What is the state of the modern hypercar? You're looking at it. This is the Ferrari SF90 Stradale, a 986-horsepower, all-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid rocketship that will sprint from 0 to 62 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds. Or, for those who prefer a stealthy departure, the Stradale can travel up to 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) on electricity alone, thanks to its 7.9-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack.
Ferrari's latest hypercar was unveiled in Maranello, Italy, on Wednesday, and after having some time to look at and sit in it, I can tell you it's a stunning thing. But, as ever, there's a lot more to it than that.
Let's start with what makes it move, because while Ferrari's newest powertrain is its most advanced by a mile, it all has a familiar foundation. Sitting at the center is the well-known 4.0-liter, turbocharged V8 found in the 488 GTB. However, that lump has received some significant modifications, including a slight boost in displacement (3,990 cc versus 3,902) and a new fuel system. This brings the power up to 769 horsepower, compared with 710 in the 488 Pista.
That's just the beginning. The Stradale pairs that engine with a trio of electric motors. The biggest sits in the middle of the car and is attached directly to the transmission, providing a maximum of 148 horsepower. The other two motors provide a combined maximum 84 horsepower. They sit up front, one attached to each wheel, to enable torque-vectoring all-wheel drive in a layout that is very similar to the Acura NSX's.
Total theoretical power of the entire system is limited slightly by the output of the battery pack, providing a maximum 217 horsepower from the three motors. That, added to the V8's power, brings us to that 986 horsepower figure -- which is a nice, round 1,000 if you prefer CV, or metric horsepower.
The engine and motor are connected to a revised, eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission that's not only smaller than before, but shifts 30% faster: just 200 milliseconds. That smaller transmission and revised turbo placement bring the entire assembly lower in the chassis, a fact that is apparent the second you peek through the clear engine cover. Those who love gazing at Ferrari's famous crimson valve covers may be a bit disappointed to see that the engine sits so low that you can barely even see them. But they're down there, nestled in a bed of aluminum and carbon fiber.
While I'll always rate performance as more important than aesthetics, given this is a Ferrari you can't discount the shape of the thing, and the way that shape makes you feel. We've seen some supercars trending a little too far toward the function over form side of things (hello, Senna), but Ferrari generally does a good job of splitting the difference. Enrico Galliera, Ferrari's chief marketing officer, said, "Design should be functional to the technology, but should still be something that is called a piece of art."
Art is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I have a feeling that some of you will find the Stradale to be a bit much. I quite like the look, but I think it's worth pointing out that Ferrari's overly clean, rendered images you see here don't do the proportions of the car justice. (I sadly wasn't allowed to photograph the car myself.)
In person, you can quickly appreciate how dramatically low the Stradale is, and how aggressively forward the cabin sits. The large greenhouse makes for excellent visibility from the inside, while on the outside the way the roof and A-pillars are blacked out by default give it the air of a concept come to production. The inset intakes just aft of the doors are positively massive -- owners of small dogs will want to pull them close when one of these drives by -- and the nose is dominated by a prominent wing not unlike that on the Pista, but somewhat more subtly integrated.
The round exhausts, Camaro-like square taillights and random gills on the side conspire to make an overall very busy posterior.
It's the rear, I think, where many may struggle to "get" the Stradale. The core "trimaran" shape is dramatic, a pair of dark channels highlighting the massive split diffuser that extends half-way up the back of the car. But the round exhausts, Camaro-like square taillights and random gills on the side conspire to make an overall very busy posterior.
Viewed from above, however, the car looks remarkably clean and purposeful, the obligatory flying buttresses soaring back to support the rear wheels in a shape that Ferrari calls "the slingshot effect." I love it.
If the exterior of the Stradale is a little too radical for you, I'm sorry to say you won't find solace on the inside. This is Ferrari's most progressive and dazzingly high-tech interior to date. The highlight is a massive 16-inch curved display situated behind the steering wheel. Continuing the trend from cars like the 488 GTB, this is not only the gauge cluster but also the infotainment interface, so everything from radio tuning to navigation is all here. Because of that, the extra real estate is appreciated.
If that weren't enough, the Stradale has a new head-up display (HUD) that will reconfigure based on your driving mode. Navigating to the track? It'll show you speed and turn information. Trying to find that last tenth at the track? It'll turn into a big, projected tachometer.
A 16-inch, curved display serves as the gauge cluster and infotainment interface.
Controlling all that is a radically redesigned steering wheel that will be familiar to those who've driven basically any Ferrari since the 458, but takes the concept of putting everything you need on the steering wheel to the next level. The big change is reducing the number of buttons while simultaneously increasing the number of things you can control right from the wheel.
How? The magic of touch. The wheel features multiple capacitive-touch interfaces for everything from scrolling through pages on the multifunction display to toggling between hybrid modes. Physical, tactile controls remain for crucial functionality like using the turn signals and turning on the windshield wipers. (Take that, Model 3.)
In a quick demo, I found the touch surfaces to be intuitive and very responsive. I also confirmed they do at least work through thin gloves. However, whether all that proves to be more intuitive than tactile controls remains to be seen. We'll need to schedule a test drive to know for sure.
And what about the most important aspect of the interior in a Ferrari, the sound of the engine? That, too, will require some saddle time, but Ferrari spoke of a new means of channeling the engine's sound directly into the cabin to enhance the sound without relying on digital augmentation. In concept it sounds similar to Porsche's sound "symposer," which in practice works quite well.
The entire powertrain sits lower in the SF90's chassis.
In the minds of many, the new SF90 Stradale's most immediate competition will be its predecessor, the LaFerrari. Maranello's first hybrid made 949 horsepower and weighed 3,495 pounds. The new car? 986 horsepower and 3,461 pounds. So a little more oomph and a little less weight -- assuming you choose the Assetto Fiorano package, which shaves off 66 pounds thanks to carbon fiber wheels and titanium springs.
Those numbers are close, but the torque-vectoring AWD system, plus the host of other innovations (like a new brake-by-wire system), mean the Stradale is a full second faster around Ferrari's Fiorano test track. Interestingly, though, its 211-mph top speed is actually slightly lower. Given the choice between arbitrary top speed and on-track performance, I'll take the latter every day of the week.
That AWD configuration is much like that of the 875-horsepower, 3,600-pound Porsche 918, but there's one major problem in comparing this car to either of those, and that's they're both out of production. So is the McLaren P1, the other member of the former Holy Trinity.
The SF90's 211-mph top speed is slightly slower than that of its predecessor, the LaFerrari.
Unlike those, the Stradale will not be a limited-edition car. Ferrari's not saying how many it'll build -- "one less than the market demands," Ferrari's Galliera quipped when asked -- but this will be a regular addition to the lineup, slotting in above the 812 Superfast as the new top-shelf model.
As such, it'll cost more than the Superfast, but Ferrari isn't ready to name that price just yet.
The wave of progress continues, and that Ferrari's fastest production car ever isn't some ultrarare limited edition gives me renewed confidence that the future of driving fast is only going to get brighter. And the future is what this car is all about. With increased focus on electrification and other new technologies, Ferrari CTO Michael Leiters says the SF90 is just the "first step in a direction that Ferrari is committed to pursuing with unwavering determination." So, more battery packs in more cars, then.
What makes the future even brighter is that the SF90 Stradale won't be the only hypercar hitting the road next year. It'll share asphalt with radical machines like the Aston Martin Valkyrie, the Mercedes-AMG One and the McLaren Speedtail. Who will form the foundation of the next Holy Trinity? Place your bets now and I'll see you at the altar.
The SF90 is the "first step in a direction that Ferrari is committed to pursuing with unwavering determination," says the company.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this feature were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms.
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