Ferrari introduces a new chapter in its history with the introduction of its first series production PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), the SF90 Stradale. The new model is extreme on every level and represents a true paradigm shift, because it delivers unprecedented performance for a production car.
Figures such as 1,000 cv, and a weight-to-power ratio of 1.57 kg/cv, and 390 kg of downforce at 250 km/h not only put the SF90 Stradale at the top of its segment, but also mean that a V8 is the top-of-the-range model for the first time in the marque’s history.
The car’s name encapsulates the true significance of all that has been achieved in terms of performance. The reference to the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Scuderia Ferrari underscores the strong link that has always existed between Ferrari’s track and road cars. A brilliant encapsulation of the most advanced technologies developed in Maranello, the SF90 Stradale is also the perfect demonstration of how Ferrari immediately transitions the knowledge and skills it acquires in competition to its production cars.
The SF90 Stradale has a 90° V8 turbo engine capable of delivering 780 cv, the highest power output of any 8-cylinder in Ferrari history. The remaining 220 cv is delivered by three electric motors, one at the rear, known as the MGUK (Motor Generator Unit, Kinetic) due to its derivation from the Formula 1 application, located between the engine and the new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission on the rear axle, and two on the front axle. This sophisticated system does not, however, make for a more complicated driving experience. Quite the opposite, in fact: the driver simply has to select one of the four power unit modes, and then just concentrate on driving. The sophisticated control logic takes care of the rest, managing the flow of power between the V8, the electric motors and the batteries.
The SF90 Stradale is also the first Ferrari sports car to be equipped with 4WD, a step necessary to allow the incredible power unleashed by the hybrid powertrain to be fully exploited, ensuring the car has become the new benchmark for standing starts: 0-100km/h in 2.5 sec and 0-200km/h in just 6.7 seconds.
Ferrari’s engineers were able to further broaden the spectrum of dynamic controls by introducing the full-electric front axle, known as the RAC-e (electronic cornering set-up regulator). As well as exclusively providing propulsion in electric drive, the two front motors independently control the torque delivered to the two wheels, extending the concept of Torque Vectoring. Fully integrated into the car’s vehicle dynamics controls, the RAC-e governs the distribution of torque, making driving on the limit much simpler and easier.
The introduction of this hybrid architecture was a challenge with regard to managing the additional weight which was resolved by an obsessive attention to detail and the overall optimisation of the whole of the car. For maximum performance in terms of overall weight, rigidity and centre of gravity, the chassis and bodyshell of the SF90 Stradale is all new, built using multi-material technology, including, for example, carbon fibre.
The development of a hybrid car of this kind demanded the development of a series of innovative aerodynamic solutions. The significant boost in the power unit’s performance brought with it an increase in the amount of heat energy to be dissipated and required the development team to carry out an in-depth review of the aerodynamic flows on the radiating masses. It also demanded new solutions to increase downforce efficiently and guarantee maximum stability at all speeds and in all driving conditions.
Particularly noteworthy is the innovative shut-off Gurney, a patented active system located at the rear of the car which regulates the air flow over the upper body, reducing drag at high speeds with low lateral dynamics loads and increasing downforce in corners, under braking and during changes of direction.
The new car is epoch-changing from a stylistic perspective as it completely rewrites the mid-rear-engined sports berlinetta proportions introduced on the 360 Modena twenty years ago, instead taking its inspiration from Ferrari’s recent supercars. A good example is the cockpit, which has a smaller frontal section and is placed closer to the front of the car to reduce drag. This was also achieved without impacting on-board comfort.
The track-derived “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel” philosophy takes on a truly central role for the first time too, significantly influencing the ergonomics and styling of the interior. The result is an HMI (Human-Machine Interface) and interior layout concept that are a complete departure from previous models.
Another major innovation is the steering wheel which now has a touchpad and a series of haptic buttons that allow the driver to control virtually every aspect of the car using just their thumbs. The central instrument cluster is now entirely digital with the first automotive application of a 16” curved HD screen which can be fully configured and controlled using the controls on the steering wheel.
On the central tunnel, improved ergonomics have been combined with an element from the past: the automatic gearbox controls are now selected by a grille-style feature that references Ferrari’s legendary manual gear-shift gate. Thus past and present skilfully merge to point the new Ferrari towards the future.
The SF90 Stradale also sees the debut of the new ignition key with full keyless technology which will gradually be introduced across the rest of the range, personalised with the model’s name. Thanks to a special compartment in the central tunnel, it becomes an integral part of the car’s styling.
In addition to the sporty version, which references the shape and colour of the signature rectangular Prancing badge sported by Ferrari’s road cars, there will also be a more elegant metal-coloured version.
For the first time on a Ferrari, clients can choose between the standard car and a version with a more sports-oriented specification. The Assetto Fiorano specification includes significant upgrades, including special GT racing-derived Multimatic shock absorbers, extra lightweight features made from high-performance materials such as carbon-fibre (door panels, underbody) and titanium (springs, entire exhaust line), resulting in a weight-saving of 30 kg. Another difference is the high downforce carbon-fibre rear spoiler which generates 390 kg of downforce at 250 km/h.
The Assetto Fiorano includes Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres designed specifically to improve performance on the track in the dry. They feature a softer compound and fewer grooves than the tyres provided as standard.
The SF90 Stradale’s architecture, in which the cabin is located ahead of the mid-mounted engine, provided Flavio Manzoni and his team of designers at the Ferrari Styling Centre, with the ideal platform on which to craft a genuine supercar of impeccable proportions.
More compact overhangs (the rear one is shorter than the front one in particular) and the frontward-shift of the cabin have created a cab-forward-type architecture which emphasises the fact that the engine is mid-mounted. A very low centre of gravity has also allowed the designers to lower the cabin area by 20 mm. Combined with a more curved windshield, slender A-posts and a wide track, this creates a beautifully proportioned car with sleeker volumes.
The compact bubble-shaped cabin has an aeronautical cockpit feel and the fact that it has been shifted so far forward is further emphasised by the geometry of the two body-coloured rear flying buttresses that enclose the rear.
Another signature solution is the headlights which hail a move away from the L-shaped look, to a slender slit design integrated with the brake air intakes resulting in a characteristic C-shape which lends the front of the car an original and futuristic appeal.
In an absolute first for a Ferrari, the SF90 Stradale uses matrix LED headlight technology to improve visibility in all driving conditions thanks to active beam control.
The rear of the car is dominated by high exhaust pipes which are the result of optimisation of the exhaust line layout. Because the power- train is significantly lower in the car than in the past, the designers were also able to lower the car’s tail. Another deviation from the styling typical of past berlinettas is the way the profile of the rear screen no longer follows the line from the roof to the rear bumper. This element of styling discontinuity is evidenced by the separation of the screen from the cooling grille.
The tail lights have also evolved quite radically from Ferrari’s iconic round shape. The eye-catching, more horizontal luminous rings create a more horizontal perception of the tail lights which in turn visually lowers the height of the tail.
While the SF90 Stradale’s exterior was crafted to underscore its seamless combining of form, technology and performance, the interior is even more radical. The very explicit aim there was to create a cockpit that ushered in an entirely new design direction, the effects of which would carry over into Ferrari’s entire future range.
The designers took a futuristic approach to the interface concept with a strong focus on creating a wraparound aeronautically-inspired cockpit with particular emphasis on instruments. This further emphasised and underscored the symbiotic relationship between car and driver. In fact, the SF90 Stradale makes an epoch-changing leap forward both in formal and content terms, updating the Human Machine Interface with all-digital technology.
In a first for a Ferrari, the central instrument cluster comprises a single 16” digital HD screen which curves towards the driver to make it easier to read and to emphasise the F1-style wrap-around cockpit effect. This is the first time this type of screen has been adopted in a production car.
When the engine and motors are off, the onboard instruments go black lending the cockpit a wonderfully sleek, minimalist look. In line with Ferrari tradition, the default screen is dominated by a large circular rev counter which, however, this time is framed by the battery charge indicator. The navigation screen is on one side of the rev counter with the audio control one on the other.
The “hands-on-the-wheel” philosophy has consistently driven the development of the human-machine interface in every Ferrari F1 car and its subsequent gradual transfer to its road-going sports cars. The SF90 Stradale’s steering wheel completes that transfer process from the competition world and also ushers in a new era by introducing a series of touch commands that allow the driver to control virtually every aspect of the car without ever taking their hands off the wheel.
The traditional controls include the now-classic steering-wheel mounted headlight control, windscreen wipers, indicators and the Manettino for driving modes.
Of the new touch controls, the compact but functional pad on the right-hand spoke allows the driver to navigate the central cluster screens, while voice and cruise controls are on the left-hand spoke. Also noteworthy is the adoption of a rotary switch for cruise control, a solution derived directly from the Formula 1 car. In the bottom left section of the central area, there are four buttons the driver uses to select the power unit use mode.
The Head Up Display is another part of the innovative HMI and allows various data to be projected onto the windshield within the driver’s field of vision so that their attention is not distracted from driving.
From a creative perspective, the SF90 Stradale interface project gave the Ferrari Style Centre’s designers the opportunity to interpret the screens in the cabin as a canvas on which all the car’s functions and controls could be represented. The screen graphics on the SF90 Stradale were also designed to create a 3D effect which is particularly striking during transitions, such as when the instrument panel is turned on or when swapping from one screen to the next.
Alongside the new-concept HMI, another major theme tackled in the cabin was the tunnel area interface. The F1 controls on the “bridge” are probably the most iconic of the Ferraris of recent generations. These have been completely redesigned and set into a modern metal plate which references an equally iconic feature from the past: the classic gear lever gate.