Ferrari Pushes Further Into Electric Tech With The New SF90 Stradale Hypercar
Dare to imagine. These three words were repeated several times during the opening speech held last night in Fiorano Modenese by Louis Camilleri, CEO of Ferrari S.p.A.
In a modern automotive landscape where ICE is all but the enemy, Ferrari has chosen to face the future in its own way. In 2019, the Maranello-based company will launch a total of five new models, the biggest acceleration in terms of new car production that Ferrari’s undertaken to date. Last night I had the pleasure of seeing with my own two eyes a very important milestone in the company’s history: Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). It’s called SF90 Stradale, and the name elicits the strong connection that Ferrari road cars share with their competitive motorsport counterparts: SF obviously stands for Scuderia Ferrari, the legendary racing team that Enzo founded 90 years ago.
The technical aspects of the project were introduced by Ferrari Chief Technology Officer Michael Leiters. Besides being the first Ferrari to plug into a socket, the car also boasts a triumph of classic combustion: the 3990cc 90° V8 twin-turbo engine produces 769bhp at 7500rpm, and 590ft-lbs of torque at 6000rpm, making it the most powerful V8 in the company’s very long history.
An additional 216 stallions are churned up by three electric motors. The one at the rear—called the “Motor Generator Unit Kinetik” (MGUK)—is derived from Formula 1 applications and is located between the engine and the also brand-new eight-speed dual clutch transmission on the rear axle. The other two electric power units are located at the front axle. Yes, this is Ferrari’s first all-wheel drive supercar.
Add it all up and you’ve got 986bhp, and weighing in at roughly 3,460lbs, the power-to-weight ratio is an exceptional. The four motors are always working together, and the driver simply has to choose one of the modes through the eManettino system to change their collective personality. The sophisticated system will take care of everything else, managing the power flow coming from the V8, the electric power sources, and the batteries. The power unit modes are: eDrive, where the engine is turned off for as long as the battery lasts (about 15 miles of purely electric range); Hybrid, which is the default setting wherein the system plays with both power sources; Performance, which keeps the engine running to ensure the batteries are fully charged; and Qualify. A cool substitution for the typical “Track Mode,” when set to Qualify the maximum amount of power from the electric motors is provided for the highest performance setting.
As mentioned above, the SF90 is an all-wheel drive hypercar. Ferrari’s engineers have been able to further broaden the spectrum of dynamic controls by introducing a fully-electric front axle, cutely known as “RAC-E.” The two motors at the front independently control the torque delivered to the front wheels—an advanced concept of torque vectoring—and balance the traction between the inside and the outside wheels in order to achieve extraordinary cornering performance that modern AWD systems are known for. Besides helping around the bendy bits, the system also helps in standstill starts: 0 to 100 km/h is achieved in 2.5 seconds, and 0 to 200km/h comes in just 6.7.
As test drivers claimed, the car gains 64 meters on the LaFerrari on each lap around the company’s Fiorano test track. Also, the smart rear wing can generate 390kg of downforce at 250km/h, which is 30kg more than the one fitted to LaFerrari.
The new car also features improvements over the previous flagship hypercar in terms of rigidity and center of gravity; and indeed peering into the bay reveals a V8 that’s very, very close to the tarmac. The engine is a development of the F154, but the chassis and body shell are all new, built using multi-material technology (primarily a mixture of aluminum and carbon fiber).
At this point in the presentation, Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari Head of Design, took the scene. Quickly sketching out a drawing of the SF90 in front of us, he explained how the Styling Centre completely revisited the proportions of the front, central, and rear volumes compared to the past V8 Ferrari models, following the radical evolution of the forms in Maranello’s mid-engined production berlinettas.
Though it outperforms both, the car is set to stand between the F8 Tributo and the LaFerrari, marking a new standard for the brand’s hyper-tech’d road cars. More compact overhangs (the rear one is shorter than the front, in particular) and the cab-forward design are classic mid-engine proportions, while the design of the of the X-shaped body-colored portion from the top view further emphasizes the fact that the main motor sits behind the driver.
Combined with very slender A-pillars and an exceptionally wide track, the proportions are quite striking in person. It’s a slim and taut looking car, though modern safety requirements have left the mirrors looking like a pair of sore thumbs in comparison to the rest.
In another first for a Ferrari, the central instrument cluster comprises a single 16” digital HD screen which curves towards the driver to make it easier to read and to emphasize the F1-style wrap-around cockpit effect. This is the first time this type of screen has been adopted in a production car. When the engine and e-motors are shut off, the onboard instruments all fade to black, lending the cockpit a wonderfully sleek, minimalist look that wouldn’t look out of place in a concept rendering. In line with modern Ferrari tradition, the default screen behind the wheel is dominated by a large circular tach, which is framed by the battery charge indicator. The navigation screen sits to the left side of the big tach, while the audio controls flank it on the right.
The “hands-on-the-wheel” philosophy has consistently driven the development of the human-machine interface in every Ferrari F1 car and its subsequent if gradual transfer to its road-going sports cars is apparent here too—supposedly 80% of the car’s functionality can be controlled from the steering wheel.
Of the new touch controls added to the wheel, the compact but functional pad on the right-hand spoke allows the driver to navigate the central cluster screens, while voice and cruise controls are on the left spoke. Also noteworthy is the adoption of a rotary switch for cruise control, a solution apparently derived directly from the Formula 1 cars that use the system for pitting and pacing on the track under the different flags. In the bottom left section of the central area, there are four buttons the driver uses to select the power unit use mode, while a handy head-up display projects various data onto the inside of the windshield.
Despite the all the technological advances, a classic touch re-appears: the metal gear selection gate, functional for drive, neutral, and reverse selections. Perhaps unnecessary and maybe a little contrived, but I think it’s a nice tribute to Ferrari’s history.
Pricing is yet to be revealed, but Enrico Galliera—Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer—said it will cost less than LaFerrari, and more than an 812 Superfast. If you have the bank roll to buy one, you’ll likely have to wait until at least summer 2020. Oh, and of course there will be an even faster and lighter version available in case your neighbor already got the “regular” SF90. That one will be called the SF90 Stradale Assetto Fiorano, and so far we’ve just got a pic of it in silver—more to come when we find out. In the meantime, what do you think about the SF90?