Driven: Ferrari 812 Superfast
A traditionalist might call this a GT, but Ferrari’s new front-midengined V12 is pure supercar
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.
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.