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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Adding a folding-hard top - and its necessary chassis tweaks - to an 812 means the GTS weighs 85 kilos more than a Superfast, which is small-fry. Both in the grand scheme of drop-top sports cars, and when that V12 has nigh on 800bhp in response. You’d need to be driving a GTS and Superfast back-to-back for hours to identify any notable differences in the way they behave. And what a day that’d be – you’d have died of happiness long before you actually found anything worthy of complaint.

This is utterly spectacular to drive, an incomparable assault on the senses when you’ve flicked the manettino switch to Race (or even CT off) and begun wringing out this engine like the grim reaper really is in pursuit of it. The aggression with which it rushes to its 8,900rpm redline, the howl pouring in through that little rear window hatch as you approach such mesmeric numbers… and the sheer drivability of a supercar that has no right to be so approachable. It’s all gob smacking.

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Near-800bhp through just one axle ought to be snappy, scary and plain spiteful. The truth is the 812’s sheer friendliness draws you in until you’re driving it like it’s a V12-powered hot hatch. You may not have as much faith in the grip below you as in a mid-engined V8 Ferrari, the 812’s light steering and supremely eager front end just a little harder to trust. But with mild acquaintance it’s just as amenable while yet more ferocious. The front reacts quickly, but the rear follows it faithfully and with utter transparency.

Perhaps what’s most amazing is that you don’t have to drive it that quickly to feel like you’re exploiting some of its boundless ability. Stick to the speed limit and its short gearing and aggressive shifts mean you’re not just working first and second then harrumphing in frustration. Moments when your foot is completely flat to the floor (in any gear) will be startlingly rare, but when they do occur, your arms and legs will fizz like they’re plumbed with Mentos-infused Coke. You’ll discover nerve endings you never knew you had.

All of this is true of the Superfast, but the GTS increases the chance of that glorious V12 symphony ricocheting right into your ears. You’ll start seeing rockfaces and dry-stone walls as objects to bounce noise off. It also gives the 812 a bit of the GT car swagger it misses out on in coupe form. There’s genuine joy to be had in dropping the roof and mooching around in auto. I even used the cruise control button (once, on the motorway).

Don’t drive like an eejit and this engine is outstanding in its silence, of all things. Torque is so prodigious, the gearbox will shuffle its way into seventh at just 27mph if you’ve not pulled the paddles first. At a 70mph cruise the engine falls away almost entirely.

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But remember, we’re treating this as the mighty V12’s last stand. So let’s not let it fall away. Leave the motorway, drop four or five gears, and enjoy a hedonistic cocktail of outrageous speed and Ferrari’s chassis wisdom (and electronic flattery). The 812 is an outstanding achievement that, fully lit, barely feels legal.

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