The ultimate chairman’s choice, a red Ferrari SF90 hybrid

31-May-2019


Ferrari has turned a new page in its chronicles, with the introduction of its first series production PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), the SF90 Stradale, reports Iain Robertson, which also heralds spicy new performance peaks for a sportscar.

Synonymous with high performance and still the only carmaker that races to make road cars and produces road cars to go racing in F1, Ferrari provides an ultimate dreamscape for its dedicated followers and those monied few, who can afford the six-figure and sometimes steeper price tags carried by successive models. Yet, it is a brand that is not free of viable competitors, among which McLaren is the most recent and also the most proficient, even though the name carries nowhere near the cachet of Ferrari.

Since Lamborghini was acquired by the VW Group, which also has the both the Audi R8 and Bugatti line-up in its portfolio, the ‘supercar’ soubriquet is no longer solely in Ferrari’s overall remit. Naturally Porsche, even Nissan with its astonishing GTR model, or Honda with its latest NSX, offer no less attractive means to enter the superfast arena. Therefore, in light of the recent Pininfarina Battista launch, which takes an unique stab into the EV firmament, Ferrari has been forced into addressing future but tangible demands.

The new Ferrari is extreme on every level and represents a true paradigm shift, because it delivers unprecedented performance for a production car. Figures such as 1,000bhp, and a weight-to-power ratio of 1.57kg/hp (1.57-tonnes kerbweight), allied to 390kg of aerodynamic downforce at 155mph, not only puts the SF90 Stradale perilously close to the top of its segment, but also means that a V8 is the top-of-the-range model for the first time in Ferrari’s history. ‘SF’ stands for Scuderia Ferrari by the way.

Featuring a 90° V8 turbo-petrol engine capable of delivering 780bhp on its own account, the highest power output of any eight-cylinder in the Italian company’s history, the remaining 220bhp is delivered by not one but three electric motors, one positioned at the rear, known as the MGUK (Motor Generator Unit, Kinetic) due to its derivation from the company’s Formula 1 developments, which is located between the engine and the new eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission on the rear axle, with the other pair of motors located on the front axle. All the driver has to do is select one of the four power modes and concentrate on driving, as the car will determine which of them is most desirable at any given time. Naturally, those modes (eDrive, Hybrid, Performance and Qualify) can be selected manually on the steering wheel but sophisticated control logic takes care of the rest, managing the flow of power between the V8, the electric motors and the 7kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

The SF90 Stradale is the second Ferrari model to be equipped with 4WD (the first being the short production FF model), a step necessary to unleash its immense hybrid power and to establish the new benchmark for standing starts: 0-60mph in 2.2s and 0-124mph in just 6.7s. Its top speed is comfortably in excess of 200mph thus qualifying it as a hypercar.

Of course, such sky-high performance would only be possible were the aerodynamics optimised as much as possible. Well, Ferrari has gone to town on that score, with thermal, frontal, rear and even the alloy wheel design working together to suck the car to the road surface as much as possible (to reduce ‘lift’), while managing all aspects of airflow and heat dispersal. Dipping into its F1 armoury is clearly a major help in these respects.

Another major innovation is the eManettino steering wheel, which now has a touchpad and a series of haptic (feedback) buttons that allow the driver to control virtually every aspect of the car using just thumbs. The central instrument cluster is now entirely digital with the first automotive application of a 16.0-inch curved HD screen, which can be fully configured and controlled via the steering wheel.

On the central tunnel, improved ergonomics have been combined with an element from the past: the automatic gearbox controls are now selected by a grille-style feature that references Ferrari’s legendary manual gear-shift gate. The new Ferrari  also debuts a new ignition key with full keyless technology, which will be introduced gradually across the rest of the range; it is personalised with the model’s name and slots into a special compartment in the central tunnel, to become an integral part of the car’s cockpit styling.

The SF90 Stradale drives through a completely redesigned 8-speed, oil-bath, dual-clutch, automated-manual transmission. New gear ratios and improved transmission efficiency yield a significant reduction in fuel consumption in urban and motorway driving (-8% in the undisclosed WLTP cycle) without having to compromise on performance. In fact, there is even a reputed 1% improvement in efficiency on track. 

Few cars are as emotive as Ferrari. As one of the most recognisable brands in the world, it is also on almost everyone’s dream list. So, pore over the pictures and dream about what might be. While it helps if you are the Chairman of the Board, its list price is sure to be steep!