When in 2016 Ferrari chose to introduce a track focused sequel to the F12 Berlinetta, they decided, as only Ferrari knows how, to call it the F12 tdf, named after the Tour de France motor race frequently won by Ferrari 250s in the Fifties and Sixties. The tdf was more powerful than the berlinetta, lighter than the berlinetta, and of course, was faster around Fiorano, Ferrari’s own test circuit. Practically every motoring journalist on earth described the tdf as the last hurrah for Ferrari’s legendary V12 engine, sensing that environmental and legislative pressure would ensure their next GT arrived on the scene with a soulless turbocharged V8. How wrong we were!
Thankfully it seems nobody told the residents of Modena about EU regulations, or if they did, it was shortly after a long Italian lunch and frankly, nobody was in the mood to hear about it — and for that we should all be eternally grateful. Enter the 812 Superfast, the latest, greatest evolution of the F12 and its sonorous engine, now uprated to 6.5 litres from the F12 tdf’s 6.2.
The Superfast really is quite a sight to behold. If you were to compare it to an F12, there’s a whole lot more fancy aero trickery going on within the bodywork, but in keeping with its more subtle GT status, fewer scoops and vents than the F12 tdf. Still it achieves greater downforce than the limited production tdf, which is just as well since only minutes after settling into the sculpted seats, and with test driver Rafael De Simone as my mentor, I was blessed with the opportunity to push the 812 Superfast as hard as I dare around the historic Fiorano circuit. Let’s cut to the chase, driving fast in a car powered by a screaming V12 kicking out 800 horsepower (789bhp) and which red-lines at a spine tingling 8,900rpm, was never going to be difficult. In a world now over-run with performance cars dulled by the muted tone of turbocharged engines, Ferrari has snubbed political correctness and instead delivered a master class in natural aspiration, embellished it with the variable inlet tracts from the tdf to maximise power and torque (a tarmac-shredding 718Nm at 7,000rpm) and shoe horned it under a bonnet barely a metre off the ground.
The sumptuous leather interior, scorching exhaust note, and impressive dashboard and infotainment system (an evolution of the GTC4Lusso’s) make the cockpit a very pleasant place...
No, the tricky part was for me to do justice to the car’s road holding and handling abilities, on a circuit originally designed to test Ferrari’s racecars, and which had been tamed by some of the world’s greatest racing drivers. So no pressure then. Thankfully I had an array of driver aids at my disposal, since the 812 Superfast comes equipped with electronic differential and F1-Trac traction control, Virtual Short Wheelbase — wider front tyres coupled with rear wheel steering aimed at preventing oversteer — plus of course, I had Rafael’s advice to call upon. For the last three weeks I had also been watching in car footage of Fernando Alonso lapping Fiorano in his 2010 F1 car, so as to have a clear idea of the track layout, sight lines and apexes. There’s no fun to be had trying to tame 800 horsepower at Fiorano, unprepared!
I had feared that so much power and torque, in a front engine, rear-wheel drive car weighing a little over 1,600kg, would be unmanageable. After all, the tdf has eight per cent less power yet has a reputation for being difficult to tame, but I needn’t have worried. Ferrari’s search for more power went hand in hand with the fine tuning of ground effect, active aero rear diffuser, a more effective rear spoiler and there’s even the ‘Peak Performance Advisor’. That’s Modena’s description for the technique of subtly nudging the steering wheel — the 812 Superfast features electric power assistance for the first time in a Ferrari — to ensure you don’t foolishly break the car’s incredible handling limits and spin off the road. If that sounds like the sort of obtrusive nannying you’d rather not have in a supercar, relax, it’s subtly applied.
That V12 is an engineering masterpiece, the gearbox as sweet as freshly served gelato...
I can tell you it works exceptionally well too; during my third lap of Fiorano I was growing in confidence and, somewhat awed by the car’s abilities, was clearly pushing harder than my skill set allows. The phenomenal carbon ceramic brakes (398mm front, 360mm rear) work perfectly well, but only if you apply them in time…. Arriving too fast for the right hand turn toward the circuit’s bridge, I ran wide and tried to turn harder to the right, but the car’s sensors analysed the steering angle, my speed, even the traction available at the rear wheels (since the run off area was a little dirty) and the torque applied through the steering wheel ‘encouraged’ me to make a slightly less aggressive turn. The result was a short, uneventful drive across the run off area, rather than a disorienting vortex of aluminium and armco. Thank you Ferrari, your complex control systems are a thing of beauty.
By any definition, the 812 Superfast, with its track prowess and 0-100kph time of 2.9 seconds, must be considered a supercar, yet its role is clearly defined by Ferrari as that of a GT, so in addition to outright speed, it should by rights be a comfortable long distance tourer and feature at least a modicum of boot space. After all, one’s Audemars Piguet collection and partner’s Louboutin shoes won’t deliver themselves to Monte Carlo. Out on the sweeping roads which surround Modena, it soon became clear that the 812 Superfast completely fulfils those demands, although the button responsible for softening the magnetorheological dampers don’t seem to have much effect. Still the ride was never jarring, and anyway, the sumptuous leather interior, scorching exhaust note, and impressive dashboard and infotainment system (an evolution of the GTC4 Lusso’s) make the cockpit a very pleasant place to while away the hours, whilst traversing whole continents.
Owners of recent model Ferraris will be pleased to learn that the navigation system is also clear and accurate, albeit a struggle to initially programme. During my previous two Ferrari test drives (California T and the FF) I’d become convinced that the main purpose of their GPS systems was to ensure you drove at least twice through every major town, thus maximising low speed exposure of the brand to the general public; it seems the F12 Superfast’s navigation logic is now considerably less Italian, and all the better for it.
A GT is most likely to be found wanting on tight, twisty roads, where the sheer size of the car might make it daunting to drive, yet the Superfast’s rear wheel steer, coupled with improved shift times from the seven-speed, double clutch gearbox (up shifts are 30 per cent faster than the F12, downshifts 40 per cent faster) and the fact that 80 per cent of the engine’s torque is available from 3,500rpm, ensure it’s as joyous to drive ‘point and shoot’ up a mountain pass festooned with hairpin bends, as it is at license-threatening speeds on an Autostrada. At no time did my mountain drive ever feel like a substitute for a workout in the gym; I can imagine Paris-based Superfast owners now arriving late in Madrid, simply because they opted for a challenging but thoroughly more entertaining route across the Pyrenees.
Tension sometimes is very high but everyone has the same goal.
It would be easy to be seduced by the 812 Superfast’s astonishing power , its torque, the new Rosso Settanta paint scheme and delicious 20in ‘twisted star’ wheels. I could succumb to its symphony of cylinders, the stylish interior, the manettino and tell you that it’s an incredible car, whilst deliberately overlooking a host of faults and an arduous driving experience. Except that it doesn’t have a host of faults and the fact is it’s an absolute joy to drive, whether flat out at Fiorano or meandering in the mountains above Maranello. All this, and up to 500 litres of luggage space, 20,000-kilometre service intervals, seven-year maintenance packages and, and, and.
As Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary, the 812 Superfast is a near perfect execution of the sum of its talents, of the lessons the company has learned over seven decades. That V12 is an engineering masterpiece, the gearbox as sweet as freshly served gelato, whilst the suspension, handling and aerodynamic sculpting, demonstrate the positive impact of a proud racing heritage.
Last year the question on everyone’s lips was “How do you better the Tour de France?” The answer, it seems, is replace it with a Tour de Force.