I had the opportunity this weekend to drive the incredible SF90 Stradale, the new flagship from Ferrari and the fastest and most advanced road car that Ferrari has ever produced. The SF90 Stradale references the 90th Anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari and represents the strong connection between Ferrari’s motorsport heritage and the translation of technology developed through competition into its production cars.
The SF 90 Stradale is the first ever PHEV (Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) from the brand with almost 1,000hp delivering unprecedented performance, reaching 60mph in 2.5 seconds and 211 mph.
The SF90 combines a dry-sump 90 degree twin turbo V8 that produces 769hp, combined with three electric motors that add an additional 217hp, to deliver a massive 986hp at 8,000 rpm and 590 pound torque at 6,000 rpm. The V8 engine is an evolution of the unit that Ferrari utilized in 488 Pista and the F8 Tributo, the same block with capacity increased to 4.0L and with entirely redesigned air intakes and exhausts, made from Inconel—the same material that is used for F1 cars. The internal combustion engine (ICE) is a direct-injection, which is a first for a Ferrari V8. Ferrari has taken great care to lower the center of gravity, the turbochargers are lower than the exhaust system and the power unit is visibly low and deep into the chassis, around 2 inches lower than other mid-engine Ferraris.
The SF90 is also the first mid-engine Ferrari with all-wheel drive. The front axle is fully-electric with two electric motors independently controlling the front wheels to enhance torque vectoring. The third electric motor is located between the engine and completely redesigned 8-speed dual clutch transmission. Despite adding an 8th gear Ferrari has managed to take 45 pounds of weight out of the transmission, assisted by removing reverse gear which is now incorporated into the front electric motors.
For all this technological wizardry, stepping inside the SF90 it is refreshingly minimal and elegant with clean flowing lines and a sleek aeronautical style cockpit oriented around the driver. The touchpad on the bottom of the steering wheel brings the SF90 to life, the screens transition from black and the familiar large circular digital rev counter appears on the 16 inch screen framed by a battery charge indicator and with navigation and media on either side.
The SF90 is also the first Ferrari without a mechanical rev-counter. Channeling the F1 “hands-on-the-wheel” philosophy, almost all the switch gear is on the steering wheel and provides an immediately visual and tactile connection to the competition environment. The digital dash is easily controlled by a touch pad on the left of the steering wheel, with its reassuring familiar yellow logo, and scrolls through three main screens for vehicle, navigation, and media.
On the left of the steering wheel are four buttons to select the power unit management mode, dubbed as the e-Mannetino. These include ‘eD’ for eDrive fully electric driving, where the SF90 can operate as a front wheel drive powered by the two electric motors for up to 15 miles. The ‘H’ for hybrid, which is the default when the car is turned on and the control logic manages power flows to optimize efficiency with the electric motor working the front wheels and third e-motor behind the transmission in tandem with the V8, which fires-up to provide power to the rear wheels. The checkered flag represents Performance mode, where the V8 is always running and is charging the battery. The stopwatch represents ‘Qualify’ mode which is focused on maximizing performance between the V8 and electric motors and unleashing the full 986hp and the control logic prioritizes performance over battery charging.
It is reassuring to see the traditional machined aluminum Manettino on the right side of the wheel that switches between Wet, Sport, Race, and CT/ESC, as well as adjusting the damper settings. The steering wheel also houses a rotary switch for the cruise control, another solution directly derived from Formula 1. The auto, manual and reverse functions are set into an aluminum plate on the tunnel, which reference the classic and iconic gear lever gate.
Starting the SF90 requires a touch of the finger on the steering wheel, engaging drive and at low speeds, Hybrid. It initially runs only on the electric motors. Pulling away in the SF90 using only electric power, it emits a synthetic whirring sounds that makes it sound a bit like a spaceship. In Hybrid mode the V8 comes to life under acceleration and otherwise, it is incredibly quiet, pliable, and docile.
Switching into the qualify settings and race settings, the SF90 transforms and acceleration is blisteringly fast as you are pinned into the carbon fiber seats, the scenery rapidly blurs and the sensation exhilarating as the electric motors and V8 work in concert. The combined contribution of the electric motors in maximum traction conditions helps to reduce the response time of the V8, which enhances acceleration and performance.
The brake-by-wire system, another first for Ferrari, enables the car to combine regenerative braking, to recharge the battery, with disc braking but Ferrari have retained the conventional separation between accelerator and brake and resisted the urge to go to single pedal drivability. They have managed to maintain the progressive braking feel in the electronic system, pedal travel is short and Ferrari have figured out a way to allow for the feel of some of the vibration to come through the chassis under heavy braking, before the ABS comes in, which makes the braking feel more intuitive.
The electric power steering is excellent with just two turns between locks and overall the car feels incredibly nimble and agile, no doubt considerably enhanced by the low center of gravity. In Qualify mode the SF90 is primarily rear wheel drive, but a series of electronic algorithms and torque vectoring distribute power between the three electric motors seamlessly with the ICE and are highly effective in combatting understeer or oversteer to produce surgically precise performance. When the SF90 is above 130mph, the front electric motors disengage and the car becomes rear wheel drive with all power from the engine and electric motors transferred to the rear axle.
The amazing thing about the SF90 Stradale is that this is a usable supercar that can go from a stealthy quiet hybrid to unleashing almost 1,000hp with extraordinary dexterity, delivering maximum power that propels the SF90 Stradale to 60mph in 2.5 seconds, on to 124mph in 6.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 211mph. This puts the SF90 in the same performance category as the McLaren Senna and the Koenigsegg One.
Ferrari refer to the SF90 Stradale as the new series-production supercar and it certainly represents a new chapter in the history of the brand. It is a massive evolution from the La Ferrari and a paradigm shift as Ferrari’s first production PHEV. The SF90 has also set new performance benchmarks as the fastest production car around the Fiorano Track, in 79 seconds. Whilst production has not been capped, there is already an extensive waitlist and you are only likely to get one if you have a proven history of Ferrari ownership. And of course, a cool $650,000 to put down.