You might very well, after experiencing an exceptional musical event, proclaim that the performers have ‘raised the roof’. Well, thanks to the retractable hard top (RHT) of the new Ferrari 296 GTS, that is literally the case.
With maximum ‘fun to drive’ at the heart of the Ferrari 296 GTB and 296 GTS, sound is naturally centre stage. From the moment you press the start button to the ecstasy of experiencing peak engine revs, you are transported to new dimensions of aural pleasure.
The specialists at Ferrari's NVH and Sound projects carefully design the timings of the combustions in the V6 hybrid engine in order to produce a 'tempo' to the noise
Of course, behind every great performance are great performers. And just as different sections of an orchestra create their masterpiece together, a formidably talented team lies behind the composition of Ferrari’s ‘music’.
The ‘conductor’ for the 296 GTB and GTS is project leader Mirko Statini, who explains that it’s the whole team working together who create the experience: “This performance is the result of four years’ hard work; of determined analysis; comparisons of simulation and test data; a conviction to reach targets even when assumptions were denied.”
“It all starts with the architecture of the engine,” explains Antonio Palermo, in charge of NVH & Sound Projects at Ferrari. “We call our V6 ‘piccolo V12’ or ‘small V12’. With a ‘V’ of 90 degrees, the combustions would sound like a ‘double hit’ – boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom. Our V6 and V12 engines behave more like a metronome – pum-pum-pum-pum-pum-pum, so that they have the same tempo and the V6 runs as one bank of the V12.”
The team at Ferrari had to consider how the engine noise would differ from the 296 GTB given the retracted roof on the 296 GTS and the airflow around the interior
What about how the sound is transmitted to the cabin? That’s the job of Ferrari’s patented hot tube resonator system. “Naturally aspirated engines have a very distinctive sound and we wanted to maintain the high-pitched notes of the V12 in the V6 twin-turbo,” says Palermo. “We did this by creating a completely new version of the hot tube system, which draws sound from as close as possible to the combustion chambers and transmits it to the cabin. It’s like a stethoscope, enabling you to experience the beating heart of the engine.”
Senior Vehicle Development Engineer, Andrea Ghelfi adds: “The trim had to be specially designed with sound in mind. For instance, to avoid concentrating the sound in one spot, we have used membranes, diffusers and other techniques to spread the sound throughout the cabin.
Palermo continues: “You could compare the exhaust to the sound of a trumpet. In contrast, the intake has harsher tones that are affected in a more linear way by the throttle, both in terms of volume and quality. It is important to hear all these instruments - and achieving an ideal balance between them is crucial.”
The staggering sound emitted by the 296 GTS is designed to mimic the high-pitched tones of a V12 engine, hence the V6 hybrid being nicknamed the 'piccolo V12'
Another challenge brought by the RHT is that, with the roof down, you have a direct connection with the external exhaust, feeling more of the sound from the outside – even though the team worked hard to keep the pure quality of the sound the same.
Maintaining a great sound experience with the roof open presents its own challenges. Low-frequency buffeting and ‘white noise’ vortices are ingeniously eliminated via extensive computer simulations and constant dialogue with the aerodynamics department.
“Physics can only take you so far,” says Ghelfi. “That’s where our feeling, our understanding, comes into play. We work closely with our colleagues from the test-driving department, headed by Raffaele de Simone. He may come to us and say, ‘Guys, you’ve put a bit too much oil on the salad’. So maybe we’ll play with the intake sound by calibrating it at the millimetre or even sub-millimetre level, to fine-tune that right balance with endless discussions on subtle nuances.”
It is a detailed job which the NVH & Sound, Vehicle Development and Powertrain teams have delivered for every Prancing Horse, with dedication and tenacity. Concludes Palermo: “The work between the test drivers, Cristiano and Andrea, and us from NVH, it’s been like a symphonic concert, pun intended! That’s the strength of our team.”