2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

Ferrari has been working on a proprietary part-time four-wheel drive system designed for both its mid- and front-engined models for the past several years. Christened the “Insertable 4x4”, not much has been seen or heard about the system for some time but now a mysterious Ferrari prototype has been spotted, suggesting that work on the system is ongoing.

Early last year a search of the European Patent Office revealed that Ferrari had applied for a new patent for a four-wheel drive system combined with an electric motor in a sort of hybrid configuration.

In this setup, the associated heavy weight of typical four-wheel drive vehicles is eliminated by using two powerplants in the car, an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, each to drive a separate pair of wheels. This in turn eliminates the need for heavy and bulky transfer cases and driveshafts.

Soon after the discovery of the patent, Ferrari boss Amedeo Felisa revealed that a concept based on the system was in the works. An inside source at Ferrari later revealed that the electrically driven four-wheel drive system will be used in the automaker’s front-engined GT models and will power the front wheels. Unlike conventional hybrids, the aim of the system is to improve handling rather than improve fuel economy--an area Ferrari isn’t alone in.

Now, we have word that a prototype version is already testing in the rough and muddy terrains of Argentina. Ferrari engineers testing the vehicles reportedly confirmed to onlookers that the cars featured a new four-wheel drive system.  

The system is expected to debut in the replacement for the 612 Scaglietti, which you can see spy shots of by clicking here. While the new car will be launched sometime in 2011, the new hybrid four-wheel drive option won’t arrive until 2014 at the earliest.

Follow the jump below to see shots of the prototype and then check out our previous story for more details on Ferrari’s Insertable 4x4 system.

[Argentina Autoblog]