Ferrari 296 GTB review

Category: Sports car

Plug-in hybrid supercar is an incredible piece of engineering – but also a very, very expensive one

Ferrari 296 GTB front cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB interior dashboard
  • Ferrari 296 GTB interior front seats
  • Ferrari 296 GTB engine
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front right driving
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front left static
  • Ferrari 296 GTB left static
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front detail
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear detail
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB interior dashboard
  • Ferrari 296 GTB interior front seats
  • Ferrari 296 GTB engine
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front right driving
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front left static
  • Ferrari 296 GTB left static
  • Ferrari 296 GTB front detail
  • Ferrari 296 GTB rear detail


What Car? says...

What you’re looking at is arguably the most important road car to come out of Maranello in decades. Called the Ferrari 296 GTB, it marks the moment the brand’s electrification strategy, honed in Formula One, makes its way into a mainstream supercar. Think of it, if you will, as a Ferrari for the Drive to Survive generation.

Indeed, for many buyers, it must be an alluring prospect to be able to watch Charles Leclerc battle his way to a win in his hybridised, V6-engined Ferrari SF-23 then spend the evening driving your very own electrically boosted, V6-engined 296 GTB road car. As they used to say back in the Sixties, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. 

But what does all that mean for time-honoured Ferrari enthusiasts? After all, the engine is traditionally the heart and soul of a Ferrari road car, with founder Enzo Ferrari once stating: “I build engines and attach wheels to them.”

So surely, after decades of producing soulful V8-engined Berlinettas, a move to a more compact, electrically-assisted plug-in hybrid (PHEV) V6 will only serve to diminish some of that Ferrari magic. 

Well, we’ll find out shortly. 

One thing’s for sure, though – if ‘The Old Man’ were alive today, we reckon he’d have a hard time not being impressed by the 296 GTB’s official power output of 819bhp – a whopping 109bhp more than its V8-engined predecessor, the Ferrari F8 Tributo.

We also suspect he’d be a fan of how the 296 GTB looks, because despite being packed with cutting-edge tech, it shares a number of design cues with the dainty 250 LM of the Sixties. Hence our press car’s Maranello Concessionaires GB livery.

When it comes to rivals, the 296 GTB has a broad cross-section of competitors, ranging from the PHEV McLaren Artura to the distinctly old-school Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica. And because it can be had with a track-focused handling package, called the Fiorano Performance Pack, it is also in direct competition with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. 

At this point, it’s worth us pointing out that while you're unlikely to get discounts on a supercar like this, we can help you find the best prices on most makes and models if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They're a good place to find the best new sports car deals.


The 296 GTB is a highly complex car, but it's not highly complex to drive, and that’s what makes it so special. Ferrari has managed to seamlessly blend the advantages of electrification with none of the drawbacks we’ve seen in other plug-in hybrid performance cars. It's a genius piece of engineering and proves that an electrified future need not be boring.

  • Ballistic performance in any gear at any revs
  • Delicate handling that allows you to attack a road with confidence
  • Emissions-free running helps your conscious and local air quality
  • Bleeding-edge tech makes the 296 very expensive
  • Infotainment controls are unreliable and distracting
  • You might want to put a six-figure sum aside for options

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

In this day and age, when driving a supercar through a town or a village, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being a touch antagonistic. But with the Ferrari 296 GTB, that's simply not a worry. Pushing the eD (electric drive) button on the lower left of the steering wheel gives you 15 miles of electric range to play with. That might not sound like a lot, but the regenerative braking system is so good that we found we always had some electricity in reserve. 

Ferrari 296 GTB image
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Once you’ve selected what we like to call ‘stealth mode’ you can cruise through town in silence, producing zero emissions. As well as easing your conscience, it's also massively entertaining to see people scratching their heads in confusion at the sight of a bright red Ferrari producing no more noise than a Nissan Leaf. Not that it feels like you’re piloting a Leaf, you understand – when you're sat low surrounded by a visor-like windscreen, the 296 GTB feels properly special when just pottering around.

The real genius of the car’s hybrid system is only fully realised when you move from eD to Qualifying mode by press the small illuminated flag motif on the steering wheel.

The V6 engine blares into life with an intensity that will make your passenger try to jump out of their racing harness. As will the acceleration, if you don’t warn them of the exact moment you’re going to give it some gas, because even when left in a high gear, the 296 bolts forwards with the enthusiasm of a featherweight superbike. Forget about turbo lag. There isn’t any. Not even a smidgen. 

At first, it makes you wonder whether you even need gears, but then you remember there are eight of them to play with. And play with them you should, because when you start to wind the motor up you're met with a rate of acceleration that can only be described as mildly frightening.

Ferrari says the run from 0-62mph takes just 2.9 seconds, but from behind the wheel, it feels even faster. And because the electric motor is capable ‘torque filling’ during gearshifts, there's no respite when you pull on the right paddle – you simply get flung into the next ratio where the whole process starts again.  

The V6 sounds superb too. Ferrari engineers nicknamed it the ‘piccolo V12’ – little V12 – and while it doesn’t quite manage to replicate the rich, multi-layered engine note of the V12-powered Ferrari 812 Superfast it does sound more sonorous and textural than any six-cylinder has a right to be. 

Speaking of textural, over the years Ferrari has managed to imbue all its mid-engined, ‘entry-level’ supercars with a wonderful level of approachability and adjustability, and that tradition continues with the 296. The electrically assisted steering is lightning quick, but the chassis is good enough to keep up, with a finesse that gauges body roll, weight transfer and rate of response to the point of near perfection. That doesn’t happen with the slightly unfeeling, stability-biased Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica.

Provided you’re in the ultra-permissive Traction Control Off mode, it's remarkably easy to adjust your line mid-corner using just accelerator inputs. 

If you’re planning on using your 296 for daily driving, we’d perhaps stay clear of the optional Fiorano Performance Pack. It replaces the standard adaptive dampers with passive Multimatic items related to those used in GT racing, introduces a number of weight-saving carbon-fibre panels (such as the door inserts) and allows you to specify an optional Lexan rear engine cover.

We very much doubt you'll be able to feel the benefits of the 15kg weight saving, and while the passive suspension is incredible on a smooth country road, the ride can feel rather brittle around town. That's not a problem with the regular adaptive dampers, which in their ‘bumpy road’ setting deliver a better-controlled ride than most executive saloons.

Ferrari 296 GTB rear cornering


The interior layout, fit and finish

The interior of the Ferrari 296 GTB is a big step on from its predecessor, the Ferrari F8 Tributo – but not all the developments have been for the better. 

Let’s start with the positives. Our press car came fitted with a beautiful set of optional carbonfibre ‘racing seats’, and while we wouldn’t necessarily want to do a long-distance road trip in them, we found there was plenty of lumbar support, while the aggressive side bolstering did a fantastic job of keeping you locked into place during hard cornering. 

The seats also allow you to get low behind the steering wheel and there's plenty of head and leg room for the driver. Visibility is excellent by mid-engined supercar standards, with a low scuttle to see over and a visor-like wraparound windscreen. Compared with the letterbox forward view out of the Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica, the 296 is a breeze to thread through city streets.  

Materials and fit and finish are top-notch, something that was not always the case with Ferrari. Everything feels beautifully screwed together and the carbonfibre door panels fitted to our press car (as part of the Fiorano Performance Pack) lend the interior some real drama. You also get a wide colour palette to choose from when it comes to specifying your leather interior – our press car came with an unconventional baby blue interior.

So far, so good, but then you get to the infotainment system. 

The 296 GTB uses an entirely digital instrument binnacle consisting of a single, crisp 16.0in screen and can display everything from music, navigation and contacts, to Apple CarPlay. However, to navigate it you must use your thumbs to swipe the touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel, and that's a challenge. With no haptic feedback, it's hard to tell if you’ve hit the touchpads properly, and on more than one occasion we couldn’t get them to respond.

The system also feels like it could do with a faster processor, because despite the user interface being well laid out and highly configurable, there's often a big lag between selecting the function you want and it loading on to the screen. That's not what you need when piloting an 800bhp supercar. On a more positive note, Apple CarPlay is a standard feature, which is good news, because Ferrari has charged heavily for it in the past.

Ferrari 296 GTB interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

There are, of course, only two seats in the Ferrari 296 GTB, but there’s enough head and leg room for a couple of adults well over six feet tall, and they won’t be clashing elbows.

Oddment storage is decent, too. Ferrari has provided a glovebox, cupholders and a handy central tray, while a shelf behind the seats gives you somewhere to stow a handbag or laptop case.

True, there’s no luggage space behind where you sit – that space is entirely taken up by a battery and a turbocharged V6 engine – but the ‘frunk’ in the nose of the car is capable of swallowing a couple of overnight bags. Your golf clubs will need to take the place of your passenger, though.

If you want a performance car with four seats and more luggage space, we’d consider the cheaper but similarly rapid Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Ferrari 296 GTB interior front seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Ferrari 296 GTB is very, very expensive – and that’s before you start looking at the options list. Our test car’s price, for instance, started with a three – and the options alone added up to more than it would cost to buy an entire Porsche 911 Carrera S.

So the question of whether you can afford one doesn't really need discussing. More often than not, purchases like this are additions to a collection and it’s not as though a Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica or a Porsche 911 GT3 RS are going to cost you significantly less.

Granted, there are cheaper performance cars and sports cars available, such as the Audi R8 and the 911 Turbo S, but they don’t quite match the Ferrari cachet.

With a 7.45kWh battery and an official electric range of 15 miles, the 296 GTB is surprisingly frugal by supercar standards. At a cruise, we regularly saw above 35mpg, but it’s worth noting that if you use the performance on offer, efficiency will drop rather quickly.

While the 296 GTB puts out a much lower amount of CO2 than, say, a Huracán, driving one is not going to stop global warming. The best it can do (if you drive it in EV mode) is lower tailpipe emissions in town.

Ferraris are too rare to have featured in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but owners will get seven years’ servicing included, with no mileage restrictions. They haven't been tested for safety by Euro NCAP either.

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Ferrari 296 GTB engine


  • Considering that the 296 GTB is essentially the entry-point to Ferrari’s mid-engined sports car line-up, it's eye-wateringly expensive. The range starts at just over £241,000 and our press car’s price started with a three because of the (very pricey) options added.

  • The crucial difference is that the 296 GTB is a hardtop while the GTS is a convertible with a retractable roof.

  • Ferrari says the 296 GTB will accelerate from 0-62mph in just 2.9 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 205mph.

  • Despite having a relatively compact V6 engine, the 296 GTB produces a whopping 819bhp.