Ferrari Should have the Courage to make less Power
The debut of the 296 GTB signals an era of drastic change for the Modenese manufacturer.
After the recent debut of the Ferrari 296 GTB, I was left feeling a little cold. Let me explain. According to Ferrari, their new model that is “defining fun to drive” has 818 BHP, 117 more than the already overpowered junior supercar. This is proof that manufacturers are focusing too much on power and torque figures rather than the experience and thrill of driving. Ferrari needs to remember that the drama and character in driving a high-performance car is not in the pure thrust and numbers that it generates, but rather in the involvement and thrill of the experience.
We are heading towards times of drastic change. We are at a point where we need to prioritize what we want and need in enthusiast market automobiles. If our choice is turbocharging, hybridization, and full-on electrification, we should not complain about the lack of engagement and involvement in driving, the absence of soul and sound in powertrains, and how accessible and numb these machines will be to operate. If our choice is natural aspiration, hydraulic steering, manual gearboxes, and light curb weights, we, as enthusiasts, tuners, and manufacturers need to invest heavily in technologies such as synthetic fuels in order to keep the driver’s cars alive for decades to come. This point is just as relevant for manufacturers as Ferrari, for whom many, including myself, believe have lost their appeal, soul, and character. We must also ask ourselves why so many of our fellow motoring journalists are accepting the future of electric motoring and diminishing the potential future that pure and focused driver’s cars have in our world.
I am not saying that the 296 and its recipe are a complete and utter failure. We have seen in the past that when Ferrari turns their head to controversial technologies, systems, and ideas in their road cars, they always turn out to be just fine and sometimes even better than the old guards. The 3.0 turbocharged V6 used in the 296 GTB seems to also be quite a peach indeed. Michael Leiters (CTO of Ferrari) has even said that during the developmental process of the engine, it was known as the “piccolo V12”, or the little V12 due to its sound and nature. I am also a fan of the 296 GTB’s design. In many ways, it is a breakaway from the recent abandonment of elegance and design purity. The styling is a lot cleaner and more smooth than the F8 Tributo; more a throwback to the Ferrari of old, especially with those 250 LM inspired rear fenders…
The 3.0 Liter Turbocharged V6 or "Piccolo V12" seems to show quite a bit of promise.... (Photo courtesy of evo.co.uk and Ferrari).
It also seems that Leiters and co have other fabulous plans in store. Their commitment to the heart of Ferrari, the V12 engine, has only been further confirmed with the launch of the track-focused 812 Competizione with its increased redline of 9500 RPM. Ferrari is also saying that their goal for the future of the V12 engine is to increase redlines, add even more lightness, as well as to make the engines more soulful and characterful. It is fantastic to see a manufacturer who is further developing these engines, especially in comparison to rival OEMs who are downsizing, cancelling development, and even eradicating their great combustion engines.
The successor to the infamous F12 TDF with 50 more BHP and 600 more RPM... (Photo courtesy of evo.co.uk and Ferrari).
On the other hand, Ferrari’s other present and future plans are quite worrying. Increased electrification, skyrocketing production numbers, and the development of SUVs are all detracting from the magic of the Ferrari brand. Ferrari needs to remember the words of the company’s founder “the client is not always right.” Therefore Ferrari does not require to use all of the above steps to add more profit and value to its brand. To once again quote Enzo Ferrari, “The Ferrari is a dream. People dream of owning this special vehicle and for most, it will remain a dream apart from those lucky few.” Il Comendatore was correct, the value and magic of the Ferrari brand depends on the financial concept of supply and demand. If Ferrari were to produce as many cars as BMW makes 3-Series’ in one year, the demand for its cars would be eradicated due to their sight being a regularity.
The Ferrari of the modern day must remember the words of their founder in order to maintain the brand's magic (Photo courtesy of Ferrari).
This was a concept that was understood by former Chairman and President, Luca di Montezemolo; hence why he capped annual output to 7,000 cars against the will of FIAT. The Ferrari magic was arguably more present during his tenure. In fact, the slightly damped myth of modern Ferrari has made us appreciate the Ferraris from 1990’s to the end of di Montezemolo’s time at the wheel. We think of this era of Ferrari as more analogue and driver focused. The prancing horses of the time were more compact, louder, more involving, and perhaps even more beautiful. Even some of the ugly ducklings of their time, such as the F50 and 360, are seen in a more positive light than when they left the famous factory gates in Maranello. This is because of their ingredients and development stories. The F50 was meant to be a Formula 1 car for the road, with a 4.7 liter V12 derived from the 3.5 liter V12 unit used in Prost’s and Mansell’s 641 F1 car. The F50 also used a carbon tub instead of a conventional chassis, this was all very innovative for the time as the F50 was one of the first production cars to apply this method of construction. The F50’s design was also not so popular with the tifosi on its debut. Although I might even argue that its design has aged very well and that it is now one of the most universally loved Ferraris. Speaking of unloved designs, the 360 was another universally hated Pininfarina design when it debuted in 1999. Although, to be honest, there was very little Ferrari and Pininfarina could do to live up to the legend that was the F355. In summary, what we, as enthusiasts and as tifosi, want from Ferrari’s future are not overinflated power and torque figures, cars weighing as much as the moon, and cars that are as easy to drive as opening a door. We want and need cars that are more involving and fun to drive, better sounding, higher revving, and more compact if Ferrari wants to maintain its myth and magic.