As the era of the mid-engined V8 Ferrari neared its end in a swelling of turbo power and the pointedly named F8 Tributo, there was some unease about where an all-new V6 hybrid would take the junior supercar that has for so long been a crucial stepping stone for the fans, dreamers and customers of Maranello.
The 296 programme has pursued simplicity through painstaking engineering, and the result is a marvel of lean, potent elegance.
Active aero has been banished in preference for targeted airflows, producing neat, clean lines that belie the complexity behind them.
Teardrop intakes formed with the headlights channel air through vented calipers to cool the brakes, while the ‘tea-tray’ front bumper generates an underbody vortex that pins the front axle to the ground.
The aero systems are particularly distinctive at the rear, with a broad vent dominating its Kamm tail and buttresses that flow from roof into wings.
In another shift from Ferrari norms, the V6’s turbochargers sit within the vee, not just to improve response but also as part of a regime of consolidating and dispatching heat with maximum efficiency. Sound, too.
What those at Maranello have nicknamed the ‘piccolo V12’ has enjoyed the same sort of design consideration as used in the wind tunnel.
Beyond its vast output, this 8500rpm V6’s symmetrical firing order, equal-length exhaust manifolds and ‘hot tube’ resonator produce the tones of howling Ferraris of the past with haunting authenticity.
As it soars on a wave of silken ferocity, each gear leaves its predecessors in an astonishing wake. And its rivals.
The stats will dismiss most of them on their own, but the magic here is how manageable the performance is.
An arsenal of dynamic control systems is translated with impressive clarity into responses that manage to make sense of its wild abilities, most of which are fairly inappropriate for the road.
But when the right moment comes, a full dose of its performance is absolutely breathtaking.
It seems light-years away from the days when the F355 brought electronic chassis control to Ferrari.
The Assetto Fiorano pack in this 296 feels more appropriate than ever, the harnesses and fixed-back seats giving welcome support against what can be brutal g-forces, and the use of carbonfibre, optional Michelin Sport Cup2R tyres and adjustable Multimatic dampers steering its use more towards the track.
Despite its complexity, the 296 is a brilliant demonstration of how a fresh design can be a return to the purity of an idea.
While breaking through to another level of junior supercar pace, Maranello honours its first V6 since the Dino with design and engineering coherence.
Images: Max Edleston
- Engine 2992cc twin-turbo V6 hybrid; 830bhp @ 8000rpm; 546lb ft @ 6250rpm
- Transmission eight-speed dual-clutch auto, RWD
- 0-62mph 2.9 secs
- Top speed 205mph
- Mpg 27
- Price £241,560
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