Ferrari SF90 Stradale: 1000hp hybrid rewrites the sportscar rulebook



Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will be in Singapore by September, and it’s a stormer — with 1,000 horsepower under the bonnet, it’s set to redefine what makes a modern sportscar

  • First PHEV from Ferrari
  • Ferrari’s first all-wheel drive sportscar
  • 1,000 horsepower output from a turbo V8 and three motors
  • Torque vectoring sharpens handling
  • 0 to 100km/h in 2.5 seconds; 0 to 200km/h in 6.7 seconds!
  • Up to 25km of pure electric drive
  • 390kg of downforce at 250km/h
  • Digital cockpit with 16-inch curved screen
  • On sale now with deliveries starting mid-2020
  •  

FIORANO MODENESE — This is the Ferrari SF90 Stradale, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with some stupendous numbers behind it.

It’s powered by Ferrari’s most powerful ever eight-cylinder engine, a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that produces 780 horsepower by itself. To that, Ferrari has added three electric motors — one between the V8 and a new eight-speed, twin-clutch auto transmission, and two in front, powering the wheels individually.

The result is 1,000 horsepower, enough to send the 1.6 tonne two-seater to 100km/h in just 2.5 seconds, or 200km/h from standstill in a stomach-churning 6.7 seconds.

But this isn’t a limited-edition hypercar that Ferrari reserves for its favourite customers, as it so often does with its special models. The SF90 Stradale is a series production model for anyone who wants to find out what 1,000 horsepower feels like.

Ferrari has invited 2,000 potential buyers to its Fiorano test circuit to view the SF90 Stradale this week.

The SF90 will serve as the brand’s new flagship. It doesn’t replace a current model, but sits atop the 812 Superfast as the most extreme sportscar in its lineup. Ferrari says it won’t release prices until the end of this week, but the 812 costs roughly S$1.4 million without options or Certificate Of Entitlement in Singapore, and the SF90 will be pricier than that.

The plug-in is the second of five new models that Ferrari will launch this year, as part of a five-year expansion plan. Another 13 new cars will be on the market by the end of 2022, and most of them will be hybrids.

Louis Camilleri, Ferrari’s chief executive, told the press yesterday that the new plugin is the “first step” in a direction that Ferrari is determined to pursue.

“It is our first hybrid series production car to satisfy the demands of today’s sustainable world,” he said of the SF90.

The car has a lithium-ion battery pack with 7.9 kilowatt-hour capacity, slightly more than the energy that the BMW i8’s battery could store when it first came out. It can run as a zero-emissions electric car for up to 25km, and at up to 135 km/h.

The novelty of near-silent e-drive is something Ferrari expects its drivers to embrace. “I’m convinced that the customer will love it,” said Michael Leiters, the chief technology officer of Ferrari.

The hybrid drivetrain actually offers four different operating modes. To quote the press pack:

 

eDrive: the internal combustion engine remains off and traction is entrusted entirely to the electric front axle. Starting with a fully charged battery, the car can cover up to 25 km in this mode. This mode is ideal for city centre driving or any other situation in which the driver wishes to eliminate the sound of the Ferrari V8.

Hybrid: this is the default setting when the car is turned on, in which the power flows are managed to optimise the overall efficiency of the system. The control logic autonomously decides whether to keep the internal combustion engine running or turn it off. If it is on, the internal combustion engine can run at maximum power thus guaranteeing powerful performance whenever the driver requires.

Performance: unlike ‘Hybrid’, this mode keeps the ICE running because the priority is more on charging the battery than on efficiency. This guarantees that power is instantly and fully available when required. This mode is best suited to situations in which driving pleasure and fun behind the wheel are the main focus.   

Qualify: this mode allows the system to achieve maximum power output by allowing the electric motors to work at their maximum potential (162kW). The control logic prioritises performance over battery charging.

 

Ferrari quotes a top speed of 340km/h. Asked by CarBuyer if that wasn’t a modest speed for a 1,000hp car, Mr Leiters said that straightline speed wasn’t an engineering priority for him and his technical team.

“I must admit I’m only moderately interested in top speed. It’s more than 340km/h but even on the race track it’s rare to hit that speed,” he said. What’s more important are cornering speeds, acceleration and even the sound of the car, he believes.

The SF90 has a cockpit inspired by fighter jets. Inside, it embraces digital tech, with a 16-inch curved screen and head-up display system instead of conventional instruments.

A new steering wheel has touchpads with haptic feedback — even the engine start button isn’t a physical switch but a touch-sensitive one — that can control 80 percent of the car’s functions.

Mr Leiters said the systems are part of Ferrari’s new “eyes on the road, hands on the steering” approach to cockpit design.

What with all the new controls, one welcome nod to classic Ferraris is the gearbox control, which harks back to the H-gate of the brand’s manual transmissions.

The gearbox itself is a technical highlight. It’s extremely compact, so much so that its small size helped to lower the car’s centre of gravity by 15mm.

It’s also 10kg lighter than before, thanks in part to one clever idea: engineers eliminated the reverse gear, since the front electric motors can do the job of pushing the car backwards.

Having eight speeds means it cuts fuel consumption (by 8 percent on the street and 1 percent on the track), and Ferrari says the new transmission is 33 percent faster than the old seven-speed (its clutch fill time is 200 milliseconds instead of 300), which was already the fastest on the market.

The new car’s cabin is compact, and feels relatively snug (at least, it did to this 1.74m tall writer), but the SF90 itself is remarkably low-slung in the flesh, and surprisingly delicate looking for something with a four-figure horsepower output.

And in spite of the car’s clean lines, a huge amount of aerodynamic fine-tuning has gone into its design. At 250km/h, the bodywork actually generates 390kg of downforce — the force that presses the car to the road to improve stability. That’s an enormous figure that speaks of how determined Ferrari has been to make the car controllable.

And though its bereft of huge wings and spoilers, the SF90 has a “shut-off Gurney”, an active panel that dips instead of extends to increase downforce  during cornering or drag under braking.

Indeed, Mr Leiters said there are 25 systems designed to help the driver. One of these is a torque vectoring system called RAC-e (for “rotational axis control – electric) that uses the individual motors in the front axle to send varying amounts of power to each wheel.

The system adds agility, and feels like a hand helping the car to turn, he said, adding that it makes the SF90 feel 200kg lighter than it is.

A more hardcore version of the SF90 Stradale is also available, courtesy of an optional performance pack called Assetto Fiorano.

In that specification, the SF90 has shock absorbers derived from GT racing, a different rear wing design for extra downforce and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres optimised for fast laptimes in the dry

Weight-saving parts such as carbon fibre doors and underbody panels, along with springs and an exhaust system made of titanium help to shave 30kg off the standard car.

The SF90 itself makes use of a “multi-material” approach to its spaceframe, which mixes aluminium with carbon fibre to save weight and offset some of the added kilos from the hybrid hardware.

To give a sense of the new car’s pure speed, Mr Leiter turned to Ferrari’s favourite benchmark — the time taken to do one lap of the Fiorano test track.

At 79 seconds, the SF90 Stradale is a full second faster than the LaFerrari, the 2013 supercar that until now was the fastest road car ever to come out of Maranello, and also the brand’s first hybrid.

The SF90’s name alludes to the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari, the company’s Formula One racing team, and the car’s speed around Fiorano brings to mind a famous quote from Enzo Ferrari. After the very first F1 grand prix in which his own cars beat the Alfa Romeo team that gave him his start in racing, he said, “Today I have killed my mother.”

Given its superiority over the LaFerrari, it might be said that the SF90 Stradale has killed its mother, too.

about the author

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.