Flying home from driving Ferrari’s 812 Superfast, I tried to maintain my composure, some semblance of journalistic objectivity — don’t want to sound too nerdy/giddy. That’s not going to happen, as you’ll see when you read on. Sorry, can’t help it.
The 812 was first shown to the public at the Geneva motor show. It replaces both the F12 Berlinetta and F12tdf. The Superfast name (love it) traces its lineage back to 1964, when the halo of Ferrari’s America series was the 500 Superfast, shown at the '64 Geneva show. That car had a 5.0-liter Colombo V12 producing a then-awe-inspiring 395 hp. This latest Superfast has a mid-front-mounted 6.5-liter, normally aspirated V12 (helping celebrate the marque’s first V12 70 years ago) developing a gobsmacking 800 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque. What’s that mean? It means the 812 is, you guessed it, super-fast: 62 mph arrives in just 2.9 seconds, according to Ferrari, adding the top speed is more than 211 mph.
The company also says those numbers make this $308,000 rocket the most powerful, fastest road-going Ferrari ever — well, with the exception of some of its mid-engine 12s.
More 812 tidbits from Ferrari: 75 percent of the car is new. New cylinder heads. New injection system. New intake manifold. New crankshaft, rods and pistons. The rear-mounted dual-clutch transmission's shift times are 30 percent quicker. Hold down the downshift paddle and the trans downshifts multiple times when needed if the Manettino dial is in sport mode. The 812 is also the first car in the company’s storied history to use electronic power steering. It works with the company’s Side Slip Control (Ferrari’s stability system), while the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system uses microchips to tame the rear-drive power and improve response time. Combining the electronic steering with SSC means the 812 lets you know — with steering-wheel torque — when you’re about to overcook it. If oversteer starts happening, the system can “give the wheel inputs to help realign the car,” Ferrari says.
The beast also has passive and active aerodynamic pieces to keep drag low, while the front-bumper vane channels air around the car’s flanks, reducing the width of the 812’s wake. Front downforce comes from two air-pressure-activated diffusers ahead of the front wheels, increasing how much air the underbody draws in. When the pressure is more than the preloaded elastic spring can handle, it opens, reducing drag and adding more front downforce.
Developing the 812, Ferrari engineers challenged themselves with what they call “a step further.” Take the F12 and tdf and come up with an even more dynamic car with more grip, even less body roll, more agility and responsiveness, while making it more comfortable and easier to drive — less edgy — than the outgoing F12.
And? Did Ferrari succeed? Is the 812 the answer? Man, is it ever.
Let’s start with the car’s looks. Designed in-house at Ferrari’s Centro Stile, the 812 has a shape we could sit and stare at for a long time. There’s a lot to take in, but in this case that’s a compliment: There are no bad angles. It looks elegant yet purposeful, clean but muscular. With just the right amount of aggression, it’s as perfect a design as exists, we say.
The interior evolves the F12’s with new sport buckets and upgraded steering-wheel controls. All the important buttons and switches are angled toward the driver like an airplane’s cockpit. The materials are excellent as one would expect, and Ferrari’s floating dash adds to the feeling of openness. Honestly, it’s quite a bit more comfortable just to sit in than we would’ve guessed it’d be.
On the road, goodness. This thing is amazing — don’t know how else to put it.
Believe it or not, outright speed isn’t the car’s most impressive aspect. Nor is excellent handling and grip. It’s the way the 812 delivers the performance. It’s so easy and effortless to extract.
Climb aboard and the 8,500-rpm redline on the big center tach sort of jumps out. Max horsepower comes at 8,250 rpm. Between 7,000 and redline, the pull is unreal, like it just won’t end. Throttle response is instant, and down-low torque is outstanding. The new electronic power steering is light, ultra-quick and responsive. Thing is, though, it’s not overly light, quick or responsive, adding to the easy-to-drive feeling. It’s naturally quick, not fake quick, not darty. The suspension helps here, too. It’s way more compliant, or should I say less harsh, than I would have imagined going in, and the roads around Ferrari’s Maranello home aren’t exactly the best. There are plenty of undulations and frost heaves, and the car felt perfectly controlled. Never overdone.
I also got a chance to fling it around Ferrari’s 1.8-mile, 12-corner Fiorano track some. Obviously there’s unreal acceleration out of corners and oodles of grip, but, again, the key is how easy it all is to keep under control. It makes even the hamfisted not look stupid.
Turns out the 812 is a fine long-distance-mileage gobbler, as well. I snuck off Ferrari’s driving loops and onto the Autostrada for a while and, again, found the ride fairly supple without sacrificing nimbleness. It’s just a smooth, (almost) quiet highway cruiser. Drive it every day? Yes, please.
Where does the 812 fit into Ferrari’s big picture? Profits are up double digits so far this year, and CEO Sergio Marchionne said last year he wants to up the company’s yearly sales numbers. He points out that demand keeps growing for big-engine cars. Comfortable and fantastic to drive, the 812 will help do what Marchionne hopes. It’s frankly a landmark, and worth the money.