Ferrari 296 GTS Hybrid Review: ‘Arresting, uncanny beauty’ with $366,139 price tag

Don’t make the mistake of patronizing the Ferrari 296 GTS. I know it’s tempting, because this $366,139 centerfold packs a V-6 hybrid setup rather than the 8- and 12-cylinder power plants that have made Ferrari NV famous. There’s a lot of pride and brand identity built into those internal combustion machines. “Ferrari doesn’t make cars, Ferrari makes engines,” as the saying goes.

The smaller engine is not without precedent. The company made road-going V-6s in the 1970s, though it doesn’t recognize those “Dino” models as official, brand-name Ferraris, even today. It’s a long story having to do with Enzo Ferrari’s deceased son, nicknamed Dino, and some sort of weird machismo about how many cylinders belong in an engine before it can be considered manly. (The models were designed and built by Ferrari but marketed as a new, entry-level brand called Dino.)

Anyway. As Ferrari rolls toward its first all-electric car, arriving next year, it makes sense that it would also make a hybrid or two. The 296 GTS is the open-air version of the excellent Ferrari 296 GTB plug-in hybrid, which made its debut in 2021, following the LaFerrari mild hybrid of 2013. 

I drove the 296 GTS around South Beach and Miami’s Design District, over Rickenbacker Causeway, and out to Hard Rock Stadium during the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix. It was a Ferrari-heavy weekend: The brand was celebrating 70 years of sales in the US and had unveiled a glorious new pair of 12-cylinder sports cars. I tried not to get too distracted. Here’s what I thought. 

The Essentials

The mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-seater combines 819 horsepower and 546 pound-feet of torque. It has seven miles of all-electric range and 47 MPGe in combined gasoline and electric driving. With a smooth eight-speed transmission and ultra-supple handling, it will get to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 205 mph. 

The Good

Arresting, uncanny beauty characterizes this stunning Spider. I drove one in Blu Corsa, a decadent tone that accentuated its most seductive angles and highlighted its rear buttresses, worthy of a feature in Architectural Digest. This is one of the rare convertibles that looks as good with the top up as it does with it down. (The roof folds down in 14 seconds, at speeds of up to 28 mph.) Either way, this Italian treat exists not in the realm of fashion but in the realm of style.

Possibly even more exciting, the 296 GTS is faster than almost anything else you can buy—but the way the handling, suspension and balance of the car control that speed so elegantly is what makes driving it an unforgettable experience. The hybrid power plant excelled when I drove slowly through pedestrian-heavy Collins Avenue; its all-electric mode kept the car blessedly silent so I wasn’t that person with a screaming engine disturbing the joggers and cyclists as they enjoyed the ocean vibes.

Cruising over Miami’s many bridges and overpasses felt like a chance to fly. That’s when the full power of Ferrari’s unique engine made the car soar. In those exhilarating moments, submitting to legal speed limits became my only concern. 

The Bad

The inane infotainment system. The maddening setup offers a postage stamp of a haptic touchscreen on the steering wheel to control simple things such as the radio station. I had to rely on my passenger and their own little dashboard-mounted control screen to adjust the climate and audio and to sync my phone with the car, which was almost as complicated and annoying for them as it was for me. Anyone who’s tried to reason with the old-world Italian mentality of time and order will get it. (An American who works for an Italian company once told me, “Italians are great at making simple things complex and complex things simple.”) We love them for it. 

If you’ve got long legs or big feet or both, you’ll find the footbox rather claustrophobic. 

If You Remember One Thing

There’s a reason why Ferrari’s order banks are full years in advance, even when the average price of its cars is four times higher than Porsche’s. The company sets the bar for sexy sports cars that are fun to drive and that look incredible even when parked. The 296 GTS is one of them. 

Still unconvinced? Drive it around for a day and bask in the appreciative looks from your fellow drivers and in the sheer fun of driving it, and just keep your mouth shut about what’s under the hood. Nobody needs to know it’s only a V-6. 

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