Robb Review: Ferrari 296 GTS
Tops down for an exclusive first drive of the convertible version of our reigning Car Of The Year.
What would you describe as the worst sound in the world (spoiler alert, you’re going to be wrong, but try, anyway)?
Is it country music? Jazz? Peter Dutton singing soprano? Satan’s own fingernails being scraped down a blackboard?
No, I’m afraid, it is none of these, because the worst sound in the world is the dull, horrific crunch and crackle you hear when someone drives their big, thuggish ute into your Ferrari (essentially, let’s face it, to teach yer a farkin’ lesson ya rich prick).
Now it really wouldn’t matter what kind of Ferrari you’re in, this noise is going to entirely ruin your day, and possibly your life, but the fact that it happened to me in my favourite supercar of all time, and one of the most beautiful and desirable motor vehicles the world has ever seen—the 296 GTS, a convertible version of Robb Report ANZ’s reigning Car of the Year—did seem to make the ear-sting even worse.
The ensuring c-rap battle between the ute owner and I, as he pretended he’d not seen a bright blue Ferrari right in front of him, despite me clearly seeing him attempting to cut me up and block me in in a form-one-lane situation is something I wish my son had not seen, but he still won’t be as scarred as I am.
Obviously such an incident would be annoying in any car, but the love I feel for this particular Ferrari is unlike any I’ve really experienced for any other car. In the past, I have always said that I love Ferraris and they are great to drive, but I’d never actually buy one.
But with the 296, in either GTS ($668,146) or GTB ($568,300) form (and yes that IS a big difference in price just to get a convertible roof), I feel absolutely compelled to own one, to the point where I’ve thought about selling internal organs, or everything I own, to have one.
I’ve been lucky enough to drive this outrageous machine on several occasions and unlike other cars, in which I eventually start to find flaws, before being distracted by some newer and shinier vehicle that comes along, I only fall more heavily for the 296 each time.
And that’s because it simply boggles my mind how good it is, nay, how close to absolute perfection it comes. Obviously it is beautiful, inside and out, and everything you touch – most particular the steering wheel and the carbon shift paddles – feels fabulous. And clearly it is as clever as it is powerful – with its combination of a plug-in hybrid EV system with a screaming 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder engine for a combined total of 610kW and 740Nm – and staggeringly fast (0 to 200km/h in 7.6 seconds), but those are just the obviously, easy to brag about parts.
What goes above and beyond about this car is the way all of its elements – from rakish sharp steering to superlative ride and handling (my wife says it’s the only comfortable supercar she’s ever experienced) to the fact that a V6 has been made to sound as good as a V12, to the traction control systems that somehow get all that grunt to the ground, thought the rear wheels alone, without ever feeling unsafe or overpowered – combine to create a driving experience that leaves you shaking your head in awe. Every single time you drive it.
Yes, essentially it is a machine for going and stopping rapidly, and for tearing apart corners at extreme speeds. And yes, theoretically lots of other motor vehicles have been designed to do the same thing, but none of them approach the total immersion, the sheer unbridled thrill, of Ferrari’s 296. And opening the roof on the GTS version does add that little bit of sunshine and sound that you just might be willing to pay an extra $100,000 for.
I must admit, I would.
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