Cars

<em>Photo: Justin Leighton </em>

The SF90 Stradale taken to the limit

Maranello's wicked, new hybrid supercar took former F1 Scuderia driver Giancarlo Fisichella for a 'test drive' around the Fiorano track. Preconceived ideas flew out the window
Words

Alessio Viola

The SF90 Stradale name encapsulates two worlds that are closely related yet miles apart: it is a deliberate salute to this year’s Formula 1 car - the SF90 - yet is at the same time a clear nod to the long and glorious Ferrari Grand Tourer tradition.

Who better, then, to put it through its paces than Giancarlo Fisichella? He is, after all, a driver whose career has had a similar kind of duality: a decade ago he was at the wheel of the Scuderia’s F1 racers and today he fields a 488 GTE for the Spirit of Race team.

Needless to say, the corners and straights of Fiorano provided the ideal backdrop to this driver-car encounter. It was a silent duet of sorts, ‘interrupted’ only by the Ferrari engineers and test drivers who revealed the secrets of their latest creation. And there was a lot to reveal: the SF90 Stradale lays the foundations for the new generation of models. It hails a paradigm shift that will define the future of the marque, but isn’t about rejecting its past. After all, traditions are not static: they change with the times, adapting to the world around them. The result is, of course, that what might seem almost sacrilegiously new right now, will soon become the tradition of tomorrow.

The SF90 Stradale seems deliberately designed to confuse, mix and, more than anything else, to fully redraw boundaries that had previously seemed set in stone. To start with, its 1.000cv have a hugely powerful symbolic value, but the most impressive thing of all is where they come from: 780cv are punched out by the multi-award-winning twin turbo V8 which has been boosted to 4 litres for the occasion, whilst 220cv are delivered by three electric motors, two of which drive the front wheels, with the third nestled between the V8 and the 8-speed dual clutch gearbox.

Fisichella gets to grips with the highest performing car Maranello has ever made <em>Photo: Justin Leighton </em>
Fisichella gets to grips with the highest performing car Maranello has ever made Photo: Justin Leighton

“It’s a rocket!” Fisichella exclaims when he gets back to the pits. He then proceeds to explain how impressed he is with the car’s powerful cornering and especially its razor-sharp response to the throttle. That is due, of course, to those aforementioned electric motors which deliver power with a promptness that will make drivers forget about turbo lag once and for all.

The electric motors are also pivotal to the car’s handling, something Giancarlo realised at the very first bend. “If you play around with the throttle, you feel the nose of the car almost being channelled into the line you have chosen.” In other words, torque vectoring ensures that Maranello’s latest creation brings together the very best of both worlds: the feel of rear-wheel drive combined with the cornering speed of AWD.

Breaking with recent Ferrari design tradition, the SF90 Stradale debuts horizontal 'slat' headlights <em>Photo: Justin Leighton </em>
Breaking with recent Ferrari design tradition, the SF90 Stradale debuts horizontal 'slat' headlights Photo: Justin Leighton

As he listened to the long list of new features in the cockpit and the Human-Machine Interface - another of the radical changes debuted on the SF90 Stradale - Fisichella started to get curious about the all-electric eDrive mode. Out on the track, however, instinct took over and he almost immediately flicked the manettino into the ‘CT Off’ position. The asphalt was still wet in places but that posed no problem at all. In fact, it actually proved pretty convincingly that this Ferrari retains the Prancing Horse’s signature smooth, effortless handling.

Further confirmation, if it were needed, that the SF90 Stradale doesn’t require you to take sides in a world that sometimes seems divided between those who cling to the old ways and those who think differently. Instead, it embraces the new without turning its back on tradition. That, more than anything else, is what makes it so magnificent. 

Ferrari