

The driver can’t easily reach that, so they have full access to the system via the screen in front of them and a bewildering set of controls on the steering wheel. It takes a while to get used to where everything is and it’s not the most intuitive interface on the market, but it all looks great. Highlights include the tactile steering wheel and the fabulous gearchange paddles behind it.

Buyers can add neck heating to the seats if they wish as an optional extra.

Ferrari 296 GTS Performance & Drive

Behind the cabin, spanning the width of the car, is the hybrid battery. This provides energy to an electric motor that sits between the engine and its eight-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. The engine itself is a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 unit. How all that works together depends on the driving mode selected.

In fully electric eDrive, the car will theoretically travel for up to 24 kilometres without using its engine, at speeds of up to 135km/h. It feels very strange driving a silent Ferrari, especially if the roof is down, as you get to hear the tyres at work and the wind rushing past, as you wouldn’t normally do.

That roof can be electrically raised or lowered in just 14 seconds, at speeds of up to 45km/h. When the roof is up, it feels like a coupé and the buffeting isn’t bad at all when it’s lowered, either, allowing high-speed cruising even with the roof off. If you want to hear the engine better, you can electrically lower the vertical rear glass panel, too.

And when the engine is running, you’ll definitely want to hear it. Some might question Ferrari’s move to a ‘mere’ V6, when supercars usually use larger engines with more cylinders, but it is a sensational unit. In conjunction with the electric motor, there’s up to 830hp on tap, and it screams and wails and revs as you’d hope a Ferrari engine might.

That figure sounds serious by any measure – and it is – but the best thing about the 296 GTS is that Ferrari has developed it so that you don’t have to be an F1 driver to enjoy its performance. A long-travel accelerator, accurate steering, strong brakes and feedback through all the controls all conspire to make this supercar remarkably easy to drive. And it’s hugely satisfying to do so, mixing genuine agility in the bends with racetrack capability and yet also, depending on driving setting, the ability to comfortably cruise along the motorway for long journeys.

Ferrari 296 GTS Pricing

The nearest Ferrari dealership is in Belfast, so quoting an accurate Irish price is tricky. We estimate that the 296 GTS would cost at least €450,000 imported. Though that’s a huge amount of money by any measure, it’s lower than most non-hybrid supercars are due to the relatively low emissions rating of the Ferrari, which brings the VRT bill down. That’s pretty much all irrelevant anyway, as most Ferrari buyers spend considerably more than the base list price on customising their car to their preferences.

Carzone Verdict: 5/5

Even by the lofty standards of the supercar class, the Ferrari 296 GTS is a spectacular car. It seamlessly incorporates plug-in hybrid power to slightly enhance its eco-credentials while significantly boosting performance and drivability. It looks stunning, the driving experience is out of this world and the removable roof adds another dimension to the model. It is a truly incredible creation and those that can afford to buy one and drive it every day are to be envied.   

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