Thanks to their bodacious curves, over-the-top aero, and supernumerary stats, Ferrari flagships like the big-winged F50 and the insectoid LaFerrari served up poster-worthy vibes that launched many a childhood dream. Those astronomic yardsticks are why, when the SF90 landed atop the Ferrari lineup in 2021, its mild child styling felt like a royal letdown. The hybridized V-8 pedaled hard to counterpoint with four-figure horsepower and everywhere-all-at-once torque, but was the understated new flagship ending Ferrari’s reign of irrational sexiness?
It took two years, but a wilder SF90 XX Stradale variant has finally emerged from Maranello. Much to the relief of automotive extremists, the latest/greatest is a reassuringly twisted take on the original. The double-X rated nomenclature tips a hat to the brand’s most elite, previously track-only strains, the likes of which include such unhinged examples as the 599 XX Evo and FXX-K Evo. Added to the mix is the spirit of roadgoing special models like the 458 Speciale and 812 Competizione. It's a curious strain within the Ferrari microbiome: a limited production, track-worthy model that’s fully street legal yet not supported in any Ferrari-sanctioned track series.
So what makes the SF90 XX Stradale special? For starters, at its media launch in Modena Ferrari brass made a Big Thing out of its fixed wing, the likes of which haven’t been seen since, appropriately enough, the swoopy, once-range-topping F50. Just look at it in person, and you’ll grasp at least half of what you need to know about the XX’s deep, dark heart: whereas the SF90 wears the smooth, tapered bodywork that would suit a wind-cheating sports car (made incrementally more aggressive with the Assetto Fiorano package), the XX is lengthened, sculpted, slatted and spoilered like a supercar should.
The added physicality includes a larger splitter, twin S-ducts mounted at the front radiator, and various louvers and vents to help boost front downforce by 20 percent. A sizable rear spoiler helps achieve double the downforce of the SF90 Stradale. The resulting 1,168 lbs at 155 mph figure makes it among the highest of any roadgoing Ferrari, essentially putting it on par with the LaFerrari. As with the standard SF90, a rear flap acts as a shut-off Gurney, which automatically configures into low or high positions, allowing air to detach from the body, stick to the wing, and create downforce.
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra power to eke out from the highly tuned, hybridized powertrain: The 4.0-liter twin turbo V-8’s ports have been polished and new pistons raise combustion ratio to 9.54:1, elevating ICE output to 786 horsepower. Ferrari’s first-ever ‘extra boost vehicle dynamics logic’ elevates the three-motor EV portion to 230 hp, bringing the system’s net sum to 1,016 hp. The 30 hp gains shave two-tenths of a second from both the 0-62 mph and 0-124 mph times, which slide to 2.3 and 6.5 seconds. The XX also inherits the 296’s ABS EVO controller, which uses a 6-axis sensor to more deftly apportion individual stopping power to each of the four wheels, helping maintain control and stability without the driver necessarily stabbing the left pedal.
In the flesh, the XX exudes more presence than the off-the-rack SF90 thanks to its larger, longer proportions and peekaboo panels. Penned under the purview of the masterful Flavio Manzoni, the bodywork is a masterwork of aerodynamics. Gaze beyond the Lexan engine cover and you’ll see, deep out of reach and disarmingly close to pavement, the crimson-capped V-8 and its surrounding plumbing, wiring, and mechanical accoutrements. Nice to see visual theatre is still alive and well in Maranello.
Due to an unfortunate wet front that plagued Italy’s Motor Valley during my visit, the moisture-dappled SF90 XX was riding on Bridgestone Potenza S005 runflat rain tires instead of the standard Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 or optional Cup 2R rubber. The XX’s carbon fiber door feels reassuringly feathery as it swings open, revealing hard, textured floorboards and plenty of carbon and Alcantara swathed across interior surfaces. Painted, body color-matched inserts on the door add a splash of interest to the otherwise somber cabin.
Manually slide the fixed-rake carbon buckets into position and click the satin-finished Sabelt harness into place, and the views are not all that different than those of a regular SF90. Press ‘Engine Start’—still, disappointingly, a haptic panel not a physical button at 6 o’clock on the steering wheel—and the EV systems whir to life unless a more aggressive, gasoline-aided rumble is summoned via the so-called Energy Manettino through the haptic panel on the left of the wheel.
Ferrari claims the new XX is.8 seconds quicker around Fiorano, but I wasn’t exactly aiming for a lap record given the rain-slicked conditions. As if to heighten the drama, the V-8 rumbles with a more visceral presence when in ICE-assisted modes thanks to its relocated intake plenum and resonator. The aural experience is further amped up via a revised hot tube system that diverts valuable decibels into the cabin. Should you prefer silence, expect approximately 9 miles of electron-driven range from the 7.9 kWh lithium-ion battery.
Daunting as it may be to wrangle all that horsepower onto a wet track, the XX’s electronics manage to take much of the edge off the proceedings. Yes, there’s a whole lot of electron and hydrocarbon-driven energy flowing through all four wheels, sometimes more than the Bridgestones can handle in corners. But in Wet mode, the power is laid down with smooth-tapered discipline, only triggering traction loss when the wheel is jerked and too much is asked of the four tenuously attached contact patches.
Graduate to Sport by dialing the Mannetino clockwise, and there’s a bit more palpable grunt on hand, pushing the Ferrari down the 1.86-mile course with surprising force. Steering feels light and accurate, encouraging confidence as the high-strung two-seater is coaxed into bends. Aiding corner exits are what Ferrari calls ‘just-in-time’ torque vectoring at the front axle thanks to its twin electric motors; the effect isn’t as eyeball-squishing as it might have been in the dry, but the various stability-enhancing systems (and perhaps a bit of the increased downforce) does help build confidence despite knowing that grip levels might very well be near the limit. The smarter ABS system and enlarged rear rotors certainly enhance threshold braking, but let’s not kid ourselves: there’s only so much flirting along the thin line of control before things could go sideways. As life affirming as it is to kick up rooster tails along the tornantino, it’s equally, if not more of a thrill to return this borrowed steed in one piece.
A few questions about the XX’s positioning and personality linger when our weather-moistened track day finally comes to an end. Yes, it’s thankfully more extroverted than the off-the-rack SF90, and for that we’re grateful. But since street legality is one of its defining traits, how would this track weapon feel on Emilia Romagna’s nearby mountain roads, or more crucially, its crowded urban centers? Some questions will have to remain a mystery, left to be unearthed by the 799 coupe and 599 spider deposit holders who have dibs on this amped up flagship.
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