RAY MASSEY drives new ‘green’ plug-in hybrid Ferrari 296 GTS spider


The fates had clearly conspired.

Here was the chance to put down the top on the scintillating new ‘green’ plug-in hybrid mid-rear engine rear-wheel drive Ferrari 296 GTS spider on a gorgeous drive across Italy.

The route was from Ferrari’s home in Maranello, skirting Florence and Pisa and into the mountains on a twisting route that traced, in reverse, part of the epic 1,000 mile Mille Miglia road-race course, to the chic Tuscan seaside resort of Forte Dei Marni where the Agnelli automotive dynasty often holidayed.

Open-top thrills: Ray enjoys the Ferrari 296 GTS on a gorgeous drive across Italy

It started so well: the sun was shining, the air was morning-dew fresh. Until the moment the photographer arrived at a mountain-top coffee-stop to capture it all, and then the heavens opened up – for the only time in the car’s entire international launch and only when the Brits were driving.

Were we downhearted or dismayed? No, of course not. We’re stoically British. I’d just have to get wet or hope that I was travelling fast enough for the raindrops to skim over the aerodynamic wind-screen and over my head.

Although at 1.54 tons the open-top spider is around 70kg (about the weight of a person) than its hard-top berlinetta coupe sibling – and that’s mainly down to the extra reinforcement needed when you slice off a roof – it is almost identical in dimensions, performance and silhouette, except in one obvious area – you can open it up the elements and enjoy the liberating delights of wind in the hair motoring.

The metal roof opens – or closes – in 14 seconds and at a speed of up to 28mph – so quick enough to avoid a shower.

When the top is down, the cabin and rear deck are separated by a height adjustable glass screen. And there’s an optional air-scarf to blow a flow of warm air around your neck to help prevent a chill.

But unless you’re already minted, you’ll have to win the lottery first. Prices start from a hefty £278,895 – a generous £37,333 mark up on the full tin-top GTB version costing from £241,560 – and a difference that’s enough to buy you a decent SUV or electric crossover.

But then the prices keep climbing with tempting but costly carbon-fibre and other trim options which could easily add another £100k onto you bill. Try £25,920 for the Fiorano Performance Pack, £14,400 for a go-faster racing stripe, £6,720 for a carbon fibre rear diffuser, and £5,760 for carbon fibre racing seats, and you get the picture.

The GTS spider with its gorgeous aerodynamic lines and retractable hard-top matches a 663hp 2992cc V6 petrol engine to a 167hp electric motor, 7.45 kWh high voltage battery, to produce a total 830hp of pulling power linked to an 8-speed F1 DCT gearbox. Indeed it’s the first six-cylinder engine road going spider sporting the Prancing Horse badge. (For the nerds out there Ferrari doesn’t count the Dino).

This engine also ushers in a new V6 era, says Ferrari.

Keep your hair on, but acceleration 0 to 62mph is just 2.9 seconds (same as the GTB), to 124mph is 7.6 seconds (just 0.3 seconds behind the hard-top), up to a top speed where legal of 205mph-plus.

Electric-only top speed is 93.7mph and you can drive in electric only mode for up to 15.5miles.

Clever aerodynamics and an active rear spoiler help generate downforce to maximise handling, braking and performance at high speeds.

Taken together, with a 65 litre petrol tank, fuel consumption averages a relatively supercar-frugal 43.5mpg, while CO2 emissions are 153g/km.

It was a wonderful drive that encompassed sleepy slow moving towns, fast flowing motorways, and twisting mountain roads used in the Mille Miglia road races that have welcomed legendary cars and drivers through the decades.

There is also something fantastically liberating about being let loose in a powerful sports car with the top down.

There are four drive modes: pure electric e-drive, Hybrid (the default setting), Performance (with the engine always on), and Qualifying (for track and extra spirit)

There are four drive modes: pure electric e-drive, Hybrid (the default setting), Performance (with the engine always on), and Qualifying (for track and extra spirit)

Electric-only top speed is 93.7mph and you can drive in electric only mode for up to 15.5miles

Electric-only top speed is 93.7mph and you can drive in electric only mode for up to 15.5miles

Acceleration 0 to 62mph is just 2.9 seconds (same as the GTB), to 124mph is 7.6 seconds (just 0.3 seconds behind the hard-top), up to a top speed where legal of 205mph-plus

Acceleration 0 to 62mph is just 2.9 seconds (same as the GTB), to 124mph is 7.6 seconds (just 0.3 seconds behind the hard-top), up to a top speed where legal of 205mph-plus

Fuel consumption averages a relatively supercar-frugal 43.5mpg, while CO2 emissions are 153g/km

Fuel consumption averages a relatively supercar-frugal 43.5mpg, while CO2 emissions are 153g/km

Clever aerodynamics and an active rear spoiler help generate downforce to maximise handling, braking and performance at high speeds

Clever aerodynamics and an active rear spoiler help generate downforce to maximise handling, braking and performance at high speeds

It has power oozing out of its pores and stability and grip like a mountain goat on twisting hillside roads

It has power oozing out of its pores and stability and grip like a mountain goat on twisting hillside roads

Push down hard on the accelerator, and there's that throaty Ferrari roar designed and tuned to emulate that of a full-throttle V12

Push down hard on the accelerator, and there’s that throaty Ferrari roar designed and tuned to emulate that of a full-throttle V12

This hybrid car adjusts itself and almost seems to have a sixth sense

This hybrid car adjusts itself and almost seems to have a sixth sense

And this one is exceptionally easy to live with and not the least bit intimidating – unlike some of the classic and legendary Ferraris of yore when they needed to be tamed – if your driving skills were up to it.

I grew very comfortable very quickly with my 296 GTS spider. Too comfortable. And so comfortable in fact that I was loathe to hand it back at the end.

Yes, it has power oozing out of its pores and stability and grip like a mountain goat on twisting hillside roads. But what I really like were its grand touring credentials. This is a Ferrari you can and should relax in, a supremely useable supercar for everyday driving. And what fantastic scenery in which to enjoy it.

This hybrid car adjusts itself and almost seems to have a sixth sense. As I slowed to go through sleepy villages, the electric mode kicked in as I glided almost silently by.

Yet push down hard on the accelerator, and there’s that throaty Ferrari roar designed and tuned to emulate that of a full-throttle V12.

It has an electric-only top speed of 93.7mph and an electric-only range of 15.5miles

Ray was able to try out in real-life conditions just how smoothly and in 14 seconds the roof can pop back into place while still on the move at just a fraction under 30mph

Ray was able to try out in real-life conditions just how smoothly and in 14 seconds the roof can pop back into place while still on the move at just a fraction under 30mph

He could also experience the cosseting comfort of driving in the simplified interior and entirely digital cockpit with the roof back in place

He could also experience the cosseting comfort of driving in the simplified interior and entirely digital cockpit with the roof back in place

The metal roof opens - or closes - in 14 seconds and at a speed of up to 28mph - so quick enough to avoid a shower

The metal roof opens – or closes – in 14 seconds and at a speed of up to 28mph – so quick enough to avoid a shower

When the top is down, the cabin and rear deck are separated by a height adjustable glass screen

When the top is down, the cabin and rear deck are separated by a height adjustable glass screen

My early sunshine bliss was of course before the heavens opened up and the deluge began. But take the positives. I was able to try out in real-life conditions just how smoothly and in 14 seconds the roof can pop back into place while still on the move at just a fraction under 30mph.

I could also experience the cosseting comfort of driving in the simplified interior and entirely digital cockpit with the roof back in place – something I may not have experienced for more than a cursory moment had the Italian sun still been shining.

And it at least gave me an idea what it would be like in the UK’s temperate climate.

There are four drive modes: pure electric e-drive, Hybrid (the default setting), Performance (with the engine always on), and Qualifying (for track and extra spirit).

But I was also able to try out the Wet setting for greater stability and grip on the slippery roads. Even with the top down.

All right I got a bit of a soaking. But it was worth it to get those topless photographs.

I may have been ‘Wet, Wet, Wet’ but it really was ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’.

Not even inclement weather rains on this Ferrari’s parade.

Will it fit in my garage? Ferrari 296 GTS Plug-in hybrid 

Style: Convertible/ Spider

Price: from £278,895

On sale: now

Length 4565 mm

Width 1958 mm

Height 1191 mm

Wheelbase 2600 mm

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Dry weight 1540 kg (70kg heavier than GTB)

Weight distribution 40.5 % front / 59.5 % rear

Time to deploy top: 14 seconds each way

Maximum speed for deployment: 28 mph

Petrol engine: 2992cc V6

Max. power hybrid system: 830horse-power (610 kW)

Max. power output engine: 663 horse-power

Electric motor: 167 horse-power

Transmission and gearbox: 8-speed F1 DCT

High voltage battery capacity: 7.45 kWh

Top speed: 205mph-plus

0-62mph: 2.9 s (same as GTB)

0-124mph: 7.6 s (0.3 seconds slower than GTB)

Electric-only top speed: 93.7mph

Electric-only range: 15.5miles

Fuel consumption: 43.5mpgCO2 emissions: 153g/km

Fuel tanks capacity: 65 litres

Braking distance: 124mph -0107m

Fiorano lap time 1′ 21′

TYRES AND WHEELS

Front 245/35 ZR 20 J9.0

Rear 305/35 ZR 20 J11.0

BRAKES

Front 398 x 223 x 38 mm

Rear 360 x 233 x 32 mm

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