With nearly 600kW, the 812 Superfast is Ferrari’s most powerful model since the LaFerrari hypercar. But there’s no hybrid tech here, just one mighty naturally aspirated V12. How does it go? There’s a clue in its name…
Standing on the top of an Italian mountain road, alone, waiting for the 812 Superfast to reappear, knowing that when it does it will once again shatter the tranquillity of the countryside.
I can hear it a long, long time before I can see it, its V12 engine screaming above the trees, the shifts of its dual-dutch gearbox punctuating those cries with a speed and precision that’s shocking to listen to. On downchanges it sounds like an automatic rifle being fired. On the way up there is seemingly zero delay between one ratio and the next; instead, the engine note just drops a bit and the scream continues. And still I haven’t caught sight of the car, its progress being tracked purely by my ears, and sometimes by my chest too, which vibrates ever so slightly whenever the V12 dips down lower in the rev range.
Finally it appears, a red missile with silver wheels that glint momentarily in the sun. It looks magnificent and it sounds quite unbelievable. And when its driver – another journalist doing much the same thing as me, namely behaving like a child while on the launch of Ferrari’s most powerful front-engined car – smokes the rear tyres out of the final corner then howls right past me at 8900rpm in second gear, I dap my hands over my ears, shake my head and giggle. In full flow, the 812 Superfast is that loud, that ridiculous to behold. And good grief does it go as its name suggests.
Then again, as a replacement for the mighty F12, the 812 Superfast was always going to need to be something special. The F12, let’s not forget, was one of the greatest front-engined, rear- wheel-drive performance cars of all time. So, to replace it, Ferrari has had to pull out all the stops and invent a fair few new tricks along the way.
Thus, the $610,000 Superfast has yet more power (588kW, up from the F12’s 544kW), yet more performance, and an even bigger V12 nestling beneath its long bonnet. It also has all sorts of new electronic trickery up its sleeve and, according to Ferrari, is even more exciting to drive than the F12 as a result.
To replace the F12, Ferrari has had to pull out all the stops and invent a fair few new tricks along the way
Are they right? Is the 812 SF not merely a step up technically and in its potency, but also more engaging than the F12 where it really matters? And if so, where does that leave the likes of the new Lamborghini Aventador S, other than reeling on the floor, holding its crotch in agony?
We’ll come to the answers in more detail in a moment, but for the time being, take it as read that the 812 is an almighty piece of work on Ferrari’s behalf. At its core but set well back within the front of the aluminium chassis sits a 6496cc V12 that is 75 per cent new, according to its creators. It features the same bore as the F12’s 6.2-litre V12 but has a longer, 78mm stroke and a compression ratio, deep breath, of 13.64:1. As a result of this, plus numerous other upgrades – predominantly to the intake system to help it breathe better – the new V12 produces its peak power at 8500rpm, 718Nm at 7000rpm and revs to 8900rpm before the limiter intrudes.
The shape of both the power and torque curves are quite different from those of the F12, in which the torque fell away towards the top end. In the 812, torque is stronger from the word go and builds to a crescendo until the rev-limiter comes into play, pretty much mirroring the power curve. And this, says Ferrari, provides the car with a much more exciting form of power delivery (although I don’t remember the F12 feeling especially dull in its delivery); one that builds very quickly as the revs rise, becoming stronger and more visceral the faster the engine spins.
The exhaust system also features a new six-into-one manifold that’s significantly more efficient than the one in the F12, allowing the engine to breathe better. And the sound it produces over the last 3000rpm really does need to be experienced to be believed. Ferrari’s official claims are 0-100km/h in 2.9sec (with launch control), 0-200km/h in a vaguely surreal 7.9sec and a top speed of 340km/h. Ferrari says the Superfast will get from 100km/h to rest in just 32 metres, which is deeply impressive for a 1630kg car.
Technically, the 812 has a very big box of tricks to call upon, bigger than any other production Ferrari’s. Quite apart from its V12 engine and seven-speed dual-dutch gearbox (which has shorter, more closely stacked ratios than in the F12, with 30 per cent faster upshift times and 40 per cent quicker downshifts), there’s a wealth of new electronic wizardry employed to help it bend the space/time continuum. Plus some very clever new aerodynamic elements. At the back there’s a new electronic rear-wheel-steering system that increases stability, says Ferrari, while dramatically improving turn-in response and all but eradicating understeer. Together with a new electronic differential and the fifth-generation version of Side Slip Control, this creates what Ferrari refers to as a Virtual Short Wheelbase system, all of which is engaged (or disengaged) via the traditional manettino switch on the steering wheel.