Ferrari 296 GTS review: the best convertible supercar on sale?

The 296 GTB Ferrari’s fresh twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 is really quite tuneful, its sonic spectrum loaded with higher frequencies. It’s natural, too. There are pipes that cleverly channel appealing sounds from pick-ups around the engine bay into the cockpit via a series of valves and resonators but there is nothing man-made about any of it. Roofless GTS duties should suit this engine well.

We’re familiar enough with the Ferrari 296 GTB to say that we absolutely love it. Ferrari took a risk when they decided to fit it with a hybrid V6 powertrain, but it certainly paid off – it’s something of a benchmark for other cars in class, combining a genuinely fun driving experience with a frankly ludicrous amount of speed.

Well, now there’s a convertible version. It’s got the same 819bhp setup as the coupe, and Ferrari says that it’s just as fast. However, convertible supercars can be somewhat hit or miss – the lack of a solid roof means that you need extra strengthening throughout, which can add a fair chunk of weight, and if there isn’t enough of it then the driving experience can be seriously compromised when compared to its hardtop counterpart.

So, has Ferrari managed to create an open-top 296 that drives just as well as the coupe?

But first, those compromises. Ferrari’s stated aim with the 296 GTS is to replicate the character of the sensationally good 296 GTB as faithfully as possible. It’s why the double-wishbone suspension in both cars uses exactly the same geometry; why the EPAS calibration is unchanged; and why the damping rates have been tweaked only on account of the Spider’s extra 70kg, rather than to give the car any distinct dynamic. That’s one of the drawbacks: 70kg, plenty of it quite high up in the car’s structure. Rigidity is the other. However, while Ferrari wouldn’t say how close the GTS gets to matching the GTB, it did claim at the launch event a 50% improvement compared with the F8 Spider, which sounds pretty remarkable. As for performance, the GTB and GTS are identical: 0-62mph in 2.9sec, at least 205mph flat out.

No surprise, then, that the rear-drive, plug-in hybrid powertrain is also unchanged. That means 654bhp comes from the V6 and 164bhp is generated by the slim motor between the flywheel and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, with its versatile limited-slip differential.

The GTS also employs the GTB’s fiercely complex electronic chassis command centre. This uses data from the steering, throttle and e-diff plus various gyroscopes and sensors to keep the handling as locked down or joyfully adjustable as you like, all in the context of relative safety. For civilised slivers of oversteer on the exits of the bends, you might set the powertrain to Performance and for chassis have the eManettino (that’s the colourful rotary dial on the steering wheel) in CT Off. For maximum attack at Silverstone, you’d go straight for Race on the eManettino and set the powertrain to Qualifying, which is the only way to get all 819bhp.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
Business And Features Writer


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