Image I Ferrari

IT MIGHT BE nearly 40 years old but the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is still an undeniable cultural touchstone, particularly so for anyone fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

As you may recall from the film, one sunny Chicago day, Ferris, his girlfriend and his neurotic buddy Cameron decide to ditch school, taking Cameron’s dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, for a day of hijinks in the city.

At some point they leave the majestic automobile in the care of a pair of valets. As Cameron frets about the welfare of the vehicle, Ferris gives the valet a 50 to watch it and tells his anxious buddy to chill. The camera then falls on the two valets putting pedal to metal, as they embark on the ultimate joy ride, putting over 3000 miles on the odometer. At one point the pair push the GT so hard it gets airborne over a crest in the road, as the camera catches them in the throes of slow-motion ecstasy, the scene elevated to a stupendous plane by the accompanying strains of John Williams’ Star Wars score.

Now, I would like to say I pushed the new Ferrari 296 GTS to similar heights (and speeds) during my recent test drive of the iconic marque’s new hybrid vehicle. I would also like to tell you that I drove it with similar levels of unselfconscious abandon. Alas, I did not. Test drives already fill me with anxiety, let alone one where the vehicle in question starts at nearly $700,000 before extras, which can see the drive-away price hit a million bucks.  

That means that as I exit the Ferrari showroom in Sydney’s Waterloo, I have possibly the most electrifying (and electrical) high-performance car on the streets of Sydney at my disposal, while crawling along said streets at a pace that would earn beeps from a Learner driver. It’s an irony that isn’t lost on me; I feel like I’m bringing a bazooka to a game of darts.

Image I Ferrari

Let’s be honest; driving a Ferrari requires a baseline level of self-assurance. But for those of us who are occasionally troubled by the cranium-haunting wraith known as self-consciousness, it can be a challenging experience, at least initially.

So colossal is the luxury marque’s imprint across motorsports, film and pop culture, it creates a few nice suitcases worth of psychological baggage you can feel like you are hauling around with you. Is everyone looking at me? Yes, many of them are. What should I do? Adopt an aloof countenance? No, too smug. How about a wry smile? Marginally better. Don’t want to appear like a show-off, though. Damn, I’m just going to slink further down into my seat when we hit these next set of lights.

This feeling of psychological disquiet persists when I arrive back at my apartment where a bunch of tradies are loitering outside. Now, I won’t say I feel objectified by their long, lingering gazes, but the way they visually undress the vehicle isn’t far off, I suspect, to how a beautiful lady hopefully no longer feels when walking past a building site. One bloke even wolf whistles, for crissakes, causing me to turn the colour of the GTS – not fire engine red but a shade of rouge known as Rosso Imola.

After parking the car in my apartment’s garage, I allow myself time to fully appraise the vehicle, getting to know its features and take in its specs. And what specs! The GTS is powered by the new 120° V6 ENGINE and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a plug-in (PVEV) 122kW/315Nm MGU-K electric motor, which combines with the V6 to pump out an incredible 610kW of power at 8000rpm and 740Nm of torque at 6250rpm.

While these dizzying numbers might as well be hieroglyphics to me, the bottom line is that they help propel the GTS from 0-100km in a head shaking 2.9sec and 0-200km/h in 7.6sec, with a top speed of 330km/h. That tarmac-torching power is evident when you put your foot down, an act of daring that produces the kind of full-throated roar you don’t normally hear outside of the African Savannah. Yet the inclusion of the electric motor means that with a flick of a switch on the steering wheel, you can usher in near silence. Not only is that environmentally on point, it’s also a neat party trick. In electric mode, which you find yourself trying more often than you’d imagine, the GTS has a range of 25km and a top speed of 135km/h.

Image I Ferrari

What about safety features, you probably don’t ask. Well, it comes fitted with front driver and passenger side airbags in the door panels for head protection, an Anti-Slip Regulator (ASR) and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. And while performance is clearly the priority when you purchase a Ferrari, the GTS doesn’t skimp on tech either, with wireless phone charging, digital radio and Apple CarPlay, as well as a rear parking camera and front parking sensors – I definitely need these.

It’s quite the spread and as I take it all in, I begin to feel a determination mounting in my stomach to fully embrace this astounding feat of automotive engineering. I look at the badge of the Prancing Horse. There’s nothing meek about that.

As I get back behind the wheel I give the engine a vigorous rev. Then, as I head out my driveway past the construction workers, I sit up straighter in my seat, drinking in their envious gaze as I pull a small lever to retract the roof – yes this bad boy is a convertible – losing the top in a mere 14 seconds.

Now, more exposed than ever before, my new more macho mien continues out on the road where I begin returning the stares I’m getting. One workman remarks that it looks like I’m having a better day than him. He’s probably right. When other guys beep their horns in appreciation of my ride, I exuberantly beep back. Soon, I’m putting my foot down, revelling in the exquisite machine’s exhilarating power.

As I drop the car back at the showroom at the end of the day, there will be no need to attempt to wind back the odometer, Bueller-style – I probably rack up closer to 30km than 3000 miles. But when it comes to the GTS 296, I can only echo that modern day iconoclast’s satisfied sentiments: “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

For more information on the Ferrari 296 GTS visit Ferrari Maserati Sydney.


The Maserati Grecale Trofeo will delight – and surprise

Inside the rise of the K Cars