Let’s get the headlines out of the way: The Ferrari SF90 Stradale is Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid and the most powerful V8 it has ever built. Between the engine and three electric motors, it produces 986bhp and 590lb/ft of torque, split between all four wheels. It’ll dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in 2.5secs and top out at 212mph. The batteries give an EV range of 15 miles. It generates 390kg of downforce at 155mph. And the interior is entirely new.
So, the engine. It’s based on the F154 twin-turbo V8 found in the 488 GTB, but has been so comprehensively reworked that the two share only minor components. The unit in the SF90 has been stretched from 3,902cc to 3,990cc, it runs higher-pressure injection, the turbo is mounted lower, the exhaust is mounted higher and the whole lot sits 50mm closer to the ground. On its own, the motor produces 786bhp, vastly more than any previous Ferrari V8.
Three electric motors are used, powered by 7.9kWh battery pack. One sits between the engine and the all-new, eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The other two are mounted on the front axle – Ferrari calls the system RAC-e. They produce 216bhp, taking total output up to 986bhp – around 40bhp more than the LaFerrari.
As you’d expect, the systems controlling the powertrain are gigantically complex – and have used much of the knowledge Ferrari has gained from the current era of hybrid powertrains in Formula 1.
There are four drive modes. eDrive uses the front electric motors only to give an EV driving range of 15 miles, at speeds up to 84mph. The default setting is Hybrid, which runs the ICE and EV elements to best effect at any given moment. Performance is essentially the fast road driving mode, running the engine constantly while charging the battery, so the full whack of power is available when it’s wanted. Finally, Qualify mode extracts every single horsepower from the whole powertrain for a banzai lap – according to Ferrari, there’s enough power in the batteries for a max-attack lap of the Nordschleife.
The systems that marshal the power to road are gigantically complex, as well. Both the torque vectoring and Side Slip Control systems have been rejigged to take advantage of the RAC-e. Regen braking puts energy back into the batteries.
All this sits in a chassis that is all-new for the SF90. It’s mostly constructed from high-strength aluminium, with a carbonfibre bulkhead between cabin and engine – a first for Ferrari. Another first is the use of hollow castings. Ferrari claims significant improvements in rigidity and NVH without any increase in weight.
As it is, the SF90 weighs in at a middleweight 1,570kg. It’s quite a long car, too, around 150mm longer than a 488 at 4,710mm. It’s marginally wider and lower, too.
The body has been designed in unusually close collaboration between Ferrari’s Centro Stile design studio and the engineers, to balance the demands of producing a car that looks good whilst still generating the massive amount of downforce needed and dealing with the enormous heat the powertrain generates.
Most of the aerodynamics are active, including the rear wing which uses lessons learned from the F1 drag-reduction system. It’s split into two elements, a fixed one containing the high-level brake light and another Ferrari calls a ‘shut-off Gurney’. Most of the time, the two elements are aligned and suspended above the engine cover. But when a lot of downforce is needed, the active element motors away to sit flush with the bodywork.
The front is equally complex, with a new version of Ferrari’s vortex generators – the whole front of the car has been raised 15mm to get more air to them. Even the bonnet has been designed to generate downforce and the wheels act as turbines to pull air out of the wheelarch and blend it into the airflow down the sides.
All of which does towards generating that 390kg of downforce at 155mph – about a quarter of the car’s weight. Which means the SF90 will be able to pull massive G-forces through corners and post lap times fast enough to worry full-on race cars.
Is it beautiful, though?
Finally, the interior, which has been designed around the concept that the driver should hardly ever have to take their hands off the steering wheel. Central to it is a 16in, curved HD instrument panel screen that’s configurable in many, many different ways. Which is controlled, along with most of the car’s other functions, by touchpads and haptic buttons on the steering wheel. Whether or not it works better than Ferrari’s current, ergonomically weird steering wheel-mounted controls remains to be seen.
The gearbox controls are mounted on the centre console on a metal panel that evokes that exposed gearshift gate of classic Ferraris.
Ferrari hasn’t announced prices for the SF90 yet. But bear in mind that it sits at the top of the range, above the £263,098 812 Superfast.
And, in case you’re wondering, the SF90 name refers to the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari, which Enzo Ferrari set up in 1929 to run Alfa Romeo race cars.
By Graham King