Maranello's latest creation is not just the fastest road car Ferrari has ever made: from its pioneering 1,000cv plug-in hybrid drivetrain to its four-wheel drive layout, it is revolutionary
Over the 90 years that Scuderia Ferrari has been competing on the world’s race-tracks, perhaps the most technically interesting time is the current Formula 1 ‘hybrid’ era. Successfully combining conventional and electric power sources is a tremendous challenge. Now, the marque’s F1 hybrid expertise finds a home in an all-new hybrid hypercar, the SF90 Stradale.
The Prancing Horse’s first ever plug-in hybrid vehicle adopts two power sources – internal combustion and electric – just as in its Formula 1 car. The mid-mounted petrol engine is a major evolution of Maranello's multi-award-winning V8 twin-turbo. Vittorio Dini, Powertrain Director, explains: “So much has changed that it almost feels like a new engine.
It’s grown in size to 4.0 litres, has a new cylinder head, new fuel injection system, valves, manifolds, con rods and pistons, to name but a few.” On its own, the new V8 - which is significantly more efficient and generates fewer harmful emissions - develops a mighty 780cv. But when you add in the power of the three electric motors (fully 220cv), the total output is a scarcely believable 1,000cv, and peak torque is a monumental 900Nm.
Top speed is over 340km/h - another Ferrari first - and the car powers from 0-100km/h in just 2.5 seconds. Aside from its speed the car offers exceptional control, thanks to the hybrid powertrain, which provides four-wheel drive. The electric motors - one at the rear and two up front powering the front wheels - aid the driver when required.
The system is not all-wheel drive all of the time: at speeds above 210km/h, the front axle disconnects, leaving the car rear-wheel drive only. The SF90 is the first Maranello car capable of driving in 100 per cent electric drive (ED) mode. You can travel up to 25km without the V8 engine ever turning a crankshaft, right up to a speed of 135km/h.
When the car is ED mode it is exclusively front-wheel drive, making this the first ever Ferrari capable of being powered by the front axle only. The new hybrid called for new thinking in many areas. As Paolo Valenti, Project Team Leader, explains: “The leap in performance is huge.
The challenges of developing so much innovation all in one go were equally huge – usually around 40 per cent of parts are newly developed; for the SF90 Stradale, it’s 90 per cent.” The design is innovative, too, but in discreet ways: at first glance, the body has the smooth and unadorned look so characteristic of Ferrari. But that belies the fact that the SF90 Stradale has the highest downforce, and the least aerodynamic drag, of any Prancing Horse series car ever.
“The car’s profile is shaped to resemble a drop of water, with the cabin forward and an extremely low centre of gravity. This set-up allows for excellent aerodynamic performance,” explains Marc Poulain, the car’s Senior Exterior Designer. Design details abound, clearly distinguishing the SF90 Stradale - named in honour of the Scuderia's 90th year of racing - from anything that preceded it. Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari Head of Design, explains that the team wanted to create an advanced, futuristic look that set a new tone.
“The SF90 is an extreme car that looks like a slingshot ready to be released, the result of a careful balance between volumes, a sleek architecture and dynamism. It’s a car with an almost spaceship-like, futuristic personality that looks ready to pounce.” Poulain points out other details: “The headlights, with their minimalist horizontal slat design, represent a radical break with the previous, L-shaped headlights.
The rear lights reveal an even more dramatic break with Ferrari tradition: the iconic round shape, part of the Prancing Horse’s DNA, has been replaced with compressed, luminous rings, which are more expressive.” The cabin is every bit as revolutionary, and is rigorously designed around the driver.
Most striking is the gently curving, fully digital driver display, which features a ‘black’ mode in which much of the display is darkened, focussing attention. “The idea of offering drivers and passengers a full-digital experience required a re-thinking of all the operating functions, which were once predominantly mechanical,” explains Angelo Nivola, Senior Interior Designer.
Another first for Ferrari is a head-up display that projects information on to the windscreen.
The steering wheel also gets a digital ‘upgrade’, which includes an integrated display that allows for selecting commands via ‘virtual icons’, as well as a new manettino, with five selectable driving modes. But there’s something new here too: four buttons that alter the performance levels provided by the electric motors, with an ‘ED’ button enabling 100 per cent pure electric drive.
With the SF90 Stradale, Ferrari has begun a revolution in its car-making, one that will see an ever-increasing proportion of its road cars adopt hybrid and digital technology. Expect increasing performance, lower emissions... and lots more fun.