Meet Ferrari’s Dino bambino

Ferrari says Dino’s return is three or four years away; this V6 mule says otherwise

STEPHEN CORBY

WILL Ferrari bring back the iconic Dino nameplate on an entry-level V6-powered performance coupe and change its market penetration and volume figures forever? It depends whether you believe what the Italians are saying, or what they’re not saying.

These spy images of a 458 mule with a shorter wheelbase, huge side intakes and a revised exhaust system, suggest that development work on the long-rumoured Dino is well advanced. The mule was was snapped testing near Bosch’s headquarters in Abstatt, Germany.

The cut-n-shut 458 body sits on a shortened 488 architecture, with narrower doors and a truncated rear deck consistent with a smaller V6 engine.

The photographer who snapped our pics also reported that the car’s engine sounded entirely different to the stock 488 that was following it, and more like the Maserati-derived 3.0-litre V6 being tested in the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde.

Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne has already said the return of the Dino nameplate is “not a question of if but when”. He said the reception to this had been “positive” and that work on a V6 engine was continuing.

When Wheels visited Maranello for the launch of the 488 GTB, the designers ran late to our briefing because they’d just been showing the “big boss” something new.

So, we asked, would this new car they were clearly excited about have a shorter or longer wheelbase than the 488 we were looking at?

“Shorter,” was the answer.

A question about whether it

HEIR SUPERIORITY

ALTHOUGH the 246 GT (above) is the Dino everyone reveres, the first car to wear the badge of Enzo’s beloved son and heir was the 1967 Fiat Dino. Its 2.0-litre V6 engine was shared with the first of Ferrari’s models, the Pininfarina-designed 1968 Dino 206 GT, which lasted just a year before being upgraded to the 2.4-litre 246 GT.

A targa-top GTS followed in 1971 and the angular V8-engined 308 GT4 arrived in 1973.

Between 1973 and 1976, the Gandini-styled GT4 and the 246 were sold side by side, both badged as Dinos, before the 246 was pensioned off and the 308 was given the proper Prancing Horse badge.

While the 2+2 GT4 has always been one of Maranello’s lesser lights, values for tidy 246 models now regularly climb beyond $500,000.

TURBOS CHARGED

Ferrari has taken out a host of patents on electric turbos and cylinder deactivation

SQUARED UP

Front and rear guard contours suggest Dino’s track may not differ too much from the 458, so expect an oversquare, almost Stratos-like body.

PIPE BOMB

Mule’s tailpipes are tucked well out of sight, suggesting a more compact rear end for the hardware beneath.

was a Dino – rather than a new SUV/four-seater of some kind – drew some energetic shrugging, head shaking and no words at all.

We discussed with one designer some concept sketches we’d seen and wondered whether a new Dino could actually look so much like an Alfa 4C. He was appalled, saying a Ferrari would never look so “immature”. Asked about the Dino, again he wasn’t saying anything. But if ever there was a race of people who tell a story with their faces and body movements, it’s the Italians.

Official Ferrari media spokesman Stefano Lai had plenty to say, however, after we showed him the CAD sketches, which appeared to make his eyes angry.

“Mr Marchionne has said the Dino is an important name and it’s something that will appear on a car in the future, but it won’t be a small car, and it won’t be a cheap car,” he told us, a little gruffly. “And it certainly won’t be in the next five or six years.

“The speculation is wrong, and it is not something [Ferrari] would consider. People like to draw things, they like to make pictures, but if they keep using our brand on them, we’ll sue them.”

If it were possible to read shrugs and raised eyebrows, though, we’d gamble they’re going to do it, and soon.

STYLE GUIDE

Ferrari says the Dino won’t look like this artist’s impression, and nor will it be cut-price. “We may produce a 500 horsepower Ferrari but it will not be a cheap Ferrari,” says company chief Sergio Marchionne.

DINO RIVALS

There’s one hell of a scrap at the $350K price point that Ferrari currently misses out on. The Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, Aston Martin Vantage and McLaren 540C would all come into the sights of the Dino, as would the Huracan from arch-rival Lamborghini.

FLOTATION DEVICE

A NEW sub-488 Ferrari – powered by a larger version of the twin-turbo V6 already being built at the Maranello plant for use in the Maserati Ghibli and the Giulia, where it makes 380kW – would provide a more accessible entry point to Ferrari ownership.

This would also provide Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne with the volume increase he desires, having based the company’s imminent float on sales of 10,000 units a year – well up on ex-CEO Luca di Montezemolo’s long-standing cap of 7000.

Ferrari, unofficially, feels that such a move would “screw the brand”, and add too much volume. At the same time, selling a healthy number of still quite expensive entry-level Dinos at, say, $350,000 each – still a bargain for a Ferrari – couldn’t be too bad for the bottom line of the FCA group.