In March 2017, Ferrari kicked off its 70thyear anniversary with the world premier of its most powerful production car yet, the 800-cv 812 Superfast. The unveiling of this flagship V12 berlinetta is a particulary significant moment, as Ferrari’s noble V12 heritage has its roots in the founding of the company, 70 years ago to this year. Ferrai remains to this day the only manufacturer to have continuously produced sports cars with 12-cylinder engines throughout that time.
Here, we trace the illustrious lineage of the Ferrari V12, charting the impeccable inspiration that has created a truly modern motoring icon; the 812 Superfast.
550 Maranello (1996 – 2002)
After 30 months of development, the Ferrari 550 Maranello was presented in July 1996 at the Nurburgring racing circuit in Germany. The 550 Maranello marked Ferrari’s return to a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout for its its 2-seater 12-cylinder model, 23 years after the 365 GTB/4 Daytona had been replaced by the mid-engined Berlinetta Boxer.
The model name referred to the 5.5-litres total engine displacement and to the town of Maranello, home to the Ferrari headquarters and factory. Both the exterior and interior design were executed by Pininfarina, the favoured designer of the time. Frame and main engine components were shared with the 2+2 Ferrari 456, although at 2,500 mm (98.4 in) the 550’s wheelbase was 100 mm (3.9 in) shorter.
The 550 used a front-engine, rear-wheel drive transaxle layout, with the six speed gearbox located at the rear axle together with the limited slip differential. It achieved a top speed of 320km/h and could accelerate from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds.
In 2002 the 550 was replaced by the 575M Maranello, an all-around improved version or modification of the car, fitted with a larger 5.75-litre engine. In total 3,083 units of the 550 Maranello were produced.
575M Maranello (2002 – 2006)
The key elements of the new 575M Maranello could be neatly summed up in the model name. In fact, the engine was described by the new numerical code, 575, as an abbreviation of its capacity, increased from 5,500 to 5,750 cc, resulting in an increase in both power and torque. The letter M, an abbreviation of ”modificato” (modified), underlined the fact that changes have been wrought to all areas of the model’s performance. Key amongst these, apart from the engine, was the introduction of an F1-style gearbox, the first time this had been applied to a 12-cylinder Ferrari road car.
When it came to the style of the vehicle, Ferrari sought to retain the balance and sober looks of the 550 Maranello which had ensured it the status of instant classic, perfectly in keeping with Ferrari’s return to a front-engined high performance car.
Modifications were limited to those regarding technical changes: different shape and size for the air intakes in the new front end of the car, with refinement of the aerodynamic and fluid-dynamic efficiency and a new treatment for the front spoiler.
Finally, the light clusters were redesigned, with colour-coded headlamp bodies and grey surround, combined with xenon technology for the dipped beam and headlamp washers. The wheels were also a new.
On the aerodynamic front, Ferrari’s engineers improved airflow around the wheels by introducing small flaps to reduce drag, while the underbody was designed to generate downforce while reducing drag.
The objectives for the new V12 engine in the 575M Maranello were to increase both the power curve as well as the torque. It enjoyed a maximum power output of 515 bhp (379 Kw) at 7,250 rpm and a maximum torque of 60 kgm at 5,250 rpm (588.6 Nm,), with an increase in mid-range torque of 1.5 kgm between 1,000 and 4,000 rpm compared to the previous engine fitted to the 550 Maranello.
599 GTB Fiorano, (2006 – 2012)
Fiorano after the circuit Ferrari uses to hone the performance of its track and road cars; GTB as in Gran Turismo Berlinetta after the most famous Ferrari berlinettas ever built; and 599 to reflect the displacement of its V12 engine divided by 10. The stunning new all-aluminium two-seater was unveiled at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show, setting a new benchmark of excellence in the sports car world.
This new model was designed with several specific objectives in mind: to surpass the intense driving pleasure of such renowned models as the F40, to guarantee stunning performance courtesy of its highly innovative content and technology transfers from the F1 single-seaters, and to deliver superior standards of roominess, comfort, ergonomics and safety. The result achieved the absolute pinnacle of achievement in terms of thoroughbred Ferrari sportiness and technology.
The new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano sprinted from 0 to 100 km/h in an astonishing 3.7 seconds and boasted a top speed in excess of 330 km/h. However, it was the new model’s uniquely innovative content that guaranteed superior driving pleasure, handling and sportiness.
The technical specification of the engine spoke for itself: 5999 cm3 displacement, a specific power output of 103 hp/litre (a first at the time for a naturally aspirated production engine of this displacement).
The Pininfarina-designed Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano replaced the last in that great line of berlinettas, the 575M Maranello, of which – together with the 550 Maranello introduced in 1996 – no fewer than 5,700 were produced. The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano also owes a debt to Alcoa for its all-aluminium space frame, and to Delphi for its innovative suspension system.
F12 Berlinetta (2012 – 2017)
When releases at Geneva Motor show in 2012, the F12berlinetta turned heads, as Ferrari’s most powerful product to date. Known as the F12, the F12berlinetta replaced the 599 family to deliver unparalleled performance. Its direct-injection, 6,262cc normally-aspirated V12 engine introduced a new generation of innovations, winning awards, bulding passion.
Sensuous design and aerodynamics – two automotive goals often at odds – were 100 percent synchronized in F12berlinetta.
Pininfarina and Ferrari Style Center exceed expectations with brilliant style and balanced proportions. Though it is largely original in looks, many signature elements from the grand Ferrari V12 history remained. Despite compact exterior dimensions, the F12berlinetta offered superb cabin space and comfort. Designers also left room for innovation.
The F12berlinetta uses the smart Aero Bridge where the hood and front fenders meet to create downforce. In a similar vein, Active Brake Cooling opens air ducts only when the brakes reach a threshold temperature. The result was extreme aero efficiency, a fact borne out by the F12berlinetta’s drag coefficient of just 0.299, while also generating 271 pounds of downforce at 125 mph.
The naturally aspirated 6.3 litre Ferrari V12 engine in the F12berlinetta won the International Engine of the Year Awards 2013 in the Best Performance category and Best Engine above 4.0 litres. The F12berlinetta was also named “The Supercar of the Year 2012” by car magazine Top Gear. In 2014 it was awarded the XXIII Premio Compasso d’oro ADI. Accepting the award was Ferrari’s Senior Vice President of Design, Flavio Manzoni.
The 812 Superfast thus ushers in a new era in Ferrari 12-cylinder history, in doing so building on the invaluable legacies of the F12berlinetta and F12tdf. Its aimed at connoisseurs demanding the most powerful and exclusive Ferrari in the range: an uncompromising sports car that will deliver exhilarating driving both on road and track yet also be comfortable enough to allow its owners enjoy it as an all-round experience.
Powered by a new 6.5-litre V12, the 812 Superfast is the benchmark in the mid-front-engined sports car segment, achieving its maximum power output at 8,500 rpm, which ensures the kind of thrilling top-end performance that is the exclusive characteristic of Ferrari’s V12s. Maximum torque is 718 Nm @ 7,000 rpm, a significant 80% of which is already available at 3,500 rpm, improving driveability and pick-up at low revs.
The 812 Superfast is striking for both its highly innovative design and aero package, as well as its unparalleled handling. It is the first Ferrari to introduce Electric Power Steering (EPS) which, in line with Ferrari tradition, is used to fully exploit the potential of the car in terms of performance. The introduction of the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system (PCV) combines the electric front-wheel steering assistance with the mechanical concept based on tyre dimensions and the rear-wheel steering. All integrated with the vehicle dynamics control systems, based on Version 5.0 of the SSC, with the aim of improving the agility and response time to steering wheel inputs.
812 Superfast. Iconic Ferrari DNA.