Driven: Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast

A tra­di­tion­al­ist might call this a GT, but Fer­rari’s new front-mi­dengined V12 is pure su­per­car

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Wil­helm Lut­je­harms Wil­helm­l_­car­mag

588kw. In au­to­mo­tive terms, that is a big num­ber. Even in an era of high­per­for­mance hy­per­cars, 588 kw re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant statis­tic. One of the head en­gi­neers who worked on the 812 Su­per­fast’s engine ad­mit­ted that it was some­thing of a chal­lenge to ex­tract yet more power from Fer­rari’s famed V12 and de­velop the engine to rev even higher.

Need­less to say, with this new pow­er­plant, co­de­named F140J, the com­pany has suc­ceeded. Fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of an engine that can trace its ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture to the Fer­rari Enzo su­per­car means the 6,5-litre (up from the F12’s 6,3-litre unit) V12 now de­vel­ops 588 kw at 8 500 r/min and 718 N.m at 7 000 r/min, with the rev limit raised to a loftier 8 900 r/min.

There is sim­ply so much to cel­e­brate here. For starters, the engine boasts more than 75% new parts and the seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion has been fur­ther im­proved to of­fer up­shifts some 30% quicker and down­shifts 40% faster than be­fore.

While the Su­per­fast moniker might sound a lit­tle on the crass and ob­vi­ous side, it does have prove­nance: the name be­longed to one of the ear­li­est pro­duc­tion Fer­raris. At the Paris Mo­tor Show in 1956, nine years af­ter Fer­rari was founded, the Su­per­fast I was un­veiled; it’s a name that would stick for a num­ber of years and, yes, it fea­tured a V12 engine.

Al­though the en­gi­neers em­ployed ex­pe­ri­ence gained from de­vel­op­ment of the lim­ited-edi­tion F12tdf, the 812 Su­per­fast is not as fo­cused, nor as hard-core. See it as a re­place­ment for the F12berlinetta. The 812’s in­take man­i­fold is based on the tdf’s, but hy­draulic tap­pets have been used in­stead of the me­chan­i­cal ones. Fer­rari’s aim has also been to make the 812 Su­per­fast more ver­sa­tile than the tdf, along with build­ing a lit­tle more com­fort into the sus­pen­sion setup.

It is also the first Fer­rari to of­fer elec­tric steer­ing – a big deal for the au­tomaker – and it comes with SSC-5,0, the lat­est ver­sion of Side Slip Con­trol. Ac­tive aero­dy­nam­ics are part of the pack­age and there are no fewer than four places on the body (ex­clud­ing the bot­tom of the car) where air can en­ter and leave through vents. On of­fer, too, is Passo Corto Vir­tuale 2.0 (the sec­ond ver­sion of Fer­rari’s rear-wheel­steer­ing sys­tem), while the fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tem now works at up to 350-bar pres­sure.

Sit­ting be­hind the flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel, ev­ery­thing falls neatly to hand, in­clud­ing a new touch­screen for the pas­sen­ger. It does, how­ever, take some time be­fore you’re fa­mil­iar with the lo­ca­tion of all the an­cil­lary con­trols, not be­cause they are com­pli­cated, but sim­ply ev­ery­thing hap­pens so quickly in the 812 that there’s rarely a chance to glance down to find a but­ton. Sim­ply put, it’s a mon­ster to drive. I don’t mean that it’s un­nec­es­sar­ily un­ruly, but you have to be aware that there is al­ways a wealth of power be­neath your right foot.

The roads in this area of Italy are not the smoothest, mak­ing it a chal­lenge for the 812 to put all of its con­sid­er­able mus­cle down, and even a bump at high revs sees the tachome­ter nee­dle jump by a few 100 r/min for a frac­tion of a sec­ond. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it is firmly sprung, but there’s just enough com­pli­ance that sev­eral hours be­hind the wheel isn’t tir­ing.

With­out much in the way of an op­por­tu­nity to stretch the 812’s legs, I was thank­ful when we turned to Fer­rari’s own track, the leg­endary Fio­rano, to drive the 812 Su­per­fast as, well, fast as pos­si­ble.

Af­ter a sight­ing lap with none other than Fer­rari test and de­vel­op­ment driver, Raf­faele de Si­mone, be­hind the wheel, it was clear that Fio­rano’s smooth as­phalt and tight cor­ners suit the 812 Su­per­fast per­fectly. The big Fer­rari hides its weight and girth rather well. Ini­tially, when you climb in, you’re well aware of the sheer length of the nose, but once on the move the car starts to feel

quite nim­ble. You also know ex­actly where the front wheels are, just be­low the raised fend­ers with ac­com­pa­ny­ing air out­lets; you can see them clearly from the driver’s seat.

The 812 turns in with less ef­fort than I ex­pected, with the front 245/35 ZR20 tyres (315/35 ZR20S on the rear) bit­ing hard and the rear axle push­ing the car through cor­ners.

How­ever, with 588 kw on tap, reach­ing the grip limit is just a prod of the throt­tle away – some­thing the 812’s en­gi­neers were only too aware of – and, even in race mode, the sys­tems (hard­ware and soft­ware) work with you to make your exit from the cor­ner as clean and quick as pos­si­ble. You can feel the work the rear axle is do­ing to put this tremen­dous amount of power down on the track.

The steer­ing feels neu­tral and is quickly geared, but there is no feed­back like you would ex­pe­ri­ence in a Mclaren, for ex­am­ple. But, then again, Mclaren doesn’t make GT cars and I would be far hap­pier pi­lot­ing the 812 over long dis­tances, par­tic­u­larly since the steer­ing helps to make the car so easy to drive fast or at town speeds.

Un­like the F12, you can now ex­e­cute three down­shifts in a sin­gle sec­ond. That is breath­tak­ingly quick. From fifth gear, ap­proach­ing a tight cor­ner, you sim­ply pull the left lever in quick suc­ces­sion and, with three quick barks and a spot of clever rev-match­ing, the gear­box drops three cogs. It is a sen­sa­tion I’ve not ex­pe­ri­enced in an­other GT.

On Fio­rano’s long­est straight, I eas­ily man­age to pass 200 km/h de­spite ad­her­ing to a noise-reg­u­la­tion-in­duced throt­tle-off/ throt­tle-on sec­tion. At the end of the straight, as at every other brak­ing point on the track, I’m able to climb onto the car­bon-ce­ramic brakes hard with to­tal con­fi­dence. The pedal’s feel and mod­u­la­tion seem iden­ti­cal to the one on a ve­hi­cle fit­ted with steel brake pads, and that can’t be said of most ve­hi­cles fit­ted with car­bon-ce­ram­ics.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, it’s the in­cred­i­ble ac­cel­er­a­tion and the speed at which the rev nee­dle swings round the clock that will stay with me for­ever. The V12 emits an in­tense, raw scream as the nee­dle swings past 8 000 r/min on its way to the rev lim­iter, 100 shy of 9 000 r/min.

I did not ex­pect a large, heavy GT car to feel this at home on a track, but the 812 Su­per­fast does so many things right that it’s hardly a sur­prise. The driv­e­train is phe­nom­e­nal and to ex­pe­ri­ence the fe­roc­ity and in­ten­sity of this V12 is some­thing truly spe­cial.

The 812 pos­sesses the sort of per­for­mance that will em­bar­rass su­per­cars and it is more in­volv­ing to drive than a num­ber of them. Fer­rari has been build­ing fron­tengined (front/mid-en­gined here) sportscars since its in­cep­tion and the com­pany has yet again cre­ated a ve­hi­cle that de­liv­ers on every level.

Car­ 29

from above Four ex­haust pipes emit a pleas­antly loud V12 scream at high revs; cabin of­fers a great driv­ing po­si­tion with a good view over the slop­ing bon­net; in­te­grated rear wing be­hind the air out­let; typ­i­cal grand tourer pro­file.

from top 812 feels nim­ble and light, hid­ing its mass in nearly all sce­nar­ios; fa­cia is de­void of large in­fo­tain­ment screens; the 1956 Su­per­fast.

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