The Ferrari 296 GTB, unveiled last year, was a throwback to the Dino, Ferrari’s first V6 — a racecar that debuted in 1957. The 296 GTB has a V6, too, the first Ferrari V6 in a road car. Ferrari unveiled the 296 GTS on Tuesday, as a targa version and another hybrid in what is a quickly expanding line-up of Ferrari hybrids.
Like the 296 GTB, the rear-wheel drive 296 GTS makes 819 horsepower from its hybrid system, with 654 horsepower made by the 2.9-liter turbo V6 alone, and 165 hp from an electric motor. Like with the 296 GTB, the 296 GTS’s name is derived from the its engine displacement and its number of cylinders, while the letters you’ve heard before: Gran Turismo Spider.
The car is also, in fact, a plug-in hybrid, and Ferrari says that it has up to 15 miles of range, which sounds like a joke, but I appreciate that Ferrari is at least trying. In its press release, as it’s clear in any case, that the thing that Ferrari is most proud of here is what it did with the engine. I will quote Ferrari at length because no other manufacturer gives details like this in routine press releases:
Thanks to its 663 cv and 221 cv/l, the 296 GTS’s ICE sets the new specific power output record for a serie-production road-going spider. Central to achieving this result was the introduction of the 120° vee configuration with equally-spaced firings as well as the positioning of the turbos inside the vee, which produces a much more compact engine and optimally distributed masses.
The architecture provides the ideal combustion, but was also perfected in terms of component integration: in fact both the intake plenums and the engine supports are integrated on the intake sides of the cylinder heads. The engine is thus lighter and more compact because of the elimination of the plenums and additional supports, while the internal fluid-dynamics benefit from the reduction in volume, boosting intake efficiency. The 120° vee architecture, which offers more space between the cylinder banks than a 90° vee, meant the turbos could be installed centrally, thus significantly reducing the unit’s overall size and the distance the air has to cover to arrive in the combustion chamber, maximising the fluid dynamics and efficiency of the intake and exhaust line ducts.
To obtain this specific power output, the pressure in the combustion chamber had to be pushed to new heights. Boosting the pressure in the chamber demanded exceptional development from both a thermal-fluid-dynamic and structural point of view without compromising on engine weight and reliability. To that end, Ferrari poured all of its significant expertise in alloys, dimensioning and components into engineering the aluminium engine block and cylinder heads. Both components were designed specifically for the V6 architecture.
A timing chain takes drive from the crankshaft to the pump assembly (water and oil) and the valvetrain is commanded by an offset sprocket and a dedicated timing chain per cylinder bank. The main chain has a dedicated hydraulic tensioner, two bush chains with relative hydraulic tensioner and different calibrations for right and left bank, as well as a dedicated chain for the oil pump assembly. The valvetrain, which has roller fingers with hydraulic tappets, has specific intake and exhaust valve profiles.
The engine benefited from the latest Ferrari combustion chamber developments: central injector and spark plugs with 350-bar pressure injection system improve the fuel-air mix in the chamber, performance and reduce emissions. The intake and exhaust ducts were redesigned and tuned to maximise volumetric efficiency and thus guarantee high levels of turbulence in the chamber.
With the introduction of the V6 the IHI turbochargers have been completely redesigned using higher performance alloys. This meant the maximum revs of the turbos could be increased to 180,000 rpm, with a consequent improvement in performance and boost efficiency, which increases by 24%. The symmetrical, counter-rotating turbos are of the mono-scroll type: the technical solutions adopted have reduced the compressor wheel diameter by 5% and the turbo rotor by 11% compared to the V8 applications, despite the very high specific power. The reduction in the rotating masses (the inertia of the two rotating elements has been reduced by 11% compared to the 3.9l V8 solution) has reduced the spool-up time ensuring instantaneous power delivery.
The crankshaft is made from nitrided steel. To ensure it has a 120° crank angle, after the initial forging of the rough ingot, the crankshaft is twisted and then subject to deep nitriding heat treatments (to guarantee resistance to high loads), machining and balancing. The firing order of the new V6 (1-6-3-4-2-5) is the result of the crankshaft journal geometry. 100% of the rotating masses and 25% of the alternating masses are balanced, and therefore its level of balance allows loads on the bushings to be reduced without increasing the weight of the engine.
The variable displacement oil pump was developed to guarantee that the oil pressure is continuously controlled right across the engine’s entire operating range. A solenoid valve, controlled by the engine ECU in a closed loop, is used to control the pump’s displacement in terms of flow and pressure, delivering only the amount of oil required to guarantee the functioning and reliability of the engine, whilst simultaneously providing a reduction in the power absorbed by the pump itself. On the oil scavenge side, to minimise splashing losses, the suction system was made more powerful using six scavenge rotors: three specific, dedicated rotors for the crankcase below the crank throws, one for the distribution compartment and two for the cylinder heads.
In Ferrari engines, the intake plenum is normally located in the centre of the vee. However, the V6 hails a paradigm shift in that regard: its plenums are on the side of the cylinder heads and are integrated with the support for the throttle valve. The light thermoplastic material used to make them keeps engine weight down. This solution boosts performance because of the shorter ducts and consequent fluid-dynamic detuning, in addition to reducing time-to-boost as a result of the high pressure line’s smaller volume.
In other news, Ferrari also says that the roof can retract in 14 seconds, and you can do that at speeds of up to 28 mph. And Ferrari has spent a good bit of time thinking about the 296 GTS’s aerodynamics and downforce, including its active spoiler.
The active aero concept is actually the exact opposite of the one introduced on the Ferrari’s berlinettas from the 458 Speciale onwards. In previous applications, flaps on the diffuser allowed a transition from a high-downforce (HD) configuration to a low-drag (LD) one that allowed maximum speed to be reached on the straight. However, on the 296 GTS, when the active aero device is deployed it increases downforce.
The spoiler is seamlessly integrated into the bumper design, taking up almost all of the space between the taillights. When maximum downforce is not required, the spoiler is stowed in a compartment in the upper section of the tail. But as soon as acceleration figures, which are constantly monitored by the car’s dynamic control systems, exceed a specific threshold, then the spoiler deploys and extends from the fixed section of the bodywork. This combined effect results in a 100 kg increase in downforce over the rear axle which enhances the driver’s control in high-performance driving situations and also minimises stopping distances under braking.
Ferrari did not release a price, but you can expect the 296 GTS to start at at least what the 296 GTB goes for, or a little over $290,000, and likely a good chunk more. The 296 GTS is also probably the last new Ferrari before the much anticipated Purosangue, Ferrari’s first SUV and there is a car that is launching this year, too.
I do also wonder how the F8 Tributo fits into Ferrari’s plans going forward, but Ferrari would tell me to buzz off. Anyway, it’ll let everyone know in its own time.