Road tests

New Ferrari 296 GTS 2022 review

Will a convertible roof and a plug-in hybrid powertrain quell Ferrari's mid-engined supercar passion? We drive the 296 GTS to find out...

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Find your Ferrari 296
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
9/10 sellers got the price they expected


Any concerns that chopping the roof off the Ferrari 296 might dent the excitement it can generate disappear the first time you make the most of that 819bhp output. In terms of speed, sophistication and refinement, the 296 Spider remains an incredible piece of engineering. That it also maintains the theatre and thrills of the great Ferraris sends it right towards the top of the supercar pile.

This is the all new Ferrari 296 GTS. That ‘S’ stands for Spider, which means what we have here is the open top version of the 296 GTB: one of the most mind-bending supercars we’ve ever driven. 

That doesn’t guarantee that all will be perfect here, mind you. There are some performance car fans who will tell you that open top sports cars will never be as good as the hard top equivalents - that convertibles are heavier, slower and, as a result, lose their edge. Ferrari disagrees; it describes the GTS as the most “fun” model in its lineup.

Look at the stats at least, and those convertible naysayers score the first points. At 1,540kg, the GTS weighs 70kg more than the GTB. The increase is due both to the mechanicals of the roof mechanism and minor strengthening around the sills and the door pillars.

More reviews

That’s really just the same as carrying a passenger, though, and the result is a car which Ferrari reckons is 50 per cent more rigid than its previous Spiders, and barely any less stiff than the coupe.

The roof itself is very smart. The aluminium panel flips vertically 180 degrees into a space just behind the seats and above the engine, a process that takes only 14 seconds. You don’t need to stop to operate it either, as it’ll work at up to 28mph.

The 296 GTB is the first ever V6 Ferrari - the V6-engined Dinos aren’t recognised as Ferraris. Now normally downsizing is fine in a small hatchback, but performance car buyers demand excitement from their engines, and losing two cylinders from its predecessor puts that at risk. Add the words “plug-in hybrid”, and Ferrari knew that it really needed to deliver on the excitement to stop buyers turning up their noses.

Clever tuning of the exhaust to pick out the engine’s higher pitched harmonics, plus internal ducting to improve the acoustics inside the cabin, meant our encounter with the coupe proved it really does live up to the “piccolo V12” billing that the Italian marque has claimed. 

Losing the roof has made that task a little trickier. The need to package that canopy forces both the ducting and the exhaust itself to be re-routed, so a lot of work has gone into the Spider’s noise tuning just to maintain the same character. 

The good news is that Ferrari has succeeded. The 3.0-litre unit doesn’t just sound good by the standards of turbocharged V6 units, but sounds better than any mid-engined Ferrari sports car since the naturally aspirated 458. Better still, without a roof, it’s even easier to appreciate the rich howl that it makes as it climbs up to its 8,5000rpm red line. 

And it really doesn’t take long to get to that spine-tingling noise at maximum revs, either. The engine alone makes 654bhp, but switch the hybrid settings to Qualifying Mode, and the full boost from the electric motor gives you access to the maximum 819bhp. 

There was a time when putting big power like this to the rear wheels seemed like an engineering challenge. The tyres and suspension geometry would squabble with torque and traction before the real physics fist-fight broke out. 

Not so with the 296 - at least to a point. Sure, if you’re feeling mischievous, you can flick it into ESC off, mash the throttle, and it’ll quite happily lay two black lines on the tarmac as it lights up the rear Pirellis for the duration of first gear. But let the assist systems help you out, and the way it deploys its power is just staggering. 

The 296 GTS will accelerate for a launch-control assisted 0-62mph time of just 2.9 seconds. 0-124mph takes 7.6 seconds. Yet this is a car that doesn’t feel any more difficult to drive quickly than a hot hatchback - despite the fact you’re going much, much faster everywhere.

The 296’s electronics are key to this. These various systems all talk to one another through Ferrari’s 6w-CDS dynamic ‘brain’. Not only can it react to differing levels of slip at each wheel, but it can actively predict when they might happen, based on wheel and pedal applications, speed and yaw. It works with the ABS Evo brake-by-wire system from the F8 Tributo, which gives both incredible stopping power, but also a very natural feel and slick transition between motor regen and mechanical braking. In short, it’s so slick that you don’t even notice it’s happening.

In combination with the chassis itself, the result is staggering. The hardware is the same as the coupe’s, with the most minor tuning required to compensate for the extra mass. The Spider mixes sharpness and poise with uncanny levels of predictability. Normally you have to settle for either agility or stability, but here there’s both.

And comfort, too. This is a supercar that really rides superbly. Even in its firmest modes, it’s easy to live with every day; in its relaxed settings, it’s genuinely comfortable. Being a plug-in hybrid, you can even switch to a fully electric drive mode; making the whole process more relaxing. With 164bhp and 315Nm, performance is absolutely fine for everyday driving, and there’s a range of 16 miles thanks to the 7.45kWh battery. The roof-down silence is as pleasant as full bore acceleration is exciting. 

So are there any downsides at all. Yes, but only small ones. Inside, the steering wheel and dash are adorned with keys on touch-sensitive panels. Some, particularly the mirror controls, are very irritating to use. The starter is a touch-sensitive area rather than a physical button too, which removes any sort of theatre you might hope for when turning the car on. The navigation is about the only part of this car that could be considered slow. But we’re nit-picking.

Model:Ferrari 296 GTS
Price:£300,000 (est)
Powertrain:3.0 V6 turbo, e-motor, 7.5kWh battery
Transmission:Eight-speed DCT, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph:2.9 seconds
Top speed:205mph+
On sale:Now
Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

Most Popular

Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month
Defender Hard Top - downhill off road

Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month

The current Defender is a fantastic SUV van for businesses and is our Car Deal of the Day for 20 February
20 Feb 2024
“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”
Opinion - Dacia Spring

“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”

With many people claiming electric cars are just too expensive, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks the Dacia Spring’s arrival in the UK is exactly wh…
21 Feb 2024
New Volkswagen Tiguan 2024 review: improved quality and more practical than ever
Volkswagen Tiguan - front
Road tests

New Volkswagen Tiguan 2024 review: improved quality and more practical than ever

The new Volkswagen Tiguan addresses many of its predecessor's failings, but it’s still far from the best in class to drive
21 Feb 2024