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The slightly shocking release of a plug-in hybrid, production Ferrari probably won’t greatly accelerate the rate at which PHEVs are taken up in Australia, or anywhere else (at a predicted price well above $1 million they won’t sell in large volumes) but the SF90 Stradale certainly does splash sex appeal on the idea of going “green”.
Sure, it will be tempting for owners to flick the switch to “Qualifying” mode, unleashing this sizzling-looking super car’s staggering 1000 horsepower (that’s 736kW), and allowing them to go from rest to 200km/h in just 6.7 seconds, faster than any production car ever built.
And yet Ferrari’s chief technology officer, Michael Leiters, believes people will go to the trouble of plugging in the SF90 (the name refers to the F1 team, Scuderia Ferrari’s 90th anniversary) and driving it for up to 25km - at speeds up to 130km/h, or still fast enough to get you arrested in Victoria - in complete silence.
Because who wouldn’t spend as much as $1.5m (pricing is yet to be confirmed, but it could easily be that much, the company will only say “more than $1m”) on a Ferrari powered by an all-new, screaming V8, the most powerful ever built, and then choose to put it in eDrive mode?
“I am convinced our customers will use the electric drive, maybe it’s a green thing, but also I think it’s fun to drive electric,” Leiters insisted at the car’s launch in Maranello, confirming that Tesla really has got inside the heads of Ferrari folk.
Another staffer suggested that perhaps the EV mode will come in handy for sneaking out of the house without waking your wife/mistress/envious neighbours.
The company’s CEO, Louis Camilleri, also stressed how important it was for his company to head in this direction. “By entering this segment I am convinced that we will attract new customers who, I am sure, will quickly become loyal ones,” he said.
“Over 65 percent of the cars we sell today go to customers who already own a Ferrari, and 41 percent of those own more than one.”
Clearly, Ferrari is not like other companies, and that’s why it flew in 2000 of its best, and richest, customers - including 25 from Australia - to see the SF90 being unveiled. Most of those people had already ordered one, before they’d even seen it, so imagine how thrilled they were to discover that it looks like this.
Ferrari’s entertaining head designer, Flavio Manzoni, has excelled, producing what he variously calls “futuristic beauty”, a “space ship” and “an organic form”. A sting ray crossed with a wasp, crossed with Emma Stone perhaps? Certainly nothing in nature combines aggression with beauty quite as well.
Of course, the main reason Ferrari has used hybrid technology here is because it allows it to combine an already terrifying, and brand-new, 4.0-litre turbocharged V8, making 574kW and 800Nm, with three electric motors - two on the front axle and another between the also-new, eight-speed gearbox (shift times are down by 30 percent, to 200 milliseconds) and the engine, adding another handy 162kW.
You might expect the fastest Ferrari ever made - its 0 to 100km/h time of 2.5 seconds beats both the 812 Superfast and La Ferrari, and matches the Bugatti Veyron - to be a limited run, a show piece rather than a show-room car, but the Stradale is a new and no doubt hugely profitable play for the company; a “range super car”, meaning it can make as many as it feels like selling.
It is a technological showcase, however, claiming five “world firsts” including a stunning, Audi-besting 16-inch digital instrument cluster, which is shaped and curved rather than just flat like a boring old iPad and offers staggering levels of visual joy. Ferrari, it seems, is grasping the 21st-century net-all.
The real joy here, of course, will be in the driving, with a staggering 25 control systems looking after putting all that power to the ground via the company’s first “performance all-wheel-drive system”, and a new aero package based on its F1 car’s DRS (Drag Reduction System) that uses a wing that goes down, into the rear of the car, rather than up, to deliver 390kg of downforce at 250km/h (still well short of its 340km/h top speed).
Another first is the car’s space frame, which now contains carbon fibre, to counter the weight of its hybrid tech, and provide even more torsional rigidity. The SF90 still weighs in at 1570kg, but divide that by 1000 horsepower and you still get a power-to-weight ratio that is, frankly, alarming.
This new PHEV Ferrari will not be a car for the faint hearted, or the thin-walleted, but it will go down as a moment in car history, and, with its McLaren P1-humbling performance, it is the new supreme leader of super-car world.