It’s a question that some have asked quietly over their martinis. Can a luxury sports car be a hybrid and not sacrifice performance? Many have answered the call, and one of those has delivered something a little more special. The 2021 Ferrari SF90 for the 90th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari. Stradale. Hybrid.
Actually, it’s a PHEV or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. There are four motors and you’d be forgiven for thinking that means one for each wheel. Not quite. There is a petrol fed V8, a pair of electric motors up front, and a single electric motor at the rear. This is a dual-purpose motor, powering both for forwarding motion, and working as the Stradale’s reverse gear.
The main power comes from the 90-degree 4.0L V8, delivering 770hp (574kW) and 590ft-lb (800Nm). The front pair delivers 132hp (99kW), and the rear, a curious design that Ferrari themselves call a pizza motor (thickness is just three inches) and delivers 217hp/162kW. This is situated between the new eight-speed dual-clutch auto and the V8. Total power comes to an even 1,000 horsepower as a package. This is good enough to launch the SF90 Stradale to a 2.9 second 0-62mph time, and a neck-straining 6.7 seconds for the 125mph sprint. Top speed? 211mph or 340kph. The 72kg battery is rated as 7.2kWh. On battery power alone, it’s good for 16 miles (26 kilometers) of driving range.
Ferrari offers four driving modes for the SF90 Stradale. eDrive is a purely electric mode, and Hybrid, the default mode, is both the V8 and electric power. In this mode, the car’s onboard computer (called control logic) also turns off the engine if the conditions are ideal in order to save fuel while allowing the driver to start the engine again. Battery top-ups are done on the go in Performance mode and for those heading to the track, Qualify brings everything to the boil.
And there’s some tricky tech involved in the Ferrari SF90 Stradale. It makes driving this as easy as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea. Behind the scenes, Ferrari’s expert engineers worked on pushing the boundaries of torque vectoring. The name is RAC-e or (in Ferrari speak) an electronic cornering set-up regulator for the fully electric front-driven wheels. In essence, not only do the electric engines drive the wheels, they independently control the torque on the fly. This brings an incredible balance to the drive, ensuring that the Stradale is as easy to control on track as it is pootling around in city traffic.
Bringing another element to the performance has been a weight reduction regime. A mix of aluminum and carbon-fiber brings the dry weight down to 3,461lb (1,570kg). This includes the weight of the electric system at 595lb (270kg).
Aerodynamics is a crucial part of the SF90 Stradale’s overall look. Matteo Biancalana, Ferrari’s aerodynamics chief, says: “To reduce turbulence along the car’s flanks the hot airflow coming off the front-mounted coolant radiators is channeled principally to the front underbody and the vents on the front bumper just ahead of the front wheels, while only a minimal percentage of air is evacuated into the front wheelarch.” This lowers the pressure in the wheelarches themselves, thereby also reducing the amount of turbulence along the sides and virtually fairing both the exposed section of the front wheels below the aerodynamic underbody and the outer section.
This solution has the further advantage of preventing the hot air coming off the front-mounted radiators negatively impacting the intercoolers. The front bumper also has a convex section in planview which benefits front downforce. That said, most of the front downforce is actually generated by the underbody, which has been raised by 15mm and features eight pairs of vortex generators that protrude into the front wheelarch.”
A bifurcated rear wing plays a part here. It’s a road-going development of the DRS, or Drag Reduction System found on F1 cars. The fixed section is the home to the stoplight, the mobile part or Gurney flap sits as an integrated part of the wing until the car’s computers declare a need for it to lower via electronic actuators. Ferrari says the system can generate up to 860lb or 390kg of downforce at 155mph/250kph. The wing levels down to the trailing edge of the engine cover, itself lower in order to assist airflow.
But as hot as it may be outside to look at and to drive, it’s the cockpit that also needs to appeal. There is a full-color 16 inch LCD screen and curved at that, for the driver to see speed, navigation, fuel, the hybrid system’s info, and customizable using the steering wheel which now has a touchpad and a series of haptic buttons interface tabs. Ferrari has designed a 3D effect for better vision and visual appeal. By the way, the cockpit has been moved forward without compromising interior space for the passengers. There’s been a re-interpretation of the classic Ferrari “gate” on the transmission tunnel as well, with a modern-style metal plate that houses the iconic design.
How does it drive, though? Italian based automotive reviewer, Michael Taylor, has been one of the lucky ones, and writing for Forbes, says of his experience: “It obliterates any piece of straight road and it’s pretty disdainful of even the trickiest corners, too. Its engine bellows with depth and urgency and you never, ever feel the rear-mounted electric motor chiming in and out, but you know it must be there.” And of the benign nature of the SF90 Stradale? Michael was stunned at its ease, saying: “It’s so calm in the way it goes about its work that it calms you down, even when you’re being forced to manage unprecedented speed and inputs.”
For the United States market, Ferrari says a price of circa USD$625,000 is the starting price.