CLARK­SON ON CARS

Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast

Driven - - Contents - Re­port by JEREMY CLARK­SON | Im­ages © FER­RARI Text © SUN­DAY TIMES, LON­DON / NEWS SYNDICATION

YES, THE WEATHER WAS BE­ING ALL SCOT­TISH AND, YES, THE ROAD SUR­FACE WAS NOT IDEALLY SUITED TO A CAR WITH A SIM­PLY ENOR­MOUS AMOUNT OF BANG-AND-YOU’RE-ON-IT POWER. BUT IT WAS THE SIZE OF THE THING THAT WOR­RIED ME MOST OF ALL.

It felt as though I was try­ing to steer an air­craft car­rier with an out-of-con­trol nu­clear re­ac­tor up the Ken­net and Avon canal. You didn’t drive this car. On roads like that, in the rain, you hung on for dear life and whim­pered like a dog on bon­fire night. Some ques­tioned my petrol­head cre­den­tials when I re­turned and, af­ter some med­i­ca­tion, said the F12 was a car with too much power. “Too much power’?” they wailed. “That’s like say­ing your pe­nis is too big. It’s im­pos­si­ble.”

I still feel, how­ever, that I was cor­rect. And I reck­oned that what Fer­rari needed to do next was go back to ba­sics and make a small, 2-litre car. I drew it in my head and it was very pretty. It would have about 300bhp, a fast gear­box, the light­ness of touch for which Fer­rari was fa­mous and a price tag of around pounds 100,000.

But in­stead what Fer­rari has done is re­place the F12 with a car that’s even big­ger and even more pow­er­ful. It’s so pow­er­ful, in fact, that it’s called the Su­per­fast. And it’s so big that when you emerge from a turn­ing, you need to stick 6ft of bon­net into the road be­fore you can see if it’s safe to pull out.

Let’s start with the lit­tle things that are wrong with it. In the night it’s as para­noid as a coke­head, be­cause ev­ery morn­ing it flashed up a mes­sage on the dash say­ing a break-in had been at­tempted, even though CCTV said no such thing had hap­pened.

Then there are its seat­belts. My car was fit­ted with pounds 2,000-worth of op­tional rac­ing har­nesses that were nearly im­pos­si­ble to do up prop­erly. What’s more, there were many sharp edges, which my girl­friend said, as she sat there like the star of an S&M movie, would play havoc if you were wear­ing a chif­fon dress. I’m not sure that’d bother most cus­tomers, but you never know...

“A PER­FECTLY OR­DI­NARY DRIVER

WITH NO ASTRO­NAUT TRAIN­ING CAN KEEP IT POINT­ING IN VAGUELY

THE RIGHT DI­REC­TION”.

Of rather more con­cern is the turn­ing cir­cle, which is stupidly large, and the re­flec­tion of the yel­low trim in the wind­screen. Then there’s an as­ton­ish­ingly cheap wiper switch, the usual Fer­rari prob­lem of indi­ca­tor con­trols on the steer­ing wheel— which means they’re never where you left them — and a cu­ri­ous piece of string hang­ing into the pas­sen­ger footwell.

I pulled it, of course, but noth­ing hap­pened. Maybe it had some­thing to do with the imag­i­nary bur­glar.

There’s much to an­noy, then, but there’s much, when you put your foot down, to make your eyes go wide and your girl­friend say: “As soon as I get this bondage gear off, I’m go­ing to f ****** kill you.” This is a car that can get from zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 sec­onds. And on­wards to a top speed of 340 km/h. It’s re­ally, re­ally fast and re­ally, re­ally noisy.

Much has been done to get the weight as low as pos­si­ble. Sup­pli­ers were told to shed as much as pos­si­ble from ev­ery com­po­nent if they didn’t want to wake up in bed with a horse’s head. But this car still weighs more than 1.6 tons. And you sense it.

You also sense the size, and the mere fact that I didn’t end up in a hedge is tes­ti­mony to some bril­liant en­gi­neer­ing. The light­ness of the con­trols, the four-wheel steer­ing sys­tem, the daz­zling speed of the dou­ble-clutch gearchanges... Fer­rari has had to em­ploy ev­ery trick in the book to make its Tor­rey Canyon feel like a speed­boat.

I did not drive the car in the rain, or Scot­land, but I can tell you that some­how Fer­rari’s man­aged it. It’s man­aged to get 588 kW from the mas­sive, grav­elly 6.5-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V12, through the gear­box and per­fectly nor­mal Pirelli P Zero tyres and onto the road in such a way that a per­fectly or­di­nary driver with no astro­naut train­ing can keep it point­ing in vaguely the right di­rec­tion.

That can­not have been easy. And it will be even harder when the time comes to de­sign a re­place­ment, be­cause that will have to be big­ger and more pow­er­ful still. Which takes me back to my point that at some stage Fer­rari is go­ing to have to start all over again, with a car that’s small and light.

Or will it? Be­cause is that what Fer­rari’s cus­tomers want? It’s what Fer­rari’s fan­base wants: a pure-bred Ital­ian sports car. But the fan­base only reads about cars in mag­a­zines. The cus­tomers? The peo­ple who write the cheques? Hmmm. I’m not sure.

There are un­doubt­edly those who want the last word in pre­ci­sion driv­ing. They go to track days and they think that I am the An­tichrist for not tak­ing stuff as se­ri­ously as they do. They will not want a Su­per­fast, be­cause for what they do, the Lo­tus Elise is bet­ter.

Then you have the peo­ple who want a Fer­rari to im­press ev­ery­one at the lodge. They don’t want a Su­per­fast either, be­cause the Mon­dial does what they need for a tenth of the price.

The main clien­tele for the Su­per­fast is the chaps who ar­rive in Lon­don ev­ery Au­gust with an Antonov full of pur­ple-metal-flake Lam­bos and G-class wag­ons. They want the big­gest, the brash­est, the fastest and the nois­i­est, and for them a Su­per­fast is ideal.

They need to know that in the right hands, on the right track, it can do what the Fer­rari badge sug­gests it can do. But that’s only be­cause they want bragging rights dur­ing a hub­ble-bub­ble pit stop. They will never ac­tu­ally go faster than about 14 km/h.

I be­lieve this will one day be a prob­lem for Fer­rari, which seems to be fo­cused at the moment on the cus­tomers with the big money, the peo­ple who will buy the re­ally ex­pen­sive cars and load them up with all the ex­pen­sive ex­tras.

The trou­ble is that this tar­nishes the brand. Be­cause the rest of us stop think­ing of a Fer­rari as some­thing with Gilles Vil­leneuve at the wheel and start think­ing of it as some­thing that’s a bit sad. And that drives us into the arms of Lam­borgh­ini and Porsche and As­ton Martin.

Let me put it this way. Do you dream about driv­ing round and round Har­rods in your car at 4am? Or do you dream about tak­ing it along the Amalfi coast at 4pm, with Ali­cia Vikan­der in the pas­sen­ger seat say­ing she can’t find her bikini any­where? Be­cause for that, a “hum­ble” 488 would be bet­ter. And my small, nim­ble Fer­rari would be bet­ter still.

As a thing, the Su­per­fast is as bril­liant as an As­tute-class at­tack sub. Which is to say, very bril­liant in­deed. But it is too big and too pow­er­ful and too flashily ex­pen­sive for those who sim­ply want a very nice grand tourer.

FER­RARI 812 SU­PER­FAST

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