Honda CB1300

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

A solid two-wheeler ride with a clas­sic de­sign. 85

the first time you un­cork the 812’s 6.5-liter V12 and al­low it to scream to that 8,900rpm lim­iter in third gear you ask your­self one sim­ple ques­tion: “Does it feel faster than an F12—I mean, can you re­ally feel the ex­tra 59hp?” Is that two ques­tions? Feels like just the one to me. And this is ac­tu­ally a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer, be­cause even though I’ve driven many F12s, when 40°C as­phalt is lightly grid­dling the Pirelli P Ze­ros just be­hind your bot­tom and you have the mo­tive force of eight warm hatch­backs lurk­ing at the end of your right foot, it can be hard to sum­mon your in­ner jour­nal­ist and come over all ma­ture.

So I thumped the right pedal, the 812 spat it­self at the hori­zon with the ur­gency of a spooked adder, but in­stead of of­fer­ing an an­swer, my mouth opened and I shouted a word rhyming with luck very loudly, and with quite a linger. “Lu­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­u­uck,” I shouted. Luck with an F. One lap later, al­low­ing for fur­ther luck out­bursts, the vaguely pro­fes­sional cor­ner of my brain wrests back some con­trol and de­liv­ers a sen­si­ble mes­sage. Yes, it feels quicker than an F12, but it’s the gear­ing (about 6% shorter one to six) that ap­pears to con­trib­ute to the added thrust more than the in­creased power.

And I sup­pose this makes sense, be­cause the 812 ex­ists in the iono­sphere of road-le­gal sports cars; its 789hp is so far re­moved from nor­mal­ity that it ac­tu­ally ren­ders a 59hp power in­crease rel­a­tively mean­ing­less. I mean, would you im­me­di­ately spot an ex­tra 20hp in a VW Golf R? Prob­a­bly not.

The 812 Su­per­fast rep­re­sents the pin­na­cle of the art of an­swer­ing a ques­tion that no one ever asked: namely, what would an F12 Ber­linetta feel like with more power? I had an F12 last year, and dur­ing the many thou­sand miles I en­joyed in it I never once thought, “What this to­tally un­hinged mis­sile that will break trac­tion on a damp road in fifth gear needs is some more grunt.” Not once.

But progress is mea­sured em­pir­i­cally, and Fer­rari is, thank­fully, more in­ter­ested in what is pos­si­ble rather that what might be nec­es­sary. If you leave a bunch of en­gine nerds with a 730hp 6.3-liter V12 it is in­evitable that they will in­crease the ca­pac­ity (stroke, not bore), add the vari­able in­take from the tdf, the high­est-pres­sure in­jec­tion sys­tem ever fit­ted to a petrolengined car (350 bar) and change pretty much all of the in­ter­nal com­po­nents. I chal­lenge any­one to drive an F12 and reach the con­clu­sion that it needed a com­pletely new en­gine. But that’s what Fer­rari has done for the 812 Su­per­fast.

Short­en­ing the gear ra­tios is a good idea, as is the adop­tion of the tdf’s rear-wheel-steer­ing hard­ware. Asked if this car is ac­tu­ally a tdf in drag, Fer­rari en­gi­neers con­firm that it’s closer to the spe­cial-edi­tion F12 in terms of per­for­mance and phi­los­o­phy, but that the rear-axle steer­ing (which Fer­rari calls vir­tual short wheel­base) has been re­cal­i­brated for a less ner­vous set of be­hav­iours. I think that’s a quiet ad­mis­sion that “the tdf in the wet was a full CODE BROWN”. The steer­ing sys­tem it­self is now elec­tri­cally pow­ered.

The styling changes are largely a func­tion of the com­pli­cated aero­dy­namic re­vi­sions over the F12. This marks a qui­etly im­pres­sive shift in strat­egy for Fer­rari: in­stead of mak­ing seem­ingly ran­dom down­force claims and sup­ply­ing a CFD di­a­gram that bore a strik­ing re­sem­blance to a child’s col­or­ing-in ex­er­cise, it has given a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of how the 812 man­ages air­flow. A pair of front in­takes man­age un­der­body flow—they’re ac­tu­ated through air pres­sure. This means the car can stall a good deal of its lift-re­duc­tion flow to re­duce drag but can use a much more prom­i­nent rear spoiler and larger dif­fuser when needed.

So, yes, the 812 Su­per­fast is a facelifted F12. But this is much, much more than a nip ’n’ tuck. And the name isn’t as silly as you might think—there were a few Su­per­fast mod­els built for the US mar­ket in the Six­ties, although one as­sumes that the moniker SF will be­come com­mon­place.

So the short gear­ing al­lows that more po­tent V12 to spool even faster, and the re­sult is a car that leans on its chas­sis elec­tron­ics more than any other. Remember it’s a street car and so the stan­dard P Ze­ros need to work in deep stand­ing wa­ter and freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. In Race mode with all the sys­tems on you can open the taps be­fore the apex and just let the elec­tron­ics man­age all the dan­ger­ous stuff, but the tires be­come hot so quickly that at times the in­ter­ven­tions seem un­nec­es­sar­ily harsh. The brakes are strong and the pedal feel pretty good, but Porsche still makes a set of ce­ramic discs that de­liver more bite and con­fi­dence for the driver.

There is much witch­craft oc­cur­ring within this chas­sis. The elec­tron­i­cally vari­able dif­fer­en­tial is linked to the trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol and now the rear steer­ing, too. The car can also ad­just the steer­ing force through the wheel de­pend­ing on the con­di­tions. This is sup­posed to give the driver bet­ter in­for­ma­tion about grip lev­els, but, to be hon­est with you, I wasn’t that aware of its in­ter­ven­tion. The change from hy­draulic to elec­tric as­sis­tance doesn’t al­ter much about the Fer­rari’s big V12 Ber­linetta be­cause the old rack was pretty in­ert, and so is this one.

It’s a car you steer through your wrists and one I still feel has too fast a rack for this type of ma­chine. But it’s con­sis­tent

and the 4WS sys­tem has one neat trick up its sleeve: if you get some bad un­der­steer (it’ll hap­pen un­der hard brak­ing, be­cause un­der power this thing doesn’t re­ally know how to un­der­steer) it can tweak the rear toe-an­gle a lit­tle to help the car ro­tate. It’s a neat trick and works re­ally well. Do you feel the rear steer­ing work­ing on the track? Apart from that func­tion, not re­ally.

I sup­pose the big­gest com­pli­ment you can pay the team who de­velop th­ese big bruis­ers is that you don’t approach dis­abling all the chas­sis sys­tems with any­thing like the fear you should in some­thing that’s just rear-wheel drive, has nearly twice the power of an M3 and yet weighs less. This is partly be­cause they have such freak­ish trac­tion and partly be­cause when they do let go it’s a smooth tran­si­tion from grip to slip. The 812 is in­fin­itely more fun driven with­out the nanny state in­ter­ven­ing, and this in some way de­fines its core char­ac­ter. The mid-en­gined Fer­raris can be driven ab­surdly hard be­fore their sys­tems in­ter­vene; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that in a 488 you only switch them off to be a wally. In the 812 you un­lock so much more.

For starters, the rear of the car doesn’t just slew into some hor­rid burn­ing drift—you can shape small an­gles and play with the throt­tle and steer­ing to let it slide pro­gres­sively. Given the in­sane power, it just shouldn’t be so amenable. And if you find the throt­tle just too vi­o­lent, you can snick up a gear, re­duce the torque reach­ing the road and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing may­hem. Dis­tilled down like this, the 812 doesn’t be­have any dif­fer­ently to an old rac­ing car. And yet all the time you’re think­ing how con­ven­tional it feels mov­ing around with del­i­cate slip an­gles, all four wheels are steer­ing and the dif­fer­en­tial is chang­ing its strat­egy by the sec­ond. It’s a great ex­am­ple of me­chan­i­cal com­pli­ca­tion de­liv­er­ing a starkly sim­ple driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Of course, if you get it wrong with every­thing switched off you’ll have a mas­sive ac­ci­dent. But that sure is one hell of a way to go.

I didn’t have much time out on the road in the Su­per­fast, but this is what I made of it. The cru­cial bumpy road damper but­ton that soft­ens the sus­pen­sion still works, but it ap­pears to leave a firmer set-up than on the F12. This might be sub­op­ti­mal in the UK. The car is firmer than be­fore, which again I’m not sure is quite what is needed of a big sports GT. Equally, the 4WS does make it feel much more ag­ile and the gear­box is now more re­spon­sive, if still a way be­hind the PDK Porsche serves in the GT3. The mo­tor is sim­ply im­mense, and the noise from in­side the cabin is just what you’d ex­pect: ex­pen­sive, an­gry, me­chan­i­cal—my only crit­i­cism be­ing that from the out­side the shriek from the ex­hausts is al­most too in­tense.

The re­vised cabin is ar­chi­tec­turally com­pli­cated and, in a first for Fer­rari, ac­tu­ally demon­strates some ac­knowl­edge­ment of the word “er­gonomics”. The re­vised screens ei­ther side of cen­tral rev-counter are much sharper and the new ro­tary dial for the wipers is an im­prove­ment. But try­ing to get com­fort­able with the way every­thing works in a brief test drive is largely fruit­less. It takes much longer for an ad­dled brain like mine to as­sim­i­late it­self to so many func­tions—but there are cer­tainly no hid­den hor­rors in there. The boot is a de­cent size, the op­tional bucket seats give an ex­cel­lent pinch to the rib cage and the steer­ing wheel still doesn’t ex­tend tele­scop­i­cally as far as I’d like. Then again, I’m a very short per­son. At a cruise the tire noise is quite ex­treme, and Fer­rari cer­tainly hasn’t re­duced the NVH lev­els on this new car the way it did on the GTC4 Lusso.

Some peo­ple don’t like those nos­tril aper­tures and the spin­ning star wheel cen­ters on the test car ap­peared to anger Twit­ter and In­sta­gram— weirdly I dis­liked them on the stand at the Geneva show, but af­ter a day look­ing at them have be­come a fan. You have to de­cide on the looks. All I can tell you is that no one else makes a car like this. A su­per GT in the great tra­di­tion of the genre—front-en­gined, nor­mally as­pi­rated, in­ter­galac­ti­cally fast and yet some­how so much more dig­ni­fied than its ri­vals.

The 812 isn’t per­fect, but it has per­son­al­ity and it se­duces with vast per­for­mance. It might well be the last of its type; if so, it is a fit­ting cel­e­bra­tion for the end of an era.

‘the noise is just what you’d ex­pect: ex­pen­sive, an­gry, me­chan­i­cal’

Th­ese vast calipers mean the brakes are su­per strong

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