GRR

Thank Frankel it’s Friday: The SF90 Stradale is not a new LaFerrari

30th May 2019
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

I think some have missed the point of the new Ferrari SF90 Stradale. Most places I look I see it described as the successor to the LaFerrari, and insofar as it’s only the second hybrid Ferrari after the LaF, and it is unquestionably a flagship machine, I take the point.

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But really it’s not a new LaFerrari at all, not least because it costs around a third of the money and will be built in whatever quantities Ferrari can sell. There will be a Spider version and, I guess in time an even faster, track focussed car in the spirit of the 488 Pista and F12 tdf. In these regards and quite unlike the LaFerrari, it is an entirely mainstream model. Just with almost 1,000bhp.

As for what it will be like to drive, we will have to wait at least until the end of the year before we find that out, but given the job done on the LaFerrari and that this car will be built using five years of additional knowledge and technological development, I am hopeful to say the least

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For the LaFerrari did something I thought no car would ever do: it dislodged the F40 as the greatest road car I’d driven. Up until the LaFerrari, nothing had matched driving the F40: the McLaren F1 got closest but ultimately lacked the raw, near visceral thrill of that old Ferrari, slower by far though it was. There are plenty of cars and no shortage of older mid-engined Ferraris that have been entirely reassuring right up to the limit whereupon they’ve turned around and tried to punt you through the nearest hedge. The F40 was the mirror image, a car that gave every impression it was a homicidal maniac that, when things got really tough, turned out to be just about the best buddy you could have.

And then came the LaFerrari. When I’d finally driven all three hybrid hypercars – the Ferrari, Porsche’s 918 Spyder and the McLaren P1 – to me their roles were clear: the Porsche was the most broadly defined and worked across a range of different environments, the McLaren was absolutely the best to drive around a track and, on equal tyres, quite the quickest I am sure. But just to get in and drive for the joy of it, the LaFerrari was the one for me.

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I guess what I loved most about it was that while the Porsche and McLaren flaunted their technologies, the LaFerrari felt, if anything, old school, if a car with 950bhp can be so described. There were no special modes, no place to plug it in, no electric only range, it was a simple, straightforward and bloody fast car that also made the most incredible noise. And when the time came to hoof it around, it was a total a delight, less grippy than a P1 I am sure, but so much fun you’d neither notice nor care.

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It remains Ferrari’s only mid-engined V12 road car, unless you’re going to start levelling the road legal racing 250LM at me, or point out that the flat-12 in the Boxer and Testarossa was actually a 180-degree V12. Which is technically correct but not really the point.

It will be really interesting to see if the SF90 can offer the same level of driver engagement. You’d say its turbo V8 and four-wheel-drive might count against it but, on the other hand, Ferrari will not have wasted those five years. In short, I expect it will be incredible.

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