It takes just six bends along the magical Panoramica Zegna road at the wheel of the Ferrari 296 GTB to send a shiver of delight right down your spine and to put a big smile on your face. The number six is a symbolic number; in reality the exhilaration is virtually instantaneous, and you soon find yourself wishing that those bends would just go on and on.
Why? Because there are six cylinders in the 296 GTB’s new engine, the very first V6 that the marque has ever put inside a production car, opening up an entirely new segment for the Ferrari range. Anyone even slightly puzzled by the idea of a Ferrari powered by such a ‘small’ engine should be reminded that Maranello’s Formula One cars also sport a six- cylinder.
The 296 GTB exudes agility. Its lines are unsullied by any aero appendages, further enhancing the purity of its design and sense of compactness
Any lingering doubts will certainly be chased away by the vital statistics of this new power unit: the 2,992cc V6 unleashes 663cv of its own, and this is coupled with a 167cv electric motor that brings total power output up to a massive 830cv.
However, the very fact that it is a six-cylinder, with that revolutionary 120-degree angle between its banks, means that it is light and compact. With a very low centre of gravity into the bargain. For anyone fortunate enough to get behind the 296 GTB’s steering wheel, this all instantly translates into breath-taking power and go-kart shout-out-loud exhilaration.
Go behind the scenes with our exclusive film footage from the 296 GTB shoot
Even at first glance, the 296 GTB positively exudes agility. It has the shortest wheelbase in the Ferrari range, instantly evoking some of the most glorious SWBs from the marque’s illustrious past. Its muscular tail too is reminiscent of the legendary Ferrari 250 LM, albeit dressed in exceptionally contemporary clothes and underscored by a big central exhaust. The car’s lines are unsullied by any aero appendages, further enhancing the purity of its design and its sense of compactness.
To test out its adrenaline-fuelled agility, we threw the 296 GTB into action along the Panoramica Zegna, an extraordinary serpentine road carved into the Piedmont mountains and teetering 3,000 feet above the flat plain of the Po Valley that stretches out below as far as the eye can see.
The visor shaped windscreen pushes the cab forward visually; the teardrop-profile headlights are a novelty; the fully digital interface is supplemented by a hybrid eManettino
The road was built at the behest of Ermenegildo Zegna, founder of the illustrious woollen mill, to create a tourist route through an oasis of rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas. Back in the 1930s, it was a huge feat of engineering, hewn from the rock by men wielding picks and explosives, following only the curves of the mountains and their own pure instinct.
Instinct is also the first thing you feel when you hit the accelerator in this car. The 296 GTB instantly inspires enormous confidence – it is so responsive that, uncannily, it seems to anticipate both the road and the driver’s intentions. Simply put, it does everything you want. And it gets more eager with every corner because of its combination of apparently boundless power and dazzling torque.
The shoot was set along the spectacular Panoramic Zegna road inside the Oasi Zegna nature reserve, in the Biella Alps of north west Italy
Then, as you brake hard going into a turn, you get that tell-tale pop-pop from the exhaust that makes this V6 feel more like a 12-cylinder, racking up the adrenaline to new heights. Finally, after snaking your way up the Panoramica’s 26 kilometres of bends in a delicious trance, it is time to catch your breath as you turn around and drive back the way you came, this time getting a chance to feast your eyes on the magnificent surroundings.
The silence is complete, with just the breathy whirr of the electric motor for company. But it too will leap up to 120km/h in a flash if you really can’t suppress that instinct to hit the throttle.