Ferrari SF90 XX Stradale review – 1016bhp hybrid is the first road-legal XX
The spectacular SF90 XX Stradale is now officially the fastest street-legal model around Fiorano, and pushes Ferrari’s road car range to new extremes of performance
Based upon the near-1000bhp hybrid series-production supercar flagship, this XX version of the SF90 wears all-new high-downforce bodywork, receives a modest gain in power (17bhp from the 4-litre twin-turbo V8 and 13bhp from the battery-electric hybrid system) and boast a suite of latest-gen electronics controlling the powertrain, suspension, active aerodynamics and braking systems to maximise its capabilities on track while retaining road legality.
As such it’s the most aggressively focused Ferrari road car since the F40 and F50, something the company is keen to reference in its press material and echoed in the XX Stradale’s prominent fixed rear wing – the first since those hallowed special-series models.
As its name suggests, the SF90 XX Stradale borrows heavily from Ferrari’s super-exclusive XX Programme, which has spawned a series of three ultra-low-volume non-homologated track-only cars. Driven at private XX events by a truly elite band of customers, these cars are effectively rolling laboratories used to help develop future road cars. The new XX Stradale doesn’t confer the same ego-massaging ‘Factory Test Driver’ status enjoyed by owners of the FXX, 599XX and FXX K (and subsequent Evo versions), but it benefits from the same ethos of pure performance.
There is so much technology packed into the SF90 XX Stradale it’s only possible to scratch the surface in this report. Suffice to say the suite of fully integrated electronic control systems that manage the powertrain, suspension, braking and aerodynamics are the most sophisticated and comprehensive yet, at least so far as street-legal Ferraris are concerned.
More visible are the nose-to-tail changes made to the SF90’s bodywork. The results are hugely effective, in terms of aesthetics (it looks sensational), aerodynamics and thermal management. Doubling the maximum achievable downforce of the standard SF90, the XX develops 530kg of downforce at 250kph (155mph).
The fixed rear wing works in conjunction with a moveable section of the bodywork’s rear deck (known as the shut-off Gurney), which adjusts according to the car’s speed to reduce drag or increase downforce.
To balance the increase in rear downforce there are two S-ducts at the front, which manage underbody airflow. There’s also a larger front splitter, and a redesigned front radiator, which vents through the front bonnet in true race-car style.
In addition, the various slots, gills and vents peppering the bodywork serve to relieve the build-up of lift-inducing air pressure, feed cool air or extract hot air. Indeed, the electric motor power gains achieved in XX guise are entirely down to improvements in thermal management.
First the bad news. Despite this being the first road-legal XX Ferrari the launch doesn’t include road driving. To be fair, time spent on the road would impact the number of laps we have to explore the full performance at Fiorano. And, being late in the year there was also the spectre of wintry weather up on the hills. Next time…
As consolation drives go, pointing the nose of a £674,000 1016bhp Ferrari out onto a deserted Fiorano and having two sessions to attempt to follow a ‘ghost car’ piloted by factory test driver Raffa di Simone is about as good as it gets in this job. The XX immediately rises to the occasion, setting the tone with a more vocal engine note (achieved via clever hot and cold plumbing from the turbo system and intake plenum that pipes the V8’s more animalistic sounds towards the driver) and a cockpit that makes a nod to track specials of the past. It’s business-like without being excessively raw, and much more exuberant than the rather subdued SF90.
Reflecting the uniqueness of the SF90’s all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain, which sees a 786bhp turbo V8 and one electric motor driving the rear axle and a further pair of electric motors driving the front axle (collectively delivering 230 electric bhp to make the full 1016bhp), there’s an eManettino that offers a range of increasingly aggressive powertrain modes as well as the regular Dynamic Manettino familiar from Ferrari’s other street cars.
The XX’s dynamics may be digitally controlled, but it’s a surprisingly tactile machine from the off. The gearshift has been tweaked so that it feels more punchy. Not exaggerated in the manner of an old-school Lamborghini paddleshift, but harder and pleasingly mechanical.
Chassis-wise the XX convincingly disguises its all-wheel-drive set-up, the front axle’s smart torque vectoring assisting with traction without corrupting the balance, which feels rear-wheel drive in almost every situation. Roll rate is reduced by 10 per cent but there’s still enough roll to easily read the build up in lateral load, and while highly responsive (as is typical of Ferrari) once you get dialled in you can place the XX with uncanny precision.
As you might imagine it excels through Fiorano’s quickest corners, the right-left-right sequence that follows the tightest hairpin revealing immense grip and a huge appetite to change direction, combined with a giddy sense of the car poised just at the brink of oversteer. The car is working hard beneath you, but it feels supernatural. Crucially you very much feel part of the process, and the harder you push, the more critical your inputs become.
Braking is equally impressive, the latest ABS Evo electronics estimating and exploiting the available longitudinal grip at each wheel. Active in every dynamic mode from Race upwards, it wrings more from the tyres than any previous Ferrari. This is especially impressive at the point of turn-in, for it allows you to brake deep into the corner, aggressively slowing and rotating the car without destabilising it.
It goes without saying that the XX is a rocket sled from apex to corner exit. Never more so than in Qualify mode, with a new Extra Boost function that deploys additional battery power for short bursts in the corner exit phase. Once you’ve got it stopped and turned the XX explodes onto the straight. You know there’s more than just the turbocharged V8 propelling you, but the way the instant EV torque and building ICE power meld into one monumental accelerative bearhug is something to behold.
When you’re dealing with 1000-plus bhp, though welcome, the extra 30bhp is neither here nor there. Likewise, the hard-won weight savings (35kg gross, reduced to just 10kg net once the added weight of the fixed rear wing, larger front splitter, etc is accounted for) equate to a dry weight of 1560kg. At this level it’s a game of marginal gains, not giant leaps. Besides, the power gains and weight loss are more emblematic of the XX philosophy, with aerodynamics and electronics effecting the greater transformation.
The big unanswered question is whether the XX Stradale works on the road. It’s impossible to be definitive, but my sense is it should work just fine. At least when conditions are warm enough for the tyres to work within their preferred temperature window. And, thanks to the more vocal engine, punchier gearshifts and racy cockpit environment, it would be a real event at any speed. Which is just as well given much of its performance is likely to remain untapped on the public road.
Price and rivals
If there’s one thing that exceeds Ferrari’s ability to make fast cars faster, it’s the company’s apparently limitless capacity to make money. Until Lamborghini launched the 1001bhp Revuelto, Ferrari had the top-tier sub-hypercar supercar market to itself. Now the SF90 XX creates another niche, pushing the supercar pricing threshold ever closer to £1m while still leaving plenty of headroom for a true successor to the LaFerrari.
The SF90 XX is available in both Stradale (coupe) and Spider versions: the former costing £673,584 and limited to a run of 799 cars, the latter costing £744,000 and limited to 599 units. Predictably, all are sold. Yet more proof I should have studied harder at school.
Ferrari SF90 XX Stradale specs
|Engine||V8, 3990cc, twin-turbo, plus three electric motors|