Tue, 05 December 2023
It is the lifelong dream of many motoring enthusiasts to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari and feel the power of the prancing horse. Last month, Kristian Harrison had the incredible opportunity to drive not one, but two, of the Maranello marque’s marvels in Dubai. He shares his thoughts on his experience with the 296 GTS and GTB.
Ask someone what their definition of heaven on Earth is, and you’ll get a variety of answers. Sipping cocktails on a golden beach? Enjoying a five-course meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant? Spending quality time with the family?
None of these is the correct answer of course. For it is ‘Sitting behind the wheel of the Ferrari 296’.
Luckily enough, this was not my first experience with these cars – the GTS being the folding convertible and the GTB being a hard-top coupe – having taken them for a couple of laps around the Bahrain International Circuit recently. However, while that was an exercise in speed, braking and exhilaration, this was my first opportunity to spend some real quality time with my new acquaintance, test out its extensive features and most importantly, have fun.
Fun is certainly what I had! However, my first emotion was a concoction of nervousness and excitement as I arrived at the Al Tayer Motors Ferrari showroom in Dubai. After a tour of the facilities, I was handed the keys to the gorgeous GTS, with its silver body accentuated with blue accents, and told to let loose on the streets of Dubai. Not being overly familiar with the area, it truly was an adventure to learn and explore.
The best feeling of any drive of a car like this is that initial ignition and the accompanying roar, this time to bring the 819 BHP hybrid powertrain to purring life. One thing is for sure, Ferrari hasn’t forgotten how to make absolutely stunning sports cars that have you thinking you must be in automotive nirvana.
Knowing I would have the GTB to enjoy the following day, I took the earliest opportunity to put the roof of the GTS down and enjoy the wind in my hair. Pulling the paddle shifters to set myself into forward motion, I got to confirm first-hand that the 296 can do 0-100kmph in 2.8s (it actually felt faster) pulling 740Nm of torque. I did not get as far as testing out the listed top speed of 330kmph (promise!) but as the car accelerated, the smoothness of the transmission up through the gears was incredible. However, even more impressive was the car under braking. I put it through a hard stop test and the car geared down so smoothly and remained so incredibly stable that I would be confident of taking it out on track days without any hesitation.
The following day brought the dark blue GTB, with a few tangible differences. A little lighter without the roof mechanism, the steering was an edge tighter and more responsive, and the interior was slightly roomier. Visually, it’s a matter of preference, but I did prefer the GTB’s sharper aerodynamic contours without the need to accommodate the folding roof. However, I’m not sure if given the choice between the two that I would sacrifice the opportunity to cruise around without a roof on during a city drive.
As much as I would have liked to spend the entire time with the car in ‘Sport’ or ‘Race’ mode, I did flick on the Hybrid switch and drove on battery power alone. When fully charged, you can drive for roughly 25km in deathly silence, which is impressive considering the compact space Ferrari had to pack this technology in alongside the luxurious cabin with its high-quality materials and bucket seats which provided enough room for six-foot plus adults like myself.
Quite literally, my time with these two amazing automobiles went way too fast, yet provided me with one of the best experiences of my journalistic career. I’m already excited to see how the Italian icons continue to innovate in the future.