In great times: Ferrari 296 GTB

Kick-down for the first V6 hybrid engine in a road car from Maranello. And the realisation: this "little V12" runs well. And the 296 GTB in which it is installed is also damn fast.
Text Jack Weil & Alfred Rzyski
Photo Matthias Mederer ·

The mobility-of-the-future wave, which has now been buzzing around with the term »transformation« for what feels like an eternity, is having a frightening effect on opinion-forming contemporaries. The carelessness with which all messages are taken at face value here also changes the image of the normal car driver: the care and objectivity always sought by respectable experts has given way to a delusion that can hardly be explained by the concept of timeliness. This state of mind can best be compared to the image of horses going berserk. There's no shame in getting a headache from this hullabaloo.

But then there's the Ferrari 296 GTB. A turn of the times? Rather not.

And precisely not because of the engine, the first V6 in a road car to wear the Cavallino Rampante emblem on the front hood. Model students may now cite the Dino - yes, it is a Ferrari - but the emblem says »Dino«. And not »Ferrari«, which is also underpinned by the missing lettering with the brand name. In this context, the ladies and gentlemen from Maranello also see it that way. But back to the Ferrari 296 GTB: Here again, the Italians like to talk about a »little V12«. At this point, a big BUT: nothing, really nothing at all about this 296 GTB is even remotely suitable for belittling. Not even the sound.

The basic sound is similar to that of a 12-cylinder, but the V6 is a bit less revving & rumbustious due to its nature. Which, by the way, doesn't mean that you can't hear the brute force inherent in the sonorously cored hybrid powerplant. If you fully experience the 8,500 revs, the V12 reference is more clearly audible. The pilot owes this especially to the hot pipe system, as Ferrari calls it. Patented and, according to Maranello, completely new in design, it ensures that the sound of the engine is delivered to the well-inclined listener before the noise is dampened by catalytic converters and the like. As soon as the pedal hits the floor, the turbocharged purist-scare moves inexorably towards 330 kilometers per hour. Accompanied, of course, by a soundscape that develops similarly inexorably, but also stoically and powerfully at the same time.

What you have to make do with, of course, is the reduction to six cylinders. And that is indeed an issue, especially for a brand whose founder cultivated engine building as much as Enzo Ferrari. You have to search a bit to find resilient features here in the tradition of the Ferrari company, and actually this is a job for bean counters.

As an exception and because most of the research work was done by the Ferrari press department anyway, here is a small school report about the tradition of the six-cylinder engine at Ferrari.

It actutually goes back to the 1950s. Yes, back in 1957 to be exact, it was a mere 1,500 ccm V6 with a 65-degree architecture that was used in a Dino 156 F2. This was followed by `58 versions with larger displacement in front-engine sports prototypes called 196 S and 296 S. And then, in 1958, Mike Hawthorn also became Formula 1 world champion with six cylinders in the 246 F1.

Later, in 1961, came the V6 mid-engined 246 SP, which won the Targa Florio that year and the following year. Also in 1961, Ferrari secured its first Formula One constructors' title with the 156 F1, which featured a V6 and 120-degree architecture, the same setup now at work in the 296 GTB. In 1981, turbochargers were fitted between the cylinder banks in the 126 CK and in 1982 in the 126 C2. And since 2014 they've also been using V6 turbo-hybrid engines in Formula 1.

So why did it take so long for this »technology transfer« to arrive in the road car?

Ferrari 296 GTB
Engine: V6 biturbo + e-drive.
Displacement: 2,992 cc
System power: 610 kW (830 hp) @8,000 rpm.
Max. Torque: 740 Nm @6,250 rpm.
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 2.9 s
Vmax: 330 km/h

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