With the SF90 Stradale, Ferrari has answered the EU’s tightening emission standards by releasing a car which not only meets all their present and future regulations, but also happens to be the most powerful and fastest road car the company has ever built.
The SF90 Stradale looks like a successor to the 488 or F8 Tributo with similar dimensions and a mid-mounted 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, but packs a total of 735kW of power to give it a LaFerrari-rivalling 340km/h top speed and a superior 0-100km/h time of 2.5 seconds.
The trade off is that by being Ferrari’s first mass-production plug-in hybrid it has opened the door for Ferrari to move into full electrification in the coming years.
Unlike the LaFerrari, which was sold by invitation only to a few lucky customers back in 2013, the SF90 Stradale will have no such restrictions and is available to anyone with enough cash.
While prices are yet to be announced, company execs said it will be between the 812 Superfast and the LaFerrari, meaning that by the time it hits showrooms this time next year, it go for over $1 million and will probably be closer to $1.5 million on Australian roads.
More importantly, however, it signals the way forward for an electrification onslaught by Ferrari over the coming years, with the end goal being the release of its first all-electric supercar around 2023.
“This is the first step in a new direction for Ferrari and our first hybrid series-production car. It is a direction we are committed to pursuing,” Louis Camilleri, Ferrari's CEO, said at the launch.
“We are currently in an automotive landscape that is undergoing accelerated change like we’ve never seen before. There are some significant challenges on the way so this is a very important year and we have decided to significantly increase our production as we enter this new era."
He has previously stated that Ferrari aims to make 60% of its model range hybrid by 2022.
The ramp up has already started with this being the second Ferrari launch this year, with three more to follow before the end of 2019.
Camilleri claims that up to 65% of all Ferraris sold are to existing owners and of those more than 40% already own more than one Ferrari, so the company hopes to capitalise on its PHEV push by attracting new customers to the brand.
While it’s powered by the same basic 3.9-litre V8 from the F8 Tributo, chief technology officer Michael Leiters said it is effectively a new engine.
“You can consider this to be a totally new engine with only a few carry over parts from the 488 and F8 Tributo," Leiters stated.
“This engine features new injectors, a new interface to the gearbox, new combustion chambers, and a lowered centre of gravity with everything sitting lower so it’s a very different unit to the present V8."
On its own the turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 produces 574kW at 7500rpm, and 800Nm at 6000rpm. There are two electric motors mounted in the front axle, and another coupled to the transmission, bringing another 162kW to the party.
The two front motors also make this the company’s first performance all-wheel drive car. The torque vectoring all-wheel drive system, dubbed RAC-E, applies more power to the outside wheels through corners.
Fly-by-wire brakes are matched to giant 398mm Brembo units at the front, and 360mm discs at rear. This helps to shave two metres off its 100-0km/h braking time compared to LaFerrari.
Without giving times away, the company claims that at the end of one lap of its Fiorano test track, the SF90 Stradale gains 64 metres over the LaFerrari, which was its former benchmark road car.
However, to keep the neighbours happy or to dodge smog charges in some city centres, the SF90 Stradale can also be driven just on its electric motors for up to 25 kilometres at speeds up to 135km/h.
The new eight-speed double clutch transmission sits 15mm lower and is 10 kilograms lighter as it doesn't have a reversing gear. The SF90 uses its front electric motors when being driven in reverse.
“Our previous seven-speed double clutch was already the fastest changing box in the business, but this has now been cut by a further 30%,” Leiters claimed.
The SF90 Stradale name was chosen to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team.
In keeping with its F1 theme, the SF90 adopts some Formula One technology. Aside from the petrol-electric architecture, it also features a flexible DRS-style rear wing that retracts into the body to reduce drag, but can deliver up to 390kg of downforce at 250km/h when upright.
Externally, the design team broke with tradition by dropping the signature four round tail lamps in favour of sleek rectangular units. The nose is also unique among Ferrari models by moving away from the L-shaped headlights and towards a more slender slit design.
To offset the extra weight of its hybrid architecture the SF90 is the first Ferrari to use carbon-fibre mixed with light alloy in its space-frame construction. The SF90 Stradale tips the scales at 1570kg.
This may explain why the company has released a lightweight version at the same time, the Assetto Fiorano, which includes a more aggressive aero package, multimatic shock absorbers, carbon-fibre doors and underbody, and titanium springs and exhaust resulting in a further 30kg reduction.
The Assetto Fiorano ditches the standard 20-inch alloy wheels, which are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero 225/35 front and 315/30 rear tyres, for lightweight carbon-fibre rims wearing sticky 255/35 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 hoops at the front and 315/30 at the rear.
Inside, the interior takes on a futuristic approach with a strong focus on a new 16-inch high-resolution LCD wrap-around instrument binnacle that's claimed to be a first for production cars.
A new steering wheel takes on more ancillary work, with many buttons moving from the dash and centre console, allowing the driver to spend more time with their hands on the wheel. The steering wheel is now said to operate 80% of the car’s internal functions.
The SF90 Stradale is Ferrari’s answer to tightening emissions regulations, which it admits is forcing the industry down an electrification path. Ferrari also believes it is proof this can be done without sacrificing performance and emotion, although we’ll reserve judgement on the emotion part until we get behind the wheel.