Ferrari SF90 Stradale Drive Review : Karma Chameleon [COTY2021]
Singapore - Thanks to the Prius, the ‘Hybrid’ tag has built up a towering
stigma erm, reputation for sensible, silent and dare we say it, straight-laced operation over the better part of two decades since the first iteration was launched.
Clearly, the molten quicksilver 1000hp Ferrari SF90 Stradale didn’t get the memo, because we’re tearing around a temporary ‘track’ in rowdy, raucous fashion at the grounds of the Changi Exhibition Centre in the Prancing Horse’s plug-in petrol-electric slinky, super-sportscar.
Some people’s impressions of ‘hybrid’ (or for that matter, electric) vehicle owners is that of smug, beard-strokey virtue-signalling types that bond over outrage or ridicule targeted at loud and lairy sportscars and oil-burning SUVs.
There’s nothing wrong with embracing green motoring, especially for those just jumping on the bandwagon – wear it loud and proud all you want, but there’s no need to be obnoxious about it.
Some say that entry to this ‘club’ requires HEV/BEV ownership, a stiff upper lip and a ready sneer on one’s face whenever someone says they still drive an ICE vehicle!
As a card-carrying plug-in hybrid, the SF90 Stradale is a proper ‘carma’ chameleon that can rock-up in ZEV silence to one of these meets with the MGs, Ioniqs and Prius’ just to see everybody go up in flames, not least because it goes against the grain of what most folks expect a ‘hybrid’ to look like.
Besides, we find it a giggle that the SF90’s go-green, go-faster credentials, which combine electric motor with twin-turbo’d V8, scores good karma carbon credits in true anti-establishment fashion.
The only time we can stomach a hybrid powertrain is when it is used for good, and by ‘good’ we mean moaaarrr powaaaa!
With the SF90 Stradale, the ‘green’ in it helps put a big grin on our faces, especially when we’re giving it the full beans in a closed circuit.
After all, few things are as potent as an electric motor providing a big boost to the turbo’d V8 as is experienced in the SF90.
Exotics don’t just look the part, they’re created to be the best of breed that transcend pure paper stats in terms of performance and presence.
If you’re the quantitative, empirical sort of ‘enthusiast’ that pores over tech specs, you’ve probably missed the point of such cars completely.
In the flesh, cars like the SF90 Stradale inspire shock and awe, beautiful, fantastical forms shaped by the science of speed and wind created for those who appreciate the most beautiful things in life.
Comparing an appliance that can simply go fast against a work of rolling automotive art like the SF90 Stradale is like comparing the bare-faced accuracy of a quartz to the works of wrist art by one of the haute horlogerie houses.
Nothing wrong with that, but this is the type of killjoy that finds it hard to look beyond empirical numbers and efficiency data to appreciate the emotional and exceptional.
These guys pop-up in our comments section every now and again… you know the sort, “The meh does it in blah seconds and costs less.”
By itself, the V8 is already a beast with 780hp/800Nm, but the trio of electric motors bumps system output to 1000hp and what’s probably a gob-stopping amount of torque.
This means the SF90 Stradale can be a real handful (for both driver and tyres!) of fun in both wet and dry – even with AWD and advanced torque vectoring!
The SF90 Stradale’s cabin is reminiscent of the Roma’s, a driver-centric step into the future with haptic touch-controls and a lush 16-inch HD digital display taking centre-stage.
The carbonfibre sports seats boast an ultra-slim silhouette, yet provide plenty of support and comfort under the hardest driving imaginable.
Like all Ferraris, the controls fall readily to hand and everything essential is within reach so you’ll never have to take your mind off driving.
The enemy to performance is weight and electrified hardware typically carries plenty of ‘baggage’, which makes the SF90 Stradale’s 1.5-tonne kerbweight a staggering achievement in weight-loss.
On the move, the SF90 Stradale feels it too! It’ll go full-electric in Reverse, as well as travel in ZE for up to 25km, but that’s the least of its abilities.
In the SF90, the manettino has evolved into eManettino with electric-specific power unit management modes: eDrive, Hybrid, Performance and Qualify, with Qualify the loco mode for maximum performance from both V8 and the electric motors.
The steering is sharp beyond belief, as the tyres eagerly carve out a compelling calligraphy script in Michelin ink to form a mesmerising message for onlookers.
True to electrified form, the onslaught of power comes like a huge tsunami wave – relentless and resolute in its delivery.
The last time this author was in a 1000+hp car, it was the mid-2000s and it was a heavily-tuned A80 Supra. Power delivery came with all the laggy goodness that characterised large turbos of that era and it was hard work eking out every hp from the car, much less ensuring none of it overwhelmed the fat rear tyres.
In the SF90 Stradale, the combination of low-lag turbos and the immediate zap from the electric motors means an instant hit the moment you’re on the throttle. On lesser EVs, you get the huge hit with none of the handling finesse.
However, on a thoroughbred like the SF90 Stradale, you get unfiltered, unadulterated and explosive performance that hits so quickly and so hard you need to be fully committed from the get-go.
People who think electric performance makes it easy to go fast haven’t driven super-sportscars like the SF90 that are meant to do more than just go quickly in a straight-line.
Things are happening so fast and so furiously you find yourself concentrating even harder on the driving and this is the sort of focus that is a hallmark of all great driver’s cars.
If you're hankering after even tighter and more hardcore performance, Ferrari also offers a cost-optional Assetto Fiorano pack for the SF90. Apart from the two-tone livery, it loses even more weight and gets track-tuned suspension and tyres.
In a sign of the times, the SF90 Stradale is the second electrified vehicle we have in this year’s list. Instead of merely pushing the envelope of hybrid range and electric efficiency, the SF90 Stradale stretches the boundaries of handling dynamics and performance.
Ultimately, this succeeds in imparting an intimate and engaging driving beyond that of a video game experience, ably demonstrating it is possible for such electrified machines to have a soul.
And this has surely gotta be down to Ferrari’s good karma…
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals
Ferrari SF90 Stradale
Engine 3990cc, V8, twin-turbo
Engine Power/rpm 780hp/7500rpm
Engine Torque/rpm 800Nm/6000rpm
Battery 7.9kWh, Li-Ion
Battery power 220hp
System Output 1000hp
Transmission 8spd F1 dual-clutch
Top Speed 340km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.1l/100km