Ferrari SF90 review: the new heavyweight

The SF90 isn’t a limited-edition hypercar, it’s a refined, enjoyable and startlingly quick new flagship offering

98F442AB-96D1-43AC-AC0D-B77C6867BAD9

The new SF90 is a driving masterpiece, but could it have been even better without so much tech and therefore less weight?

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

There is so much I could tell you about this car that I could dedicate the rest of this article to it, not mention what it’s like to drive and still only skim the surface of the most complex, advanced and fastest Ferrari road car ever.

So forgive me for sticking to the highlights. The SF90 Stradale does not replace any existing Ferrari, it is a new flagship, the first with eight rather than 12 cylinders. It is not a limited-edition hypercar, but a production model, despite the fact that its powertrain – a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 with an electric motor between it and its gearbox plus two further independent electric motors driving the front axle – produces 1000 Pferdestärke – or 986 good old English horsepower. It can drive itself silently using its front motors at up to 84mph, or you can drive normally in which case the engine drives the rear wheels, only calling on the front motors when needed. I’m not saying it’s the first car that can be front-, rear- or four-wheel drive, just that I can’t think of another.

That’s just the beginning of its cleverness. By using active torque vectoring across the front axle the SF90 does not, for instance, merely brake an inside wheel to help the car turn in, it can accelerate the outer one too. Inside you’ll find an entire new dashboard architecture, a curving screen of dazzling resolution and remarkably well arranged graphics. It looks hideously complex but is in fact very simple to use: quite the reverse of many recent Ferrari instrument packs. Deep down, the car’s platform is distantly based on that of the 458/488/F8 family, but is so changed the only real significance is that its monocoque remains aluminium, meaning that unlike McLaren and Lamborghini, Ferrari still keeps carbon construction for limited- edition specials such as Enzo and LaFerrari. It’s one reason it costs less than half the price.

If there is an obvious flaw, it’s that all this technology weighs quite a lot, and is not offset by a carbon tub or bodywork. Ferrari says it weighs 1570kg, but calculates the figure unlike most others. First, this is a dry weight and not a more widely recognised kerb weight; second, the weight is that of a car wearing every lightweight optional extra including in this case the ‘Assetto Fiorano’ pack, which consists of lighter suspension, exhaust, carbon wheels, and more. That alone adds almost £40,000. Ferrari’s engineers told me a standard car weighs around 1670kg, putting its kerb weight at around 1770kg. Which is heavy. It can also only carry 74 litres of luggage in its boot, less than one quarter of that offered by Ferrari’s next-fastest two-seater, the 812 Superfast. You’d struggle to go on holiday with it, unless your luggage travelled separately.

That’s a huge shame, because for all the fire and fury we’ll be getting to shortly, this is a superb long-distance device. Thanks to its new interior architecture, it’s the easiest Ferrari to just get in and operate of modern times. It’s all easy and intuitive to use. Quite unlike a Ferrari, in other words. Nor is it remotely intimidating. Its essential dimensions are those of any mid-engined V8 Ferrari of the last 10 years. It will do around 15 miles on electrons alone and thanks to its unfathomably compliant ride, there are times where you’ll be wafting around in silence wondering if this is not actually a thousand horsepower limousine.

It is not. When the time comes, the SF90 is preposterously fast and with the electrics filling in the gaps in the turbo motor’s torque curve, it’s instantly responsive too. Because the front axle only manages the 220bhp provided by its electric motors that still leaves the balance of power going to the rear wheels alone, so despite four-wheel drive, you can feel the electronics holding the car back, tyres on the very limit of their traction. Unless you fiddle with the Manettino dial on the wheel and place it into ‘Race’ mode, in which case you can have even super-sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres yelping for mercy. But it’s also supremely easy to drive fast because those same electronics just don’t let things get out of hand. But the technology can’t disguise all its weight, and in the new electrically assisted power steering system, you can feel it. It dives into an apex, but does not dart. Then you can just power on and leave the rest to the safety nets.

Or not. You can turn them off, in full or in part. At which stage a hitherto fun and entertaining car gets very serious. And I love it for that. Because if you know what you’re doing and have the right surroundings, here is a near 1000bhp, mid-engined, four-wheel drive supercar that will drift and drift and drift. This is a driver’s car from top to toe, utterly wild when requested, but capable of being tamed at the twist of a dial. On the road you can just neutralise the back end with power alone; on the track it’s the most challenging yet rewarding car of its kind I’ve driven.

But I still wonder what it would be like without those driven front wheels. Lighter for sure, and more usable, because it would have a big boot. Cheaper maybe? It would be down a few hundred horses, but I suspect Ferrari could still find 800 or so. Which is enough for most. Which means I left the SF90 thinking not just how incredible it is, but how much better even than that it could potentially be.

9B9DF598-C1F7-474B-9200-398679374492

One happy bunny: Frankel found the SF90 easy on the road, and delightfully challenging on the track

Tech spec

Price £376,048
Engine 4.0 litres, 8 cylinders, turbocharged, hybrid drive
Power 986bhp
Weight 1570kg (dry, with all lightest options fitted)
Power to weight 620bhp per tonne
Transmission Eight-speed double clutch, two/four-wheel drive
0-62mph 2.5sec
Top speed 211mph
Economy 46.2mpg
CO2 154g/km
Verdict Stunning as an instrument of driving pleasure, rubbish for a holiday…


Digital extra

You may also like

Related products