We could argue that iconic car companies around the world continue promiscuously to stray from tradition, to abandon the brand pillars that made them exotic and aspirational in the first place. Maserati, the marque that started as a race team, doesn’t even race any more. Lancia is tragically and inexcusably a Chrysler minivan. Honda’s forgotten what Soichiro was on about.
The others are all doing all-wheel drive and SUVs, in the chase for the yuan, ruble and riyal.
Meanwhile in Maranello, during these changing times, Ferrari has returned to a constant, to what used to be a perpetual state in the car industry. Back in the day, no matter where you found yourself, when, how old you were or what generation you were from, there was always in the world a red rear-drive Ferrari powered by a front-mounted naturally aspirated V12 engine, and it was beautiful, designed by Pininfarina.
Well that all changed about six years ago when Ferrari made the decision to create in-house designs instead of asking the famous Pininfarina studio to draw the memorable shapes. Since the early Fifties every single serial production Ferrari has been designed by Pininfarina except the Seventies’ Dino. The two were inseparable and almost made no sense apart, but Maranello made the decision to take responsibility of its own designs with the Centro Stile Ferrari and that was it, Pininfarina was dumped.
And it’s not like Centro Stile upped the ante — there hasn’t been a truly beautiful Ferrari in years, with all the recent cars dominated by aero and panel surfacing trends. Sinuous, simple and organic shapes just aren’t cool any more, it seems.
Going against the grain of an industry obsessed with turbos and hybrids, the Ferrari is old-school in more ways than one...
Complex panels and myriad concave and convex surfaces interplaying are also very much the theme with Ferrari’s latest creation, the 812 Superfast. And yet, here, in Dubai, in the carbon fibre and in front of us where wheels managed to bag an exclusive photoshoot with the only example in the region, the Superfast is arguably the prettiest Ferrari since the 456, which is part of the same front-engined lineage and ended production in 2003.
In addition to looking like an apt successor to Pininfarina’s finest, the 812 Superfast is also powered by a free-revving V12 engine unburdened by turbos, which spins to 8,500rpm. Oh, and despite being a front-engined 2+2, it happens to be the fastest and most powerful Ferrari in the company’s history.
So, front-engined, rear-drive, beautiful, and quite red. Going against the grain of an industry obsessed with turbos and hybrids, the Ferrari is old-school in more ways than one, honouring tradition and enthusiasts at the same time. It’s been 70 years exactly since the Scuderia put its first V12-engined car on the road, and that 1947 Ferrari 125 S has been commemorated, and then some.
The ’47 had a 60-degree 1.5-litre V12 created by legendary designer Gioacchino Colombo who got nearly 120 horsepower out of it at some seven thousand revs. Seventy years later, and curiously Ferrari didn’t celebrate this momentous anniversary with a mid-engined special, like the 40th F40 and the 50th F50 and the Enzo and so on.
Instead, the 812 Superfast (the name, too, delves into Ferrari’s history to salute the 1956 410 Superfast) builds on its F12 Berlinetta and F12 tdf predecessors to feature a new V12 that’s more than four times bigger than the 1947 125 S. The 6.5-litre engine produces 800 horsepower, which is over 120 per litre and a phenomenal figure in the naturally aspirated supercar world, matched perhaps only by the new 991.2 generation Porsche 911 GT3.
Designed with a 65-degree angle (Ferrari, interestingly, is one of the only marques that uses a 65-degree layout), the V12 isn’t short of torque either, developing 718Nm at 7,000rpm, which does sound a bit high up there, but it also makes 80 per cent of that torque as low as 3,500rpm and keeps flatlining to the top.
The Superfast is arguably the prettiest Ferrari since the 456, which was part of the same front-engined lineage and ended production in 2003.
Naturally Ferrari’s engineers spent a huge amount of time getting the sound right, which honestly can’t be that hard when you’re starting with a naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12, but stab the throttle even while just manoeuvring for photos and it’s akin to getting an electric shock, an unexpected surprise that leaves you momentarily confused. And then you stab it again, and then you can’t give your foot or ears a rest. It’s just one of those things, every time you hear a Ferrari V12 at full chat you sit there trying to think what could possibly sound better than that in life and you can never come up with anything.
Without hybrid gubbins and all-wheel drive the 812 Superfast isn’t just observing traditions but it also ends up weighing quite little — relatively speaking, the kerb weight of 1,525kg is nothing, when a Bentley Continental GT Speed weighs as much as a Range Rover, and even a Lamborghini Aventador S can only come up with a figure of 1,575kg.
With such specifics, Maranello’s claim that the 812 Superfast will certainly live up to its name as the most powerful and fastest road-going Ferrari ever (apart from the LaFerrari ‘special’, they say…) are easy to believe — the Italians say top speed is 340kph and 0-100kph takes 2.9 seconds.
They can build their SUVs, the rest of them, but Ferrari at least seems to be in a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mode — the company produced just over 8,000 cars last year and for 2017 Maranello is figuring for 4 per cent growth or thereabouts, which is hardly aggressive expansion. There are no crossovers in development. This year Ferrari is looking to make about 3.3 billion euros, and with a slight kerfuffle in Hong Kong with the distributor there now sorted, 2017 is looking like it will go up in China as well. All in all, it’s looking stable, and what that means more than anything is more naturally aspirated V12s and more rear-wheel drive, and now that Centro Stile knows what they’re doing, more beautiful Ferraris.