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The brand-new Ferrari 296 GTB is finally here – a totally clean-sheet design with a wholly new six-cylinder powertrain that’s unlike anything Ferrari has ever put on the road!

Of course, no one’s forgotten the iconic Dino from many decades ago, but as that car was never actually branded a Ferrari, the 296 GTB remains the marque’s first production V6 in a car wearing a Cavallino Rampante badge! Yet regardless, a long line of V6-powered race cars also gives this modern Ferrari plenty of inspiration, including the company’s current spate of Formula One machines.

Just last week, during the ‘Experienza Ferrari’ event at the Sepang International Circuit, saw the regional media drive experience for the brand-new Ferrari 296 GTB. Organised by local Ferrari distributors Naza Italia, the event gave the Malaysian press corps a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the car’s novel V6 turbo that is cleverly integrated with an electric motor at the rear.

The tapered nose of the car sidesteps generic Ferrari sportscar blandness thanks to intriguing details like the brake cooling duct inlets adjacent to the headlights and the ‘tea tray’ aero aid incorporated in the bottom centre section of the front bumper. The overall effect is a very nicely judged blend of elegance and aggression.

Codenamed F163, the new car’s V6 will power who-knows-how-many future Ferraris. And for its first appearance, Maranello has chosen to demonstrate that less, done their way, is more… As turbocharged engine is integrated with an electric motor at the rear, the 296 GTB’s combined maximum power output is a strong 830 hp and 740 Nm (663 hp from engine alone) output. Incidentally, the car’s powertrain assembly comprises a V6 turbo engine, with the eight-speed DCT and E-Diff, and the MGU-K located between the engine and the gearbox.

This is the first ever Ferrari with a rear-wheel drive-only PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) architecture in which the internal combustion engine is integrated with a rear-mounted electric motor producing up to 167 cv. This translates to a 0-100 km/h time of 2.9 seconds, a 0-200 km/h time of 7.3 seconds and a maximum speed of more than 330 km/h.

Essentially, this combination puts the new car’s performance at the top of the current rear-wheel-drive sports car segment as well as making it extremely flexible. This is perhaps especially true both in terms of day-to-day contexts (with the car offering a handy, full-electric mode range of 25 km – using the 7.5kWh of energy stored in the 80 cells of its small lithium-ion battery pack), and in driving enjoyment, with its accelerator pedal response being instant and smooth at practically all engine speeds.

And just after a couple of laps around the iconic circuit, it became evidently clear that this new 1,470kg Ferrari was much more civilized and easier to live with than any other previous, heavier and bigger-engine Ferrari. This is especially true because its lightweight nature of the new car provides for a more agile and communicative driving feel. Compact engine, compact car; the wheelbase of the 296 GTB is 50mm shorter than Maranello’s current mid-engine V8 models.

But what about the sound? How does a V6 make the new car sound like a ‘proper” Ferrari then?

Well, in making sure the new V6 engine could match the high-frequency notes of a naturally aspirated V12, Ferrari engineers use a so-called “hot tube” that amplifies the sound from the exhaust manifolds, while a “cold tube” takes care of the air intake sound. Even at low revs, inside the cabin, the soundtrack features the pure V12 orders of harmonics which then, at higher revs, guarantee that typical high-frequency treble.

From the driver’s seat the sound is urgent, angry and plenty loud when driving hard. There’s also plenty of accompaniment from the turbochargers, which add whistles and whooshes. It all seems orchestrated to please the ear, something Ferrari took particular care in making so.

While not quite the sound any V6 has the right to make, it is definitely the kind of noise a Ferrari is expected to generate. From a menace-laced rasp in the middle of the rev range, the note rises to a melodic wail as the tachometer twists through the top third of its arc. So yes, let put this down as very effective special effects, shall we?

Inside the cabin, exclusive Italian leather to the seats and trim is the order of the day. This is further enhanced by the noble technical materials used on the functional components. Once the capacitive ‘Start Engine’ button is touched, all of the components gradually spring to life and the 296 GTB reveals its technological glory in the form of an exceptionally modern, ergonomic and completely digital interface.

The snug-fitting cabin uses many of the same components already seen in the SF90 Stradale and the Roma, and sticks with similar design themes. The materials, quality and design of the interior create an environment worthy of the badge.

This is definitely not a Ferrari for weekends only. It is very well built, beautifully crafted and with a build quality and finish that’s set to create another milestone in supercar luxury. But the Prancing Horse’s first V6-powered model in nearly half a century now goes on sale here in Malaysia priced from RM1.228 million. So, in spite of its driver-friendly characteristics and easy to live with dynamics, will its list price ensure only the current faithful (and financially mobile) Ferrari clientele will appreciate its ground-breaking nature?

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