First Drive: The Ferrari 296 GTS is a convertible supercar without compromise
Ferrari’s expanding its hybrid supercar line-up with the drop-top 296 GTB. Jack Evans finds out what it’s like.
What is it?
Ferrari established a whole new school of thought with its 296 GTB. It’s a supercar for the modern age, with a full hybrid setup helping to bring the option of pure-electric running in a car that can still bring fearsome acceleration. But far from resting on its laurels, Ferrari has now transferred this into a new drop-top version – the 296 GTS.
Continuing a long and esteemed bloodline of convertible Ferraris, can the 296 GTS deliver the same high-octane experience as its GTB stablemate? We’ve been finding out.
Now obviously, the biggest change here is that folding hard top roof. Elegant in design, it takes just 14 seconds to raise or lower at speeds of up to 28mph. When it’s fully retracted, a height-adjustable section of glass sits in the middle, helping to reduce buffeting at speed.
Ferrari has also added extra strengthening to the 296 GTS to compensate for the roof being lopped up, but despite this, it weighs only slightly more than the GTB. You can also specify a more focused Assetto Fiorano package for the GTS, bringing Multimatic shock absorbers and bodywork tweaks for extra downforce. It’s a set of measures designed to angle the GTS towards on-circuit work.
What’s under the bonnet?
You’ll find the same V6 twin-turbocharged setup in the middle of the 296 GTS as you will in the GTB, developing 819bhp and 740Nm of torque. Thanks to an electric motor – positioned between the engine and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox – and a 7.45kWh battery, the GTS can travel for up to 22 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to 84mph. It’ll take around two hours to fully charge via the plug, too, though Ferrari emphasises that it’s more easily charged via the engine. The whole setup can return up to 43.5mpg, while emissions are impressively low at 153g/km CO2.
But when that V6 engine is blended with the electric motor for performance, you can get from 0-60mph in just 2.7 seconds and carry onwards to a top speed of 205mph. It’s blistering performance, that’s for sure.
What’s it like to drive?
It’s often the case that a convertible version of a standard supercar is the less focused, more blunted option. However, Ferrari hasn’t paid any attention to this. The 296 GTS is sharp, lively and exceptionally direct.
That V6 engine – which has gained the nickname ‘piccolo V12’, or baby V12 – is easily one of the most accomplished on sale today, howling away while giving superb responses no matter the situation. And then there’s the traction, which is close to astounding. Even during a torrential Italian downpour, the 296 GTS seemed to generate grip out of nothing, and even through slippery hairpin bends.
The 296 GTS even shone on the motorway where, roof raised, it remained quiet and composed with minimal wind noise. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of sacrifice in opting for the drop-top over the coupe, in truth. It’s also great to have the option to run on electric power around town, too, with the GTS doing well to top up the batteries with engine and braking power even when they’re fully depleted.
How does it look?
Ferrari has managed to transfer the look of the 296 GTB over to the GTS largely unscathed. The buttress-style sections behind driver and passenger add an old-school appearance to the GTS, while behind them there’s a smoke section of glass which allows you to peer through and view the V6 engine underneath. The full-width ‘aerobridge’ in the middle looks particularly striking.
The real drama in the look of the GTS comes in that elaborate folding metal roof. It’s an elegant process, with the rear section raising or lower and the roof moving concertina-fashion at a steady pace. If the GTS hadn’t made much of an entrance already, operating that roof will no doubt get you noticed.
What’s it like inside?
As with all Ferrari models, the cabin of the GTS is really focused around the driver. Everything is angled towards the person behind the wheel, so you do feel the centre of attention when you’re driving. That said, Ferrari still includes a small screen ahead of the passenger, too, which gives them access to performance figures and also allows them to control the media functions of the car. The seating position is wonderfully set up, though we did find the seats fitted to our particular car a little firm on the lower back.
Everything is finished to a high standard, too, with great materials used throughout. There’s also a small boot area under the bonnet, which is large enough for a few soft weekend bags, so there is an option when it comes to storage.
What’s the spec like?
As we’ve come to expect from Ferrari models, the 296 GTS is jam-packed with technology. There’s a huge central screen head of the driver, which is where you control practically everything in the car, from the heated seats to the navigation. Herein lies the slight issue, in that there are so many functions located in one screen – controlled via the buttons on the steering wheel – that it can become a little confusing.
The screen is sharp and great to look at, mind you. The steering wheel also controls functions such as the audio volume, selected track, lights and driving modes. It can feel a little intimidating, to begin with, but it actually soon becomes second nature.
There’s no need to make any bones about it – the 296 GTS is an exceptional car. Quite often there’s a downside to lopping off the roof of a car but, with the GTS, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It steers, accelerates and performs just as you’d expect a cutting-edge supercar to, but takes this to an extra dimension with the ability to lower the roof.
Add in its electric-only ability and this quickly becomes a drop-top that can do it all. You expect big things from Ferrari and in the 296 GTS, it has more than delivered.