What is it like to drive?
The engine defines the 812 experience. Other cars have V12s and they’re very pleasant, but for the most part I don’t see a V12 as anything outstanding – in Astons it’s smooth and muscular for instance, but many V8s have more character. Lambo does the V12 well, but Ferrari…
This is something else. It’s not the power, it’s not the noise, it’s not the response, and it’s not even a combination of all those facets that makes it so special. One word: reach. The figures say max torque arrives at 7,000rpm. The figures are nonsense. It’s the impact the V12 has at 2500rpm that’s so shocking. Heck, it’ll pull gears from 800rpm onwards, and pull them hard. It’s got a far broader usable rev band than any turbo. And at the other end: 8900rpm. A power band 8000rpm wide. A powerband that develops with a tone and richness and ferocity that has to be experienced to be believed.
And this is just one facet of its ability. The internals seem to be massless. How else do you explain the precision of the reaction to your right foot? And every time you touch the throttle – no matter how briefly or lightly, because all you’re doing is nudging away from a set of traffic lights – you sense a deep connection and you appreciate, once again, just how special an engine can be.
Enzo Ferrari is alleged to have said, “when you buy a Ferrari, you pay for the engine and I will give you the rest for free”. The 812 Superfast costs £262,963. A fair price for that V12, I reckon.
So, the free bits. What I need to point out right away is that the 812 is not a grand tourer. I know Ferrari says it is, and that front-engined cars can’t be supercars – but open the bonnet and have a look where the engine is. It’s nowhere near the front of the car.
Treat it as a GT and the 812 is flawed. There’s a lot of tyre noise, the engine never truly pipes down, the gearbox surges the shifts, the gearing is unfashionably short (70mph is 2500rpm in top, when many sports car only pull 1800rpm or so) and even with a 92-litre fuel tank, you’ll struggle to do more than 300 miles without filling up. It didn’t help that this car was equipped with optional fixed back carbon seats (£7,200) and four-point harnesses (£2,112).
Sealing and insulation is decent, echoes are well contained, it does track straight and true, and the ride, once you’ve pressed the ‘bumpy roads’ button on the steering wheel, is decent. But this is not a car that likes to hum along with 70mph traffic – it’s too proud, too majestic for that.
Handling, then. This is a more aggressive car than the F12 – Ferrari admits it’s steered it into the gap between the F12 and the F12tdf (one of the most delinquent, hyperactive cars I’ve ever driven). What you have is a very fast steering rack mated to rear-end steering that really likes to get involved. It feels almost over-sharpened, so eager to turn. It’s very clever - as I said above, it’s stable and calm on motorways - but give it a sniff of a corner…
Turn-in grip is astonishing, the 812 moving into the turn very fast, fast enough to catch you unawares. It’s a very active car, you’re aware that there’s an awful lot going on, it’s coming to you fast and you don’t have a moment to relax. Initially it’s hard to drive smoothly and feels snatchy around corners because you’re not prepared for a car of this ilk to go in so hard and so quickly.
Once you start to get into it, you’ll find yourself taking it out of bumpy road mode because the soft damper setting introduces a little slack, delay and mushiness to the rear axle that you really don’t want when you’re trying to deploy some small, but rapidly expanding, proportion of 789bhp. You need more immediacy, more sense of connection so your brain gets the signals as fast as possible and can work out what’s bump steer, what’s 4WS, what’s road surface and what it needs to do to make things right. It’s a full-on experience, the 812 Superfast – you get that, right?
It pours itself down the road with such urgency, such pomp and drama that you get utterly caught up in the experience. In many cars you worry about leaving too much noise in your wake and so on, but the 812 captivates you, conducts itself with such mastery and authority that you imagine ever other road user must be appreciating it as deeply as you are. Let’s hope.
The carbon-ceramic brakes are good, but working against the combined affects of 1630kg and 789bhp, they have a lot to do. The pedal is reassuring and they have decent bite, the biggest issue is that even under modest retardation the hazards start to flash and the tocking inside the cabin is off-putting when all you’re trying to do is slow smoothly.
You need a track or deserted autobahn to truly exploit it. On the road this is a car in which 100 per cent throttle is never a given. It’s something to be aimed for, strived for, but not taken for granted. Instead relished, when the rare opportunity does present itself.
But you still won’t believe how much of that power the rear wheels will cope with. The traction, and the management of it through the stability control, is awesome. It is, entirely unsurprisingly, a very fast car across country and the suspension does a brilliant job of delivering stunning body control – the kind of control you need when there’s 789bhp trying to get out. Progress is… well, scintillating is probably the best way to describe it. Eyes-on-stalks would be another.