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Oct / Nov 2017
A Fond Farewell

WRITER: Gautam Sharma

Some may call the 812 Superfast a face-lifted F12, but it’s really the pinnacle of everything Maranello has long stood for. And even though Ferrari’s front-engined, normally aspirated, super V12 grand tourer is blindingly fast and capable, there’ll never be another like it.

Perhaps it’s a legacy of Enzo himself, but Ferrari has never been one to err on the side of conservatism or modesty. Who else but the Prancing Horse of Maranello would come up with a moniker like ‘812 Superfast’ for the car designed to fill the void left by the ferociously quick but occasionally unruly F12 Berlinetta?

Talk about saying what it does on the tin. The ‘812’ is basically just shorthand for spelling out 800 horses kicked out by 12 cylinders, while the ‘Superfast’ suffix is so beautifully simple and expressive, a five-year-old could have coined it.

 

The 812 Superfast is not beautiful in the classical sense of the term but it is dramatic. There are new aerodynamic details aplenty to pore over, as well as a vast open frontal grille and quad circular tail lights at the rear. 

 

Aside from low-volume specials such as the LaFerrari, the 812 Superfast is as rapid and angry as Ferraris get, eclipsing even its 488 GTB mid-engined stablemate in terms of grunt and raw pace. It’s not just a tweaked, facelifted F12 either. Ferrari execs claim 75 per cent of its parts are new, and the revamp ushers in four-wheel steering, designed to make it more stable at high speeds and less edgy at the limits of cornering adhesion than the frenetic F12. That’s a very good thing for both you and your insurance policy.

No question about it, the Superfast comes armed with some mighty numbers. The titanic 6.5-litre V12 thumps out a towering 800hp and 718Nm, giving it a healthy edge over the 740hp/690Nm F12, which no one ever accused of being a wallflower. These are massively OTT stats, but it’s the 812 Superfast’s abilities to be both a genuine long-distance grand tourer and a devastating track weapon – quick enough to hose off all but a handful of cars on the market – that single it out as something special. And more than that, it’s the pure, unadulterated feel-good factor it sends coursing through your veins that ultimately prove irresistible.

 

As before on the F12, the 812 features seating for only two and a driver-centric instrument stack. New however are some optional passenger instrument guages, which are totally useless but actually very cool. 

 

Unlike anything wearing a McLaren or Lamborghini badge, getting in and out of the 812 Superfast is immensely easy – zero gymnastics required – thanks to a low (and not excessively wide) sidesill and relatively high (for a supercar) roofline. The elaborately contoured seats – black with red trim highlights in the case of our test car – are supremely comfortable and supportive, so even a full day of thrashing around Italy’s Apennine Mountains and Ferrari’s Fiorano test track takes no toll on the vertebrae or any other parts of the lumbar region.

That said, the large tacho dominates the instrument cluster and this means that every other bit of info is crammed into small screens on either side, making it hard to take in readings at a glance. The satnav system is also annoyingly fiddly and non-intuitive to operate, so this is an area that Ferrari needs to address in its future models.
Fire up that V12 and all these mundane matters recede into the background. The massive 6.5-litre lump is an absolute peach, and the rich burble warbling out of those four tailpipes, even at low to middling speeds, is easy on the ears.

Once on the move, it’s immediately evident how docile the drivetrain is at unhurried speeds. The torque-rich 6.5-litre motor is immensely tractable and creamy smooth below 2000rpm, and the dual-clutch ’box slurs through the ratios seamlessly – there’s no shunting or indecisiveness, as is the case with some rival offerings (read: Lamborghini Aventador S) in around-town conditions.

 

Air is channeled from the front bumper, over the brakes and then guided up the deeply sculpted sides to reduce the width of the car’s wake and therefore its overal drag.

 

But it’s out in the mountains where the 812 really comes into its own and lives up to its moniker. No two ways about it, this car is, er… super fast. The power delivery of that awesome V12 increases in urgency above 3000rpm, and beyond 5000rpm it’s pure adrenaline. The grey matter can scarcely compute the distance-over-time equation as any straights between corners evaporate in a blink. And then there’s that sound. It’s hard to do justice to the F140 ED engine, but if you close your eyes and imagine a 1969 312P Berlinetta at full chat down Mulsanne Straight (where the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place), you begin to get the idea. It’s epic. While the V12 is highly vocal and melodious when you’re giving it the beans, it has the knack of receding discreetly into the background at steady cruising speeds.

The suspension set-up is remarkably compliant over the thousands of lumps and bumps littered across our Apennine drive route, yet the Superfast’s propensity for devouring narrow mountain-pass roads is staggering. No doubt the 812’s willingness to instantaneously change direction is aided by the new four-wheel-steer system, but the car is inherently agile due to its slightly rear-biased weight distribution.

 

 

 

The dual-clutch gearbox is lightning-fast and ultra-responsive, whether you leave it to its own devices or use the flappy paddles. Downchanges elicit a lovely “brraaap” from the engine too. That said, the paddles don’t rotate with the wheel, so things get a bit awkward if you need to upshift halfway through a long sweeping bend.

In terms of substance, the 812 brims with it. As for the visuals, it’s fair to say pictures don’t do it justice. The Superfast’s barrage of aero-dictated scoops and vents means it lacks the aesthetic purity of yesteryear Ferraris, but it’s still a thing of beauty, featuring classic GT proportions and lovely surface sculpting.

It’s a bit hard not to wax lyrical about the 812 Superfast – a bewilderingly rapid grand tourer that makes mincemeat of any tarmac you feed it, cossetting you in its snug embrace while it does so. You could even say that the name sells it a tad short but the sad truth is that it’s going to be the last of its kind. That’s because Ferrari announced that as of 2019, all of its cars are going utilise hybrid powertrains. Essentially then, the 812 Superfast represents a final, memorable and remarkable swansong. Buy one while you still can.

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