2021 Ferrari SF90 Stradale Review
Whether they have been in vee or flat formation, located in the nose or behind the driver, the one thing you have been able to say about every flagship Ferrari is that it has had twelve cylinders. It has seemed almost to be the law down Maranello way, and the only car to break it was the F40 and as a limited edition special rather than a standard production model, it doesn’t really count.
No longer. The new SF90 is Ferrari’s most expensive road car. It is also its most powerful, even if you include esoterica like the LaFerrari. And its fastest. Yet you don’t need to be on some special list to be offered one. You can just walk into a dealer from the street and order it as you might any other car. This is Ferrari trying to define a new normal, by putting a car with hypercar performance into mainstream production and, at least until you start to play fast and loose with the extras, offering it for sale at between one third and half the price. Whatever its strengths and failings, this is one of the most significant Ferraris in the history of the brand.
- Can be front-, all- and rear-wheel-drive
- Traction and stability control systems are exceptional
- First Ferrari that can run on electric power, with a 12-mile EV range
We don't like
- Luggage capacity is severely compromised
- For a Ferrari it is on the heavy side
- Steering and brake pedal aren't as communicative as you'd expect
It is also by a margin the most technologically advanced. Deep down its architecture can be traced back to that which underpins the current F8 Tributo and former 488 and 458 models, but really it has evolved so much the significance is only that it remains a predominately aluminium platform, the only significant use of carbon fibre being the rear bulkhead.
Similarly it uses an engine based on the extant V8, but expanded from 3.9- to 4.0-litres and, rather more significantly, allied to an electric motor. Most significantly of all there are a further two electric motors driving each of the front wheels. This provides the SF90 with not only a small but significant all electric range of around 12 miles, but obviates the need for a reverse gear in the eight speed double clutch transmission: it just puts those front motors into reverse. And because the front axle cannot be driven above a certain speed because it would overspeed those motors, the SF90 is capable of being front-, rear- and four-wheel-drive. Which is quite something when you think about it.
Total system power is no less than 1,000PS (986bhp), (of which around 223PS goes through the front wheels) though only if you have it in qualifying mode, the rest of the time it’s around 51PS down.
If there is a downside to all this, it is that all the tech does weigh a bit. Ferrari quotes a weight of 1,570kg, but that’s a ‘dry’ figure and not a proper kerbweight like that quoted by most car manufacturers. Traditionally you might easily add 100kg to this figure to arrive a number for a car that can actually be driven. And it’s also a figure for a car with all the lightest of lightweight options fitted, of which there are plenty. A standard car also adds around another 100kg to that figure. So although no number is quoted, it seems likely that an absolutely base spec SF90 would weight something nearer to 1,770kg at the kerb. Which still may not be much for a car with all but dammit a thousand horsepower, but it’s still plenty for a mid-engined, two seat Ferrari.
Performance and Handling
That weight means the SF90 despite its superior power output actually has a worse power to weight ratio than did the LaFerrari five years ago. But around Fiorano (and again with all lightweight options fitted and, crucially, super sticky (and optional) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tyres fitted, it is at least a second quicker. And that’s a very short lap.
The numbers are ridiculous. Remember when a 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds was the mark of a properly fast car? Well give the SF90 that amount of time to accelerate and you’ll be going over twice as quickly, 124mph to be precise. Zero to sixty takes just 2.5 very uncomfortable, bewildering and disorienting seconds.
Like all V8 Ferraris in history (save that fitted to the Lancia Thema 8.32 for trivia fans) the SF90 has a flat-plane crankshaft, giving a hard, urgent voice as the revs rise. It’s not a beautiful sound at all, like that of a V12, but you won’t mistake its purpose.
As for how the car handles, it really is up to you and this is where the SF90 is at its most clever. It defaults to Sport mode, which is probably what most people will use on the road most of the time. It actually feels quite docile as the throttle response is soft and the stability systems ready to jump on the slightest sign of slip. But on the track it’s too intrusive.
So you select race mode whereupon it instantly become another car altogether, sharp and responsive yet still capable of smoothing the rough edges off your driving. It takes you right to the limit but not over, which is why most drivers will be quickest in this mode.
You need to be a bit brave to switch the little manettino dial one more click clockwise, because that disables the traction control. At which point at least at track speeds, the SF90 oversteers. Everywhere. This will undoubtedly get your attention; indeed if you are of a somewhat nervous disposition, it is possible it will frighten you witless. But there is no need: even as you’re piling on the opposite lock, the SF90 is almost certainly in far better control of the situation than you. You just need a bit of faith, keep your foot down and it will let you drift and drift and drift, while applying just enough in the way of background countermeasures to ensure that even though you may actually have run out of opposite lock and talent, still the car will not spin.
But it’s not done yet. There is another click, which is called ESC-off, but which might more accurately be entitled ‘you’re on your own, chum’. And then the SF90 is a complete animal. If you’re going to hang onto it you need to be quick-witted, clear headed and completely on top of your game, which is probably already at a level beyond that reached by most.
And it’s good that it gives you the choice. And with a Ferrari that choice should always to be challenged by it and, my goodness, the SF90 does that.
Less commendable is the slightly dead feeling of the steering and brake pedal. The former now has an electric rack and it shows, as does the mass of the car. The latter is entirely brake by wire, and that’s how it feels.
For information clarity and ease of use, this is a new level not just for Ferrari, but supercars generally. Everything is presented on a gently curving flat screen of extraordinary resolution and surprisingly intuitive operation. It cannot filter down to other Ferraris soon enough. Otherwise the cabin is as you’d expect: cosy, styling and exciting. But do not forget to look at what passes for the boot in the nose. Because of those electric motors, carrying capacity is woeful, about one quarter of that offered by an 812 Superfast, which means that despite its good ride and decent refinement, this is a car in which going away will require very careful planning, if it is to happen at all. It is its greatest failing.
Technology and Features
The options list goes on forever and there’s no space to detail it all here, but the Assetto Fiorano pack is interesting for those who fear their SF90 may not be quite mad enough as it is. It comes with passive Multimatic shock absorbers to provide more control at track speeds, carbon fibre door panels and underbody and titanium springs and exhaust. All those save 30kg. In addition it provides a high downforce rear spoiler generating 390kg of downforce at 155mph. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are standard on Assetto Fiorano pack cars, with Cup 2Rs remaining an option.
That the SF90 is an astonishing technical accomplishment is beyond question. That it is an incredible driver’s car too should not be doubted either. It is not without its issues and it is hard not to wonder whether, in the real world, the car would have been better still without the electric front axle, but with less mass and a boot that allowed it to be used properly. Even so for the performance it provides for the price Ferrari charged, and for the frankly astonishing way it lets you choose how to dispense its phenomenal potential, the SF90 represents a new level for production supercars. It is a car of which Ferrari is rightly proud.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, two-motor hybrid
1,000PS (986bhp) (780PS engine peak, 162kW electric motor peak)
800Nm (592lb ft) @ 6,000rpm engine peak, N/A electric system peak
Eight-speed double-clutch gearbox, all-wheel-drive
|Fuel economy||N/A (EV driving range of 12 miles)|
Reviewed by Andrew Frankel