The Ferrari 296 GTS reaffirms how blistering fast speeds can replace the blues with bucketloads of seratonin
If turning 33 on a Monday wasn’t bad enough already, I’m running a fever, and I am away from friends and family, for work that has stretched beyond schedule. It could easily qualify as one of the worst birthdays, but there’s one major saving grace. Whenever I reminisce being behind the wheel of a Ferrari the day before, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Mumbai, I find myself grinning from ear to ear.
The Ferrari 296 GTS is the latest supercar with the Prancing Horse badge to be launched in India and will set you back by Rs 6.24 Cr (ex-showroom). It’s like an orchestra with every sense affirming its value as soon as you step in (awkwardly, if you’re doing it for the first time). Controls for the indicators, headlights, wipers, power-train modes, dynamic modes, and infotainment, are all on the steering wheel, making its driver-focused intentions clear from the get-go. Then there are hidden touch-sensitive controls like the engine modes and the start/stop button that illuminate when pressed. The snarl of the V6 engine startles me, asserting its duality – the hard-edged bark of the engine makes it as effortlessly attention-grabbing as the discretion it offers in its electric-only mode. This is no slouch. Its 830hp from a 2.9-litre V6 coupled with an electric motor not only puts a smile on your face when you are zipping through Bombay traffic, but it also puts a smile on the faces of all those who make up that traffic. Though our 11km drive
from the Ferrari showroom to Eve Café & Bar didn’t offer many empty stretches to exploit all of those 830 horses, the unusual cheers of onlookers egged us on for a few quick overtakes. Of course, the eagerness to build revs up keeps lurking around the back of your head, and that helps too. In fact, you can open just the partition glass between the cabin and the engine to enjoy that V6 symphony even better.
The uncompromising evolution in powertrain and its surprising compliance on city streets were undeniably the highlights of our short 11km drive. Given the on-paper specs, you might be fooled into believing that this doesn’t live up to the coveted V12 or V8 standards, but the ‘piccolo V12’ lives up to its nickname. For starters, the soundtrack from those six cylinders is rapturous across the rev range. So much so that you won’t miss the V8. In fact, there’s an option here, unlike the GTB. The soundtrack perfectly complements the GTS’ eagerness to attack empty stretches and carve corners with confidence.
What took me by surprise was how effortless it is to maneuver within city limits. At every opportunity I got to overtake, my co-passenger was scared, we would scratch the front lip of the car on a bump or an undulation. The lift option comes in handy at obnoxious obstacles. As effortlessly as this Ferrari blends into the urban jungle, it stands out at the right moments, helping you get precedence while changing lanes or U-turns on single lanes. It’s a Ferrari, after all. You can also comfortably trundle around at speeds under 40kmph, at which you can drop the top for some wind-in-the-hair action. Not ideal for Bombay weather though.
With the Ferrari 296 GTS, you not only get the pinnacle of F1-inspired road-legal racing tech, but you are also cocooned in immeasurable street cred that you can only experience once you’re inside the cockpit. You suddenly see autowallahs behaving themselves, motorcyclists maintaining lane discipline and kids in school buses cheering you on as if you’re the main character in all their stories. Sure, fellow drivers and bikers fear going bankrupt if they as much as scratch the paint on the wide rear haunches, they also take a moment to pull out their phones to take a picture, grinning hopelessly while admiring the car. And that’s perhaps the job of a Ferrari – to bring smiles to people’s faces and not just the one behind its wheel.