THE FUTURE OF FERRARI, FLAT-OUT†AT FIORANO

FERRARI

CHRIS CHILTON

FERRARI SF90 STRADALE

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

T HE FERRARI SF90 Stradale is a 1000-horsepower midengined supercar. Built on an all-new aluminium (with a carbonfibre rear bulkhead) chassis, the SF90 was first seen in 2019 and celebrates the 90th anniversary of Ferrariís racing arm, Scuderia Ferrari. It doesnít replace any current or historic cars Ė itís not the new LaFerrari Ė but at $846,888 it establishes a permanent mid-engined halo above the front-engined 812 GTS.

Itís tempting to say the SF90 just uses an uprated version of the F8†Tributoís 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, but youíd probably get slapped by one of the engineers. While the block is basically the same (itís bored and stroked to slightly increase capacity from 3902cc to 3990cc and drop compression from 9.6 to 9.5:1) pretty much everything else is different.

Redesigned heads, different internals, new turbos, manifolds, everything. Itís also the first direct-†injected Ferrari V8 ever, is 25kg lighter than the F8ís engine and is mounted 50mm lower in the chassis. The exhaust is made from Inconel, like an F1 car.

There are three electric motors. One is connected to each front wheel to allow torque vectoring, and another is sandwiched between the engine and new eight-speed dualclutch transmission. The gearbox is 10kg lighter than Ferrariís current seven-speeder thanks in part to there being no reverse gear, a function now provided by the electric motors. Combine the electric bits with the oily bits and youíve a solid 735kW Ė or 1000 metric horsepower Ė to play with.

Unless you prime the ignition, then select Performance or Qualifying modes via the touchpad on the steering wheel, the SF90 defaults to Hybrid mode which uses electric power at start-up, meaning no noise.

Pull the right shift paddle, then pull out into traffic and you get a golf-kartlike electric whine. In eD mode (full electric) step-off is surprisingly soft,†and the petrol engine wonít cut in to help no matter how hard you mash the throttle. But itíll do 135km/h on volts alone, or get you a claimed 25km before you need to recharge. That takes two hours with a charger, or just a handful of miles if you let the engine do the juicing.

Now comes the other 574kW. Switch back to Hybrid mode and the SF90†switches effortlessly between its power sources and spends a surprising amount of time as an EV. The integration is very impressive, as is the brake feel, which is far more natural than on most hybrid or electric cars.

Like Sebastian Vettelís SF1000, the SF90 uses brake-by-wire.

Mooch along in Hybrid mode in dawdling traffic and the SF90 feels like a proper GT, disguised as a thousand-horsepower hypercar. But it wonít feel like some peopleís idea of a Ferrari. Theyíll need Performance or Qualifying modes for that.

In Performance mode with the engine running full time and augmented by the electric powertrain, the F8ís already minimal turbo lag isnít completely eradicated, but itís damn close to it. Even from low engine revs the fourth and fifth gear go is colossal.

You could almost forget you had 735kW, if it wasnít for the fact that with all four tyres hooked up you can get from 0-100km/h 2.5sec and 0-200km/h in 6.5. For reference an F8 needs 2.9sec and 7.8sec for the same yardsticks. The SF90 is brutally fast.

The most obvious advantage, and†one of the reasons Ferrari switched to AWD, is the ability to convert all those electrons and hydrocarbons to momentum. Traction is incredible.

But that feeling of torque being fed to the front wheels, specifically coming out of very tight low-speed bends, takes some acclimatising if youíre used to rear-drive Ferrari sports cars.

It doesnít pull the car straight, exactly, but thereís definitely pulling. Thatís an unfamiliar sensation when youíre sitting in the cabin of a car that (fancy new widescreen TFT instrument pack†aside), feels much like an F8 Tributo.

At points, I wasnít sure Iíd have enjoyed the slower, simpler car less. But on faster roads, and on Ferrariís Fiorano circuit, the SF90 reveals its true genius, and not just because its 1:19sec laptime is 0.7sec quicker than the LaFerrari. On track, you notice how well the chassis manages the extra 240kg that the 1600kg (dry) SF90 carries over the F8 Tributo. Thatís near 1700kg in real terms.

Race mode on the steering wheelmounted manettino driving toggle†delivers no slip, no drama. Just a great opportunity to experience the performance in full. But selecting CT-Off Ė traction control off Ė on the manettino is more fun. Unsurprisingly itís quite oversteery, but the breakaway is gentle. Iím struggling to think of any mid-engine car full-stop with the same ability to make a driver feel so comfortable at, and beyond, the limit.

Itís just a shame it doesnít sound better. With two turbos jammed in the exhaust streams, the SF90 sounds exciting, but not spectacular. An 812ís V12, or the old 458ís V8, it ainít.

Unlike LaFerrari, the SF90 Stradale isnít a limited-run special with, at this stage, 25 orders fulfilled for Australia. The SF90 previews technology and the future direction of the entire brand.†Itís engineering like this thatís going to ensure the survival of the supercar when laws, and even the mindset of some owners, are changing to reflect a greater concern for the environment.

Fortunately for us, thatís not the only reason to love the fastest, most exploitable road-going Ferrari Maranello has ever built.

CHRIS CHILTON

Model Ferrari SF90 Stradale

Engine 3990cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo

Motor Three (2 x front axle; 1 x rear axle)

Battery 7.9kWh lithium-ion

Max power†735kW @ 8000rpm (combined)

Max torque 960Nm @ 6000rpm (combined)

Transmission 8-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1600kg (dry)

0-100km/h 2.5sec (claimed)

Price $846,888

On sale Now

PLUS

Pace; fierce styling; EV mode serenity; next-gen Ferrari cabin architecture

MINUS

So-so acoustics; weight of hybrid drive system; tiny luggage bay limits utility

The Rival

LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR SVJ $949,640

Two Italian top-tier midengined supercars but they couldnít be more different in execution. The old-school atmo Aventador can shift between 60-90 percent of torque rearwards, whereas the SF90 can be purely front-drive in EV mode, a mix of both axles in Hybrid and then, above 135km/h itís completely rear-drive.†All of the SF90ís laptimes were achieved on superfocused Pilot Sport Cup 2R tyres and with the optional 30kg-saving Assetto Fiorano pack fitted. And, amazingly, the Lambo also edges the Ferrari for utility with 140L of luggage space compared to the Ferrariís 74L showing. So pack light.