Ferrari 812 Superfast
Ferrari 812 Superfast £262,963 WE SAY: FERRARI CAN’T BE DONE FOR FALSE ADVERTISING. THIS IS HOW V12s SHOULD BE...
“When you buy a Ferrari, you pay for the engine and I will give you the rest for free,” said Enzo Ferrari, perhaps apocryphally. The 812 Superfast costs £262,963. I reckon that’s a fair price for this V12. It is utterly transcendental.
Other firms make V12s, and they’re perfectly decent. Some are smooth, others are strident, but this is something else altogether. It’s not the power, it’s not the noise, it’s not the response, and it’s not even a combination of all those facets that makes it so special. One word: reach. The figures say max torque arrives at 7,000rpm. The figures are a nonsense. It’s the impact the V12 has at 2,500rpm that’s so shocking. Heck, it’ll pull gears from 800rpm onwards, and at the other end: 8,900rpm. It’s got a far broader usable rev band than any turbo, one that develops with a tone, richness and ferocity that has to be experienced to be believed.
The 812 Superfast is, of course, the replacement for the F12berlinetta that was launched in 2012. It’s a front-engined, rear-drive, two-seat super GT – a layout that occupies a special place in Ferrari mythology, tracing its roots back through the 599 GTB and 550 Maranello to 365 Daytona and 250 GT.
The 812 is a thorough overhaul of the F12. Let’s start with the engine, which has been expanded from 6.2 to 6.5 litres and nipped and tucked everywhere else. The ’box is still mounted on the rear axle, so the 47:53 weight distribution favours the rear, while the 7spd dual-clutch transmission now shifts 30 per cent faster. Power steering is newly electric, which has allowed Ferrari to fit it with a few tricks – it can talk to the onboard traction and stability systems and adjust steering torque in corners. It’s also linked to a new four-wheel-steering system (Virtual Short Wheelbase in Ferrari-speak) similar to the one in the fearsome F12tdf. The brakes are from the LaFerrari and claimed to stop the 812 5.8 per cent faster than the F12 (which is nicely precise), drag is reduced, downforce is raised (although Ferrari gives no nicely precise figures about that) and the gearing has been shortened by 6 per cent (got to love the specifics).
So what sort of car is it? What I need to point out right away is that the 812 is not a grand tourer. I know Ferrari says it is, but open the bonnet and have a look where the engine is. It’s nowhere near the front of the car. Treat it as a GT and the 812 is flawed. There’s a lot of tyre noise, the engine never truly pipes down, the gearbox surges the shifts when going gently, the gearing is unfashionably short (112kph is 2,500rpm in top, when many sports car only pull 1,800rpm or so) and even with a 92-litre fuel tank, you’ll be doing well to risk going much beyond 483km before filling up. It didn’t help that this car was equipped with optional fixed-back carbon seats (£7,200) and four-point harnesses (£2,112).
Sealing and insulation are decent, echoes are well contained, it does track straight and true, and the ride, once you’ve pressed the “bumpy roads” button on the steering wheel, is effective at delivering comfort.
The cabin itself is very purposeful. All the toys are aimed at the driver, who only has time to concentrate on one: the gorgeous central rev-counter. There is no central infotainment; instead, all those functions are locked away in the twin screens that flank the rev-counter. Pity the poor passenger who has nothing to do but cling on – you can’t specify the passenger display from the GTC4Lusso and Portofino in the 812.
Is it luxurious? Not exactly, but it is beautifully made from wonderful materials. Mostly. Considering they cost so much, the harness straps don’t slide anything like as well as they should, and not having a cover on the passenger sun visor mirror seems cheap. But the carbon steering wheel (admittedly a £2,880 option) feels solid and fantastic to hold, and having all the instruments and dials a fingertip away does give this a very driver-orientated feel. The interior comes to you, if you like, keeps you occupied – this is not somewhere where you’ll be forever wanting to plunge into the menus.
The driving position sits you low if you opt for these aggressive fixed-back carbon seats. They’re not uncomfortable, but nor are they conducive to long-distance lounging. Think about how you’re going to use your 812 before you start speccing it. Grand touring is perfectly possible from a practicality viewpoint. The boot is big and there’s a sizeable parcel shelf behind the two seats. These can be linked together by flipping up a sprung-loaded divider. A word of warning: if you put your briefcase or other modestly weighty bag on the parcel shelf and proceed to accelerate with vigour, your briefcase will promptly relocate itself to the boot, the divider having sprung open like a magician’s trap door.
Handling, then. This is a more aggressive car than the F12 – Ferrari admits they’re steered it into the gap between the F12 and the F12tdf
(one of the most delinquent, hyperactive cars I’ve ever driven). What you have is a very fast steering rack mated to rear-end steering that really likes to get involved. It feels almost oversharpened, so eager to turn. It’s very clever,
because as I said before, it’s stable and calm on motorways, but give it a sniff of a corner…
Turn-in grip is astonishing, the 812 moving into the bend very fast, fast enough to catch you unawares. It’s a very active car; you’re conscious that there’s an awful lot going on, it’s coming to you fast and you don’t have a moment to relax. Initially it’s hard to drive smoothly and feels snatchy around corners because you’re not prepared for a car of this ilk to go in so hard and so quickly.
Once you start to get into it, you’ll find yourself taking it out of bumpy road mode because the soft damper setting introduces a little slack, delay and mushiness to the rear axle that you really don’t want when you trying to deploy some small, but rapidly expanding, proportion of 789bhp. It pours itself down the road with such urgency, such pomp and drama that you get utterly caught up in the experience.
The carbon-ceramic brakes are good, but working against the combined effects of 1630kg and 789bhp, they have a lot to do. The biggest issue is that even under modest retardation the hazards start to flash. But who cares about braking when you have that pounding, thrashing, soaring, triumphant 6.5-litre V12 to play with? One day, when we’re all driving electric cars, museums will want to put a single example of the internal combustion engine on display. So we can look back and remember. It should be this one. OLLIE MARRIAGE
“You’re not prepared for a car of this ilk to go in so hard and so quickly”