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► £279k drop-top Ferrari 296 GTS review
► A 819bhp 2.9-litre V6 plug-in hybrid
► Can 296 Spider match GTB Coupe sibling?
When it comes to Spiders, Ferrari knows what it’s doing. The new Ferrari 296 GTS has impeccable pedigree: there’ve been countless triumphs over the years – from the 330 GTS of the 1960s, to the impossibly gorgeous 250 California and more contemporary F50 – Maranello’s back catalogue of spectacular drop tops is unmatched.
The new Ferrari 296 GTS of 2022, then, has much to live up to. It may not have the history or aura of some of the classics, but it is the open-top equivalent of Ferrari’s game-changing 296 GTB. At the time of writing, it’s possibly the finest supercar on sale thanks to its seamless plug-in hybrid powertrain, stunning looks and thrilling handling – yet, arguably, this is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand the GTS has a fantastic platform to build from, yet on the other the GTB’s dynamic brilliance means that tampering with the formula is a risk. As we know, taking the roof off a car can create all sorts of drama – both good and bad – so how has the 296 cope with its surgery? Is it still the benchmark supercar sans roof? Read on to find out.
Ferrari 296 GTS review: what’s different from the GTB?
Drivers can fold the roof up or down at the touch of a button while driving up to 28mph – the sequence itself taking just 14 seconds. Visual differences are notable yet do nothing to spoil the 296’s lines. Indeed, while the GTB engine bay is completely horizontal and punctuated by two flying buttresses in a nod to the 250 Le Mans, the 296 GTS gets an entirely unique design.
The ‘hot tube’ hardware (used to pump engine sound into the cabin) has also been heavily modified for the GTS ensuring the melody of internal combustion is maintained roof up or roof down.
Not the longest list of modifications, then. But Ferrari’s argument is ‘the 296 GTB is brilliant, why would we want to change it?’ – which, in theory, is a very valid point. Unlike McLaren with the 765LT Spider (new exhaust, tweaked chassis etc over the Coupe), Ferrari have tried to make a carbon copy of the 296 GTB, just with the option to remove the roof.
Does the 296 GTS drive as well as the tin-top GTB?
Whenever a Ferrari convertible comes along, there’s always the question about chassis rigidity and stiffness. That’s because Ferrari doesn’t use carbon fibre tubs on their mainstream production cars – another way in which they differ from arch-rivals McLaren. The upshot of this is a perception that Maranello’s cars don’t cope as well with their roofs being removed as those from Woking.
And in truth, we have felt the odd bit of chassis wobble and scuttle shake from previous Ferrari Spiders, but there’s none of that in the 296 GTS. With unusual nonchalance, Ferrari claims that the convertible is ‘more or less’ as stiff as the 296 GTB and that they don’t use carbon tubs for several reasons. Chief among which are that their methods are as effective and have far higher repairability.
Roof up or roof down, the GTS feels every bit as tight and controlled as the GTB – a huge complement in itself. The car we drove was on the magnetorheological adaptive dampers and while the more focused passive setup on Assetto Fiorano models is available, we reckon that the standard setup best suits the convertible.
It’s less likely to be taken on track as the GTB and posts a lap time that’s 0.8 seconds slower than the Coupe around the Fiorano test track. On the road however, the difference is 99% imperceptible. No scuttle shake, no flex, just an incredibly clever and well-sorted chassis doing its thing with typical Ferrari flair.
Same as the coupe, the magic of this car lies in its ability to take what, on paper, is a truly terrifying package (800bhp+, RWD, mid-engine etc) and deliver it to the driver in manageable stages depending on where the Manettino is. The initial stage – Wet – is akin to having an A1 Wagyu steak cooked well-done, so best avoid that, but from there, Sport, Race, CT Off and ESC Off give the driver a gradual ascent through the 296 GTS’s staggering ability.
Ferrari’s famous driver aids return, including Dynamic Enhancer 2.0 and revamped Side Slip Control. All capable of making you feel like a total hero behind the wheel without overtly announcing their presence. The ABS Evo control module is also worth a mention as not only does it help deliver staggering stopping distances , but it also provides some of the finest brake pedal feel going when in Race mode upwards. Braking hard into a corner, it feels like you can read the grip from each individual wheel and then push accordingly. Staggering stuff.
The steering isn’t quite as feelsome, yet the weight and speed of the rack is damn near perfect. Turning into a corner, the lack of inertia is eery – especially given how much bite there is from the front wheels.
What’s the powertrain like?
Very much the same as it is in the 296 GTB. That means a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 making 654bhp, teamed with a 165bhp e-motor (powered by a 7.45kWh battery) and an eight-speed dual-clutch auto. The key figures are an 819bhp and 546lb ft combined output, with 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds and top speed in excess of 205mph – all identical figures to the Coupe.
Such performance is hard to quantify (it makes even serious hot-hatches look pedestrian), but again the 296 GTS’ ability to make the power usable border on witchcraft. It’s easy to forget how tricky it is to get a hybrid powertrain working seamlessly (until you drive a car where it’s not), but the Ferrari makes such light work of it anyone would think they’ve used this setup from day one.
The low-down torque (backed up by the electric motor) is both instant and prodigious. Not the savage throttle response of a naturally aspirated engine, it’s more rounded than that, but the effect is breath-taking speed and acceleration whenever the drive asks for it. Even if you’re 2-3 gears away from optimum, it still accelerates with stunning alacrity.
Wind it out beyond 8,000rpm and the V6 comes fully on-song and even delivers a more cultured engine note than the V8 turbo it replaces. Granted, it shares only fleeting similarities with Ferrari engines of old, but it’s hard not to be deeply impressed with the end result.
Is the 2022 Ferrari 296 GTS a good convertible?
Unlike previous Ferrari Spiders, the 296 GTS has the benefit of offering near-silent running in and around town thanks to its 16 miles of all-electric range. No engine noise in a Ferrari feels wrong, but it works surprisingly well and allows you to dawdle about without using a drop a fuel.
Meanwhile, roof down refinement is good for a supercar, yet don’t get expecting Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet levels of isolation from the wind. Pick up the pace and it does get blowy, but if that sort of thing bothers you then a convertible supercar probably isn’t the answer.
Also, a quick nod to the cabin, which is an improvement over the F8 Tributo Spider, but can feel a little too clever for its own good at times. The haptic touch pads on the wheel often refuse to work as intended, and the amount of switches and buttons on the wheel in general is excessive. Safe to say, it takes some getting used to.
Ferrari 296 GTS review: verdict
Complex cabin aside, the new Ferrari 296 GTS is an indisputable triumph for Ferrari and one that joins a long list of legendary Maranello drop tops. Whereas some could accuse the GTB of being a touch too serious, the GTS is not. Taking the roof of a car is a simple idea, but one that’s difficult to execute.
Ferrari’s insistence that the GTS must be as dynamically close to the GTB has possible has paid off, the result being a Spider with devastating ability, but also a sense that it’s not taking itself as seriously. For everyday open-air thrills teamed with deep technological and dynamic prowess, the 296 GTS takes some beating.
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|Price when new:||£278,893|
|On sale in the UK:||Q3 2023|
|Engine:||2992ccc 24v twin-turbo V6 (654bhp), 165bhp e-motor, PHEV, 7.45kWh battery|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive|
|Performance:||819bhp @ 8000rpm, 546lb ft @ 6250rpm, 2.9sec 0-62mph, 205mph+|
|Weight / material:||1540kg (dry)|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||4565x1958x1191|