Ferrari 812 Superfast: Where Pleasure Meets Adrenaline

812 Superfast. The name tells you a lot about Ferrari’s muscular new front-engine coupe. It has 800 horsepower—well, 800 European horses, at least, which translates to 789 American ponies. It has 12 cylinders. And yes, it’s superfast. Ferrari claims a 0-60 time of about 2.8 seconds, with 124 mph coming up in 7.9 seconds, and a top speed of 211 mph. But there’s more to the Superfast story than just the raw numbers: This might just be the most desirable front-engine Ferrari road car since the legendary Daytona. The 812 Superfast is fundamentally a rework of the acclaimed F12 berlinetta. Maranello’s engineers concentrated on sweating the details, focusing on engine, chassis electronics, and aerodynamics to create a car that combined the Berlinetta’s everyday usability with the edgier, track-focused F12tdf’s performance, agility and responsiveness.

The F12’s 65-degree naturally aspirated V-12 has been taken from 6.2 liters to 6.5 liters courtesy of an increase in stroke. But the real focus, says powertrain engineer Andrea Napolitano, was on improving breathing efficiency, optimizing combustion, and reducing friction. Redesigned cylinder heads feature larger-diameter intake and exhaust valves and new runner designs. Reprofiled camshafts push the inlet valves deeper into the combustion chamber and hold them open longer. That’s all Tuning 101. The trick stuff includes a new ultra-high-pressure fuel system—a world first on a production car, says Ferrari—that operates at up to 5,076 psi and can change the way it pulses the fuel into the combustion chamber. An electronically controlled continuously variable intake system uses engine oil pressure to alter the length of the runners and optimize power and torque.

“We wanted an engine with maximum performance at higher engine speeds,” Napolitano says. And by all that Enzo held holy, the 812 Superfast engine delivers. Those 789 ponies arrive in a stampede at a shrieking 8,500 rpm, just 400 rpm before the big V-12 nuzzles the soft limiter. Peak torque of 530 lb-ft is generated at 7,000 rpm, though 424 lb-ft is available at 3,500 rpm. Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne has said he’ll never put a turbocharger on a 12-cylinder Ferrari. God bless him: The Superfast’s naturally aspirated V-12 is an engine for the ages. But it’s not what the engine does that impresses the most. It’s how it does it.

The 812 purrs around town on part throttle, pulling cleanly from as little as 1,000 rpm, allowing the dual-clutch transmission to shuffle into seventh gear by 35 mph. Throttle response gets crisper as the revs build, enabling you to make the most of the broad swathe of midrange torque. Then you hit 6,000 rpm, and all hell breaks loose. Although most engines feel like they’re starting to fade at these revs, this Ferrari V-12 hits warp drive. The tach needle leaps toward the redline, accompanied by a vivid surge of thrust and a soundtrack that’s part Pavarotti, part F-15 airstrike.

The 812 Superfast is the first Ferrari road car in history fitted with electric power steering. The vehicle dynamics team headed by Stefano Varisco looked at ways of using some of its enhanced functionality in a fifth-gen version of Ferrari’s highly sophisticated Side Slip Control (SSC5.0). What they came up with is steering that varies torque levels to help drivers sense the onset of understeer and control oversteer. The key point is this feature is baked into the SSC5.0 digital neural network, not something overlaid on top. It’s designed to work in real time with the 812’s E-diff, the traction- and stability-control systems, the rear-wheel-steering system, and wider 275-section front tires adopted from the F12tdf.

Does it? Difficult to say. There’s certainly a different tactile signature in the steering, which feels calmer and meatier than in most recent Ferraris. But any changes in torque at the steering wheel rim were hard to detect. Which is as it should be, says Varisco: “This is meant to support the driver. It is not linked to anything autonomous or a self-steering function. If a maneuver is performed in a good way, nothing is suggested by the steering.” Ferrari made a point of demonstrating the 812 Superfast’s agility on rough and tumble, tight and twisting mountain roads outside Maranello. It’s still a big, wide coupe, but the enhanced grip and four-wheel steering had it pinballing from corner to corner like a WRX. Although it doesn’t quite sashay over the rough stuff with the poise of a 488, the 812’s suspension handled violent heaves and humps in the tarmac with commendable compliance.

The 812 Superfast isn’t the prettiest front-engine Ferrari ever built. It swaggers down the road, muscles bulging under surfaces rent by random slashes— the Hulk bursting the seams of a Zegna suit. The vents across the top of the front fenders bleed hot air from the radiators, and those behind the front wheels guide air up the deeply sculpted sides of the car. Air entering the scoops at the base of the C-pillars is vented through slits on top of the rear fenders to create a strong laminar flow across the fender surfaces and reduce lift. But the really clever aero stuff is underneath, where Ferrari has used its F1 experience to create a floor bristling with diffusers, turning vanes, and vortex generators to help suck the Superfast down onto the tarmac at speed.

Ferrari says the Superfast is a sports car with GT capability, and that duality of purpose is reflected in an interior that’s a halfway house between the pared-down cockpit of the 488 and the lavishly equipped cabin of the GTC4 Lusso. The instrument panel is dominated by a giant tachometer—of course—flanked with a pair of configurable screens that handle everything from auxiliary instrumentation to navigation, phone, and audio.

Grand Tourer. Supercar. The 812 Superfast is equally at home playing either role. It can be driven comfortably and quietly, the engine note and tire noise pleasantly subdued, with phone, music, and navigation at your fingertips. But when the mood takes you, flick the manettino one stop past Race mode to disable the traction control, unleash that mighty V-12, and feel the rear tires struggling to tame all that power through each and every gear. This is a Ferrari in which you can feel sublimely relaxed or thrilled to your very core. Just like the Daytona.

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