First Drive: The New Ferrari 296 GTB

The Italian marque proves a V6 can more than hold its own.

By Stephen Corby 21/07/2022

Occasionally, I’m so deeply affected by driving a new car—particularly one as ballistically blessed as Ferrari’s 296 GTB—that I exhibit strange behaviours.

After two days in Spain, being almost as thrilled that I was in a foreign country again as I was by driving a street-legal vehicle with 50 per cent more power than a Bathurst-bothering V8 Supercar, I found myself Googling photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s children.

This is because the first thing that hits you about the new plug-in super hybrid Ferrari is not the shock about how anything with a V6 engine and an electric motor can sound that good—that comes a few minutes later—but how wallet-achingly beautiful it is.

Ferrari has made many delectable machines in the past, and they’ve been on a particularly fine run of form since Flavio Manzoni took over as chief designer in 2010. But with the stunning, perfectly formed shape of the 296, with its nod to classics past combining so stunningly with modern touches like its rear light cluster, the aerodynamic “t-tray” at the front and the flying bridge behind the driver’s head, he has outdone himself.

Is it possible that the DNA of Ferrari, its bloodlines, make it likely that each new car will be more beautiful than the last? Well, no, the Jolie-Pitts aren’t anywhere near as attractive as DNA would suggest, and you could argue that the 488, and certainly cars like the California, were not as worthy of awe as the 458 Italia.

But to hear Manzoni talk about this car, you know that he knows he’s achieved something special. He says he was “striving for beauty and perfection” and was on a “quest for purity, for supreme essentiality, a tight, bold personality” and a “truly athletic, sporty body”.

“And when I say ‘sporty’, I mean a very refined and sophisticated expression of sportiness,” Manzoni went on. And on.

I love the way the man speaks about car design, but I love his work even more. In essence, while the lines are lovely, I think the reason the 296 looks so right is that it is just the right size. It is less overt than the insane SF90, with which it shares not only its hybrid technology but its cabin design, but also even smaller —lower, lighter and much shorter in the wheelbase—than the F8 Tributo.

And it’s also that short, sharpness of shape that helps to make it feel as though this car is wrapped around you, that it is an MX-5-like, glove-like, Alfa Romeo 4C-esque expression of go-kart-style connection with the road, and corners in particular, only with the grunt (and grin) factor turned up to 11 … thousand.

Truly, this is power that is hard to imagine, and which even the numbers I’m about to tell you struggle to express. By combining the instantaneous torque shove of a battery (which you can charge just like any other PHEV) and an electric motor with a high-tech and high-revving 3.0-litre V6, the 296 delivers 610 kW and 740 Nm (plus 315 Nm from the electric motor).

That’s a staggering 80 kW more than the V8-powered Ferrari F8 Tributo, a car that already left us quivering with a mix of excitement and fear, and it’s even more impressive than what you’ll find in the epic and enormous V12-powered 812 Superfast (588 kW and 718 Nm).

By using that smaller, lighter power plant, of course, the 296 also manages to be smaller, sharper, shorter in the wheelbase than either of those two Ferraris, and super-light as well, at just 1470kg. I’ll give you a moment to do the power-to-weight calculations in your head (here’s a clue, the answer is “Oh. My. God.”).

And all that means it feels pointier and easier to drive than previous mid-engined Ferrari wonder cars and, quite honestly, more enjoyable and less furiously intimidating than one of the few cars in the world that can significantly better its zero-to-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds, the SF90, which uses a similar powertrain set-up, but has two electric motors instead of one.

Honestly, as much as we’ve raved about the SF90 in these pages before, it’s almost too much car for public roads, whereas perhaps the most remarkable thing about the 296 GTB is how easy it is to drive, even in everyday conditions, and at great pace.

That much power going to the ground through the rear wheels alone should be monstrous and hairy-handed, yet it never, ever felt like it was going to break away at the rear (some serious downforce—like 350 kilograms of it at 200 km/h obviously helps) even though I was pushing it harder than I’ve ever done in any road car, and despite the fact that the rain in Spain on that day was falling mainly on us.

(I must admit that I had an issue with losing the rear end, slipping off a race track and on to the grass the next day in the even more hardcore Assetto Fiorano version—which will sting you another $73,299—but that’s another story, and
one I’m still too shaken to tell right now.)

As the roads dried up in the afternoon, however, I experienced a kind of motoring nirvana that I may have come close to before, but has never been on such a heightened plain as in Spain. The roads were winding, smooth and empty, the scenery bucolic, but that was only part of it. The way this car accelerates and handles, combined with its brilliant new steering system (a stiffer and even more precise set-up Ferrari says is the steering standard from which all of its new models will begin), its incredible traction-maintaining software and a V6 that sounds so bellowingly bassy that the engineers refer to it as “the piccolo V12”, created an experience I will never forget.

Then there is the tech, which appeals to my inner nerd violently. While the 296 starts up in silent mode, and then progress through Hybrid, where it occasionally shuts off the motor and leaves you in unsettling Italian silence (two words you never normally see together), the battery is only good for 25 kilometres of full EV driving (at speeds of up to 135 km/h). What is sheer genius, however, is that the Ferrari uses not just the usual braking-regeneration tech to recharge that battery as you drive, but the excess torque you create while hammering it, which means the harder and faster you go, the more your battery recharges.

So, effectively, driving like a maniac is actually a green thing to do. Kind of. What it really means is that when you switch to Qualify mode, you enjoy the full benefit of the engine and the battery all at once, which was enough to launch us with ease to 270 km/h down the straight at the Circuito Monteblanco outside Seville.

It’s all fiendishly clever and, as Ferrari’s engineers candidly admit, the PHEV approach here is very little to do with being green and everything to do with performance. Add to all this the inarguable factor of how stunning the 296 GTB is to look at and you can begin to understand why, for the first time ever, and as much as I’ve loved the company’s previous efforts, this is a Ferrari I really, deeply want to own.

The Ferrari 296 GTB, then, is my very early, yet confident, tip for Robb Report’s Car of the Year 2022. In fact, it’s my car of the century… so far.

The Ferrari 296 GTB will be available in the last quarter of 2022, from $568,300 plus on-road costs;


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.


Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time


Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!


Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.


This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.


Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively;

Click here to subscribe to Robb Report ANZ.

Click here to subscribe to Robb Report ANZ.


Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected