FIRST DRIVES

Seven new cars star­ring the Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast, Nis­san Qashqai, Mercedes EClass cabri­o­let and Re­nault Koleos

CAR (UK) - - First Drives -

I’D LOVE TO MEET some­one able to drop over a quar­ter of a mil­lion pounds on a new Fer­rari. Not out of jeal­ousy, more so I could go through with them in geeky de­tail what their cash has bought them. It would be easy to get dis­tracted by that badge, or by the stun­ning looks, but what makes this car so spe­cial is the hard­ware. And a lit­tle bit of soft­ware.

To the unini­ti­ated, and pos­si­bly every­one, the Su­per­fast tag might sound tau­to­log­i­cal, but it ref­er­ences the last of the 1960s Amer­ica mod­els that had big Columbo V12s, space for peo­ple and – bless my soul – a use­able boot. At the 812 launch at the Fio­rano test track, Fer­rari went to great lengths to re­mind us how this new­comer is a GT car. There can’t have been many Fer­rari pre­sen­ta­tions con­tain­ing a slide de­tail­ing lug­gage space.

As won­der­ful as loafer-car­ry­ing abil­ity is, there are more fun­da­men­tal im­prove­ments that de­serve closer at­ten­tion. When glimpsed across a car park there’s an ob­vi­ous visual link to the F12 in the pro­por­tions but the ex­te­rior is in fact all new, mix­ing a dash of the tdf’s loony ag­gres­sion with much aero man­age­ment. It’s a credit to how hard Fer­rari’s wind tun­nel works that it takes a while to spot all the blades, scoops and vents that send the air in desirable di­rec­tions with­out re­sort­ing to un­sightly spoil­ers. The un­der­floor dif­fuser pro­vides 40% of the down­force, which is the same fig­ure as the tdf but with less drag.

There’s a case for say­ing Fer­rari cur­rently doesn’t do pretty. The 812 has a func­tional grace about it while car­ry­ing some ob­vi­ous girth around the hips, but it’s the length and

The tech doesn’t stop the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ing al­most en­tirely nat­u­ral

sleek­ness of the nose as it rises and falls over the front wheels that raises the pulse. Safe to say that any 812 would elicit the de­sired re­sponse should one ap­pear in your rear-view mir­ror, but it ac­tu­ally looks bet­ter wear­ing op­tional al­loy wheels and painted some­thing other than red.

Drop down into the slim but sup­port­ive seats and you’re faced with a rel­a­tively sim­ple dash. The thin spar by your right knee car­ries the cru­cial drive func­tions. Ev­ery­thing else is grouped around the steer­ing wheel, with the big ana­logue tachome­ter tak­ing pride of place in the cen­tre, flanked by dig­i­tal screens for ev­ery­thing else. Partly in­her­ited from the GTC4 Lusso, the dash func­tions are com­pre­hen­sive and fath­omable rather than wholly in­tu­itive. But the 812 gets away with it be­cause this patently isn’t the kind of car in which you spend a lot of time try­ing to save Ra­dio 4 to your favourites.

The 12 in the car’s name refers to the num­ber of cylin­ders. Based on the block that first ap­peared on the Enzo 15 years ago, it’s bored and stroked to what Fer­rari as­sures us is its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 6.5 litres. Hard to see how you could need more. Higher-pres­sure fuel in­jec­tors, a raised com­pres­sion ra­tio and vari­able in­let tracts help it to kick out be­yond the tdf to 789bhp at 8500rpm – that’s 800 met­ric horse­power. There’s a lit­tle more torque than the tdf too, but this is an en­gine that has been tuned for power, with shorter gear ra­tios to help you make the most of it. Nat­u­rally as­pi­rated, pro­duc­ing 123bhp per litre and ca­pa­ble of reach­ing 8900rpm for no other rea­son than it might do strange things to your un­der­car­riage, it’s not short on ex­cite­ment ei­ther.

The roads im­me­di­ately sur­round­ing Fio­rano aren’t the glo­ri­ous moun­tain switch­backs you might imag­ine, so you just bim­ble around and find out how the 812 copes with re­al­ity. With the manet­tino multi-func­tion con­troller set to Sport and the DCT gear­box in auto it’s easy to drive. The wound-down re­sponse of the long-travel throt­tle means you won’t trig­ger un­wanted ac­cel­er­a­tion. The steer­ing, while quick, won’t give you a headache. The ride is cer­tainly on the firm side, even if you prod the bumpy road but­ton, but as the speed rises smaller road nig­gles are fil­tered more read­ily.

It’s easy to see how you could cover long dis­tances in the 812 with­out much fuss, aside from the in­evitable at­ten­tion from other road users. You can point it to­ward your favourite driv­ing road, whether it’s 200 or 2000 miles away, and know that you’ll still be in the mood by the time you get there. What­ever set­tings you dial up, you’re never in any doubt that there’s some­thing rather spe­cial in the en­gine bay. Yes, it’s tuned for power rather than torque – but there’s still 530lb ft avail­able, 80% of that from 3500rpm; stuff hap­pens quickly.

As with all the great­est nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gines, ap­ply­ing throt­tle in the 812 doesn’t sim­ply in­crease the power – it feels as though it’s re­leas­ing some­thing con­tained against its will. Time and again it’s a thrill to wit­ness how quickly an en­gine of this size can soar through the revs, de­liv­er­ing mas­sive pace and a sound­track

nd

Four-wheel steer­ing, like all the 812’s clever tech, is there to help you go faster

The fastest, most po­tent car Fer­rari has ever put into se­ries pro­duc­tion is, it turns out, a dod­dle to drive

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