Editorial note: Business Insider will name its 2018 Car of the Year on Monday, November 19. Each day this week, we’re taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up that were selected from a pool of 15 finalists. We featured the 2018 Lincoln Navigator on Monday. Next up is the 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast.
- The Ferrari812 Superfast is the successor to the F12berlinetta.
- The 812 Superfast is the latest two-seat GT car powered by the iconic FerrariV12 engine.
- The 812 adds about 60 horsepower on the F12, bringing the output to 789 horsepower and making it the most powerful production Ferrari ever.
- I drove a $US474,000 version of the car for a weekend and was in Ferrari heaven.
Cars with just two seats but with massive motors are, to be honest, pretty rare. Once you’ve seen a Corvette and an Aston Martin, you’ve just about seen them all.
But there is, of course, Ferrari and its two-seater coupés that shelter immensely powerful V12 engines beneath the hood. Until relatively recently, that slot in Maranello’s lineup was occupied by the F12berlinetta. But for the 2017 model year, it was replaced by the more potent 812 Superfast. It’s the most powerful production Ferrari ever created, excluding limited run models like the LaFerrari.
Casting around for a use case for a such a machine is difficult, but there is one: drive extremely fast for a long time. At base, the 812 is a mega-grand-tourer, the highest expression of a genre that’s not about practicality but the raw pleasure of getting someplace.
Clearly, the getting there will be done by no more than two people, and they will be limited on what they can bring with them besides their amazement at the 812’s power. (Luggage space is adequate for a weekend trip and little more.)
As it turns out, the V12 GT was a lacuna in my Ferrari-driving experience. I had missed the outgoing F12berlinetta, so I was primed for the 812 Superfast, which arrived last year. Ferrari kindly let me borrow a $US474,000 example for a few days. (The base price is $US335,000.) Here’s how it went.
Believe it or not, this was Business Insider’s first yellow Ferrari (“Giallo Modena,” to be accurate). To be honest, not my favourite Ferrari colour, but boy did it pop! And it rapidly grew on me.
The 812 Superfast is an update of the F12berlinetta. The critical concepts here are two seats plus a massive engine, hence the very long hood.
The car is essentially divided, with the looonnnggg hood harboring a huge V12, and the cockpit and boot bringing up the rear.
The 812 Superfast might be a dinosaur, but it’s a sleek, elegant visitor from the automotive Jurassic — a heroic example of what a front-engine Ferrari should be.
The 812 is a road car, but the Scuderia Ferrari badge reminds owners that it comes from a company renowned for racing.
Spidery forged racing wheels, outfitted with Pirelli P Zeros, barely conceal …
… ventilated carbon-ceramic brakes and massive Ferrari-branded calipers.
There’s a lot of lightweight carbon fibre on the 812 — that front spoiler, for example. Underneath the skin, the 812’s architecture is aluminium.
On balance, the Ferrari badging is quite modest.
The Superfast’s design gives the impression of a tailored shell placed over a musculature of immense power.
The fastback roof slopes to a spoiler lip — and a prancing horse in chrome.
Again, for a car with this much oomph, the design is restrained, right down to the subdued dual tail lights.
The quad exhaust pipes channel the ferocious exhaust note from the powerplant to the atmosphere.
A closer look — and yes, that housing is carbon fibre.
Ferraris are all about details. The prancing horse is intricately rendered.
And of course the founder’s name must appear somewhere on the machine.
Trunk space isn’t exactly considerable — but with just two people in the car and a weekend run to some chic retreat on the agenda, it doesn’t need to be.
The specs for this Ferrari — and this Ferrari only — are memorialised on a plaque against the back wall of the trunk.
The area behind the seats is equipped with a pair of very old-school luggage tie-down straps. Just in case.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Let’s pop the hood and gaze upon that massive battle-ax of a motor: a mighty V12 manufactured in Maranello, Italy.
A gorgeously crafted 6.5-litre V12, making an astounding 789 horsepower, with peak torque of 530 pound-feet and a redline to 8,900 rpm. Sweet mercy!
The zero-to-60 dash is a blur in this beast. With all those ponies being piped to the rear wheels — which actually aid in steering the car — you’re at the legal speed limit in less than three seconds. The 812 cranks about 60 more horses than the F12berlinetta.
So why 812? Well, the 8 is for the 800 horsepower measured on the European scale (go ahead, round up from 789 if you like), and the 12 is for the dozen cylinders in the block. “Superfast” is self-explanatory; the top speed is 211 mph.
Let’s take a look inside.
Our tester was a symphony of black leather, yellow top stitched accents, carbon fibre, brushed metal, and a dash of Ferrari red here and there.
Here’s the command center. As with all Ferraris, much of the 812 can be controlled using the F1-inspired steering wheel.
Hard to miss the stop-start button and the famous Manettino dial enables the driver to switch modes: wet, sport, race, and settings that shift down the traction and stability control.
The instrument cluster is blissfully simple: a big tachometer flanked by a pair of screens that display vehicle data.
Yes, there’s a speedometer too.
Note the screen above the glove box. It gives the passenger something exciting to look at. The driver doesn’t get to have all the fun!
There’s no central screen, so the right screen covers the entire infotainment suite, managed using a small cluster of knobs and buttons. To be honest, it’s effective and not distracting — a refreshing alternative to the tablet computers that are predominant in many cars now.
The audio is quite good, especially when you consider that the soundstage is a two-seat coupé with a titanic powerplant wailing away up front.
Bluetooth pairing, the USB interface, and GPS navigation all work as they should. If you don’t mind the small screen, you’re not going to miss out on anything essential.
The Ferrari nameplate is a bit of metallic atop a surface of carbon fibre.
Purposeful pedals. No clutch, obviously. The 812 Superfast uses a seven-speed dual clutch that can serve up hammer-and-anvil shifts in manual mode, with crisp changes in automatic.
The seats are sculpted and track-ready, but also quite comfortable for longer drives. And that’s where the 812 should shine: on long journeys, cruising fast.
The prancing horse appears again, in yellow.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, it’s my new favourite Ferrari! And of course it is.
Yes, I like the entry-level California T (now called the Portofino) very much. I adore the 488 GTB and Spider (the latest mid-engine Ferraris), and I have much love for the GTC4 Lusso. But I hadn’t ever driven the F12berlinetta.
I had driven the V12 motor, which also lurks beneath the hood of the Lusso. But new 812 was something I craved: a pure two-seat GT car with mountains of naturally aspirated power. This is the kind of power you can get lost in by yourself, or share with someone close. But it’s private power. Intimate.
And there’s plenty of it.
Did I say “plenty”? That’s not the word.
It’s endless power, not unlike what I enjoyed with the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1.
At the legal speed limit in the 812 Superfast, you’ve barely roused the beast. On the freeway, you can finesse the throttle to dance the 6.5-litre under the hood – a bump in displacement from the F12’s 6.3-litre – enjoying the snarls and growls, or you can shift gears yourself, using the elegant carbon-fibre paddles behind the steering wheel, and feel the snaps and jerks, the kicks to your spine and sternum, as you deploy the G-forces.
When you’ve got an 8,900-rpm redline in front of you, you’re unlikely to tap into the full effects of the engine. But you can tease yourself. All you’re left with is the knowledge that so, so much of the 812 is out of reach. The car is really out of time, in this sense. It’s from an era when you could point the radiator of a V12 south and cover hundreds of miles at well above three digits on the speedometer. The 812 is supposed to go 120 mph for hours on end.
Air resistance is nothing, thanks to the assorted spoilers, aero effects, slashes, and sculptural cut-ins that enable the wind to pass through the 812’s bodywork. There’s a steady, comforting whoosh of wind, coupled with the unholy howls of the motor. You could listen to some music, but you might ask yourself why you would with such a satisfying natural din enveloping your reality.
Yes, succulence such as this costs big money. But the 812 is a Ferrari for somebody who has made it. Besides, every dollar is worth it, has paid for something grand and special. Just think about amortizing the investment in the timeframe of forever.
Given that the V12 is so abundantly potent, it’s easy to forget that the 812 Superfast is also supposed to be superfast in corners. The rear-wheel steering adds a nice assist, particularly if a touch of understeer sets in, and the electric steering is quite communicative. The 812 doesn’t feel as sharp or darty as the 488 GTB, but it does feel as though you could dive into a curve and power through with aplomb.
The combination might well be threatened, however. A 6.5-litre V12 isn’t designed for fuel economy, and Ferrari intends to shift its lineup in the direction of turbos and hybrids. At some point, gone will be the distinctive pleasures of a monster motor joined to flamboyant styling and an elegant but purposeful interior. Gone as well will be that monster motor engaged in the elemental process of taking high-octane fuel, squirting it into a dozen narrow chambers, adding air, making it explode, and transforming that constrained violence into velocity and near-sacred noise.
The bottom line is that all the Ferraris currently on sale are great, each in its own way. But the 812 Superfast is special. It is fast. It is beautiful. It can command a road, any road. And it links the driver to a time when the bigness of an engine and the ability of a motor car to stun were joined.
That makes the 812 a dinosaur. But it also makes it the most magnificent dinosaur imaginable. And an Italian one, on top of everything else.