In a world already awash with noise, the fabled prancing horse of Maranello has seemingly been directly connected to a mains-wired megaphone, a matter which you may or may not believe went practically unnoticed to these ears (and eyes) until fairly recently. But to make up for this deficiency, it has reached my attention that the Ferrari online store has lately been selling £600 Ferrari-branded trainers guilefully entitled Rosso Lamina Liquida, which we are reliably informed come “with a bold look that echoes the appearance of the Ferrari bodywork“. Marvellous.
It should not therefore surprise you, dear reader to learn that my perception of Ferrari can be classified as ambivalent. Mind you, this might be too soft a description, something of an understatement. Ignored better fits the description.
No doubt, more engineering focused readers will roll their eyes faster than this new car’s digital speedometer to learn that luddite as I am, an 800+ bhp capability, the deletion of two cylinders, nor even the fact that this bolide can waft electronically for a dozen or so miles before burning fossil fuel up 200+ mph leaves me unimpressed. This being a modern Ferrari, I expect a technological tour de force.
Your expectations may lean toward a more typically angry looking beast, but thankfully centro stilo Ferrari under the long time leadership of Flávio Manzoni, has instead created a blissfully subdued cavalino rampante in the shape of new for 2022, Ferrari 296 GTB.
Should your fiscal problems prove non-existent, you can purchase Ferraris more lascivious in colour, more prodigious in output or more extravagant in looks. For your €260k outlay however, this compact Berlinetta ticks a surprisingly large number of boxes. They’ll sell them faster than the 15:10 favourite at Newton Abbot.
“Clean and spare” are Manzoni’s words regarding the 296’s frontal aspect and who are we to argue? Bereft of aerodynamic addenda, the 296 historical nutant leanings remain undeniably Ferrari, yet emphatically modern, pleasingly Arcadian. Dedicated air channels (to cool the brakes) are subtly incorporated into the “modern teardrop” headlamps which cleave almost no bodywork allowing for curvature where such a car needs it and hampers looks not one jot. The car’s nose offers a calm rather than ostentatious manner. Remove the badging and you wouldn’t misconstrue the 296 for anything but a Maranello stablemate. No technical drawing set Lamborghini or sanguinary Woking resident here.
But the part which first caught my eye was the visor-like canopy glass. Sleek as a racing helmet, the look suggests a seamless entity, sans A-pillar; freer, more carefree and certainly in keeping with these compact dimensions. Approaching this machine should make one feel Leclerc or Sainz-esque without the necessity to don a lid – heavens, with all that gadgetry lurking beneath this muscularity, one may even approach their level, but let’s eschew tarmac-tearing and examine the remaining architecture.
The dropping shoulder line, catches the light but initially appears a little incongruous. Follow the lines however, towards those all important engine air intakes and suddenly the haunch makes sense. Pairing seamlessly into the power zone, nothing here is stressed other than the prodigious might contained therein. Curves are smooth, surfaces sophisticated and undeceiving. Even the fuel filler cap on the captain’s side makes an unhurried entrance for the buttresses; the drinker’s side free of such essential adornment yet it remains as purposeful as it is distinctive.
As we head to the rear, those material buttresses blend with melted sand, uniformly flowing and luring the senses into perhaps the car’s busiest but not necessarily inconclusive area. The floating element that covers the engine bay is a rich extravagance, one which heightens the intensity of pent up energy but also a stylistic highlight. When viewed from above, this almost horseshoe shaped area transmits anyone back to school age feelings when magazines would reveal such exoticism; a visual mechanical treat topped by an appropriate chapeau – ipnottizante.
That rear glass is vertical, as is the slender trick spoiler, vertically ascending when the stop pedal is trodden upon loud enough, a pleasant and typically Italian flourish that detracts nothing from the overall effect. More bruising to the senses, the air diffusers, an area where the aesthete must capitulate to the engineer’s demands. Required (or otherwise?), it is not necessary to devote any more time upon them since other demands are made on our senses.
Containing a whisper of a spoiler, this car’s prow contains yet more generous curves and playful angles. They’ve even remembered to leave room for a registration plate. Has Manzoni and his team thought of everything? If I may offer a counterpoint here, the rear lights are too small and not reminiscent enough of Ferrari’s past but this is but a stray blade in an otherwise beautiful hay bale.
Viewed on Ferrari’s website, the ubiquitous fast paced video was eschewed for the configurator. Inviting though it is to remain in traditional but somewhat one dimensional Rosso Imola, heading to the Asseto Fiorano table opens up not only a two-tone world but one where the 296 positively leaps out from the screen. Shade this track weapon anything other than giallo and that front end receives a yellow coat to emphasise those glorious frontal (and some rearward) curves. Choosing anything grigio lends this quietest of Ferrari’s a honed stance worthy of anything emanating from a skilled farriers workshop. Should your preferred hue be different, fear not. This mechanical horse looks great in any colour.
One distinctly hopes that if seen in the metal the effect remains as convincing. But with chances of viewing one up close and personal as slim as they would be of actually driving an example, we’ll have to leave it to the journalistic brigade, intent of wringing every last ounce of performance, and stumbling over references to historical weaponry to decide. How galling that such riders are allowed to sully thoroughbreds. One should be satisfied enough observing such a creature in a paddock or field.