On paper, it’s the most boisterous GT to come out of Maranello. Front-engined, rear-wheel drive and 800 horsepower, the 812 Superfast’s dramatic theme has echoes of the recent – and much acclaimed – F12berlinetta. But this isn’t an automobile that lives on paper so, bags packed and with an invitation from Al Zayani Kuwait, the official Ferrari Dealer in Kuwait, Simon Balsom jetted off to northern Italy, to Fiorano to be precise, and met Ferrari’s head test driver Raffaele di Simone for a few hot laps followed by a couple of hundred kilometres on the roads around Emilia-Romagna. Wish you were here?
First things first. The 812 Superfast is the evolution of the F12berlinetta species. Along with this and its insane cousin – the F12tdf – Ferrari have set about refining the way the world thinks of its Grand Tourers. Let’s look back further; fully two decades to the 550 Maranello, now consider the 575M Maranello, next 2006’s 599 GTB and then on to the F12 and, while the improvement in performance figures might leave other manufacturers lost for words (the 812 will reach 200kmh in around 8 seconds whereas 1996’s 550 required a rather more leisurely 14 to get there), Ferrari’s recent GTs have the highest ever levels of on-board creature comforts and usability. There’s no doubt – the 812 is the best performing and most fun-to-drive Ferrari V12… ever.
Technological innovation has long lay at the heart of Ferrari’s DNA, and for their latest model they’ve come up with a new way of delivering power from their V12, and pushed the envelope further with vehicle and aero dynamics.
Ferrari estimate that up to 90% of the 812’s buyers will choose the model primarily based on the performance of the car. Their customers won’t be disappointed. The V12 is the heart of the marque’s newest model, and it’s a motor like no other before – indeed it’s been redesigned from the ground up and includes 75% of new parts. At 800 cv it’s Ferrari’s most powerful front engine ever; the wizards in Maranello’s engineering department have squeezed an extraordinary 123 cv / litre out of this naturally-aspirated 6.5 litre. And while doing this they’ve improved on the F12’s fuel economy figures and delivered lower emissions too.
A revolutionary fuel injection system is part of the key to the new motor – whereas the F12’s direct injection pumps at a pressure of 200 bar, for the 812 it’s a massive 350 and into a redesigned combustion chamber. Revving to 8,900, and with its maximum power delivered high in the range at 8,500 rpm, it’s easy to see how this really is Ferrari’s most fun V12.
Sound quality has been enhanced. The distinctive V12 Ferrari soundscape has been emphasized and specifically characterised. The 812 utilizes a unique 6-in-1 exhaust manifold, and employs a new gearshift strategy. Shorter ratios increase acceleration and make greater use of higher engine revs – in this case, that means more power.
Faster upshifts (30% quicker), faster clutch torque restitution and faster paddle response are the headlines of the 812’s selectable ‘race’ mode. Downshift isn’t overlooked – a 40% quicker engine speed synchronisation is achieved – glorious engine-braking!
With all this power and performance on-tap, and Ferrari has used every piece of information gained from its F1 programme in the creation of this car, it would be easy to see them go down the route of not trusting its customers enough to handle it, and to have them add total systems control. Yet, while the 812 is one of the most technologically advanced automobiles ever, it’s connected in such a way that it leaves the fearless driver in control and, for those who want to do things the hard way, the 812 is as wild as you want it to be.
Ferrari still rely on mechanical components to deliver extraordinary mechanical performance on their own – the integration with their new Side Slip Control (SSC5.0) electronic control systems merely enhances these properties. Here you’ll feel the benefit of both front and rear axle steering – when turning in and exiting. Steering torque is modulated prior to the approach, and torque adjusted to improve the feel. Power oversteer support adds engine torque to modulate rear slip – the result is a tighter turning radius. Biding his time, the driver’s action on the steering wheel is still required to maintain the balance of dynamics. Purists will be happy to know that the 812 doesn’t drive itself.
There are no words to describe the depth of anticipation prior to depressing the ‘start’ button of a new Ferrari. You have to experience it yourself. The 812 will bimble quite happily around town and, despite its obvious size, is amenable even at low speeds. You can even find yourself in seventh gear at only a little over 55kmh.
Take it out of town though, and that’s where the 812 finds it’s natural habitat. Up to 6,000 rpm and there’s a sense of it straining at its leash. Beyond – and remember its seven-speed dual clutch gearbox has been fitted with close ratios – it becomes an eager and adventurous companion keen to stretch its legs.
The SSC’s digital brain kicks in seamlessly, controlling the model’s E-diff, traction and stability controls and rear-wheel steering. Its input is hard to detect – exactly the way Ferrari intended.
It’s a big car, but it’s agile and with huge grip – look at the wide section 275 front tyres if you want a clue as to how – another reminder of Ferrari’s insistence on mechanical grip as a priority.
Part grand tourer and part sportscar – it’s straddling the line. With both a superbly equipped cabin and raucous power, its infotainment is delivered through a large touchscreen, and for the driver, a programmable digital display sits either side of the dominant tachymeter. Key driving controls are never more than a finger’s length away on the steering wheel. The most iconic of all is the manettino – with this you’ll control the 812’s moods – depending largely on your own. Relaxed or thrilled, senses remain engaged.
The 812 Superfast is the most powerful Ferrari production car ever; it has the best dual-clutch transmission on the road, it is the most desirable of Maranello’s GTs and has looks enough to become a future icon. In short, it’s a superlative-laden automobile whichever way you look at it.
Read more: Hotlap – Fiorano. Good times with the 812 Superfast – here