If you want to convert a skeptic to the potential of performance hybrids, ten minutes in the Ferrari 296 should do it. I realize this is a tall order, as the 296 GTB we have on hand for Performance Car of the Year costs $505,000—more than a nice house in many parts of the country—but nevertheless, one lap in, you know where that money is going.
While a twin-turbocharged V-6 mated to a hybrid electric drive doesn’t seem, at first, like a good reason to buy a Ferrari, some other numbers might change your mind: 819 horsepower, 546 lb-ft. Zero to 60 in 2.4 seconds (the quickest ever RWD road car we’ve tested) and quarter mile in 9.7 seconds at 150 mph. My co-editor-at-large Jethro Bovingdon, responsible for the PCOTY lap times, gushed over the speed, but to me, I gushed about other things.
The steering, for one, is telepathic. Ferrari, starting back in 2010 with the 458 Italia, set off down a road of fast steering racks. They took some getting used to, but they've since come into their own as being directly wired into my brain. Combined with the special differential you only get with the optional Assetto Fiorano package our tester is equipped with, the steering makes the 296 just about the finest drift machine on sale today. It’s no wonder Ferrari brought us seven sets of wheels and tires. They knew what we were going to do here.
Once you get over the enormous price tag, the 296 is simply an extension of your body, able to pull off superhuman moves just by thinking about it.
There are some drawbacks, of course, even beyond the price tag. I’m never surprised but always shocked by how good Ferrari can make a car drive, and how simultaneously bad it can make a car to use. The interfaces, the multimedia systems, the settings menus in this thing are a total disaster. My knee seems to be perfectly placed to hit the fuel door release button, which it did, at random times, every time I drove the thing. There are too many controls on the wheel in a confusing setup that requires you to take your eyes off the road to use them. And if you have a CarPlay navigation going, you don’t have a tachometer. Which is dumb.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a test of which car I’d most like to daily drive. It’s Performance Car of the Year. And there is zero doubt that the Ferrari 296 elevates what a supercar can be, should be, and does, to a level previously unheard of. That’s why it’s the overall winner of this test for 2024.
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