First Drive: 2017 Ferrari 812 Superfast

First Drive: 2017 Ferrari 812 Superfast
 

Ferrari’s tradition of building V12 engines is well documented, as it was this very same architecture that began the Prancing Horse’s 70-year-old journey of building emotive sports cars.

In fact, one could go as far as saying the V12 engine is the heart and soul of the famous Italian marque.

The main basis of this power plant continues with each incarnation of the engine superseding the one that went before.

Based on the 6.0-litre V12 which powered the 2002 Enzo hypercar, the engine has since done duty in models such as the 599 GTO and, in recent years, the visceral F12 Berlinetta and its more savage, limited-run sibling, the F12Tdf.

However, in F12 guise the engine swelled to 6.3-litre, but still remained atmospherically fed. By the company’s own admission, it was going to be a hard act to follow.

Now the company has entered a new chapter in its GT story with the launch of the 812 Superfast, which replaces the F12 range.

Motor News was privileged enough to be one of the first South African publications to drive the new model in Maranello, Italy this past week and we jumped at the opportunity to put it through its paces.

Much like the preceding F12 Berlinetta, the design of the 812 Superfast is heavily hinged on functionality rather than superficiality, with every surface kink serving an important aerodynamic purpose. The intakes on the bonnet, next to each headlight, channel air into the buttresses which in turn speed up the wind speed as it is pushed out to either side of the vehicle towards the rear, thereby reducing lift.

The air intakes for the engine and brake cooling have a turning vane on the front valance designed to channel air flow towards the outer edges of the valance, thereby reducing the width of the car’s wake and, subsequently, any lift.

The boot spoiler has been increased by 30mm, as was the case with the Tdf, and is said to contribute towards the vehicle’s overall downforce increase of 30% over the F12.

Yes, it all sounds complicated and scientific, but the results are nonetheless palpable — as we found out during our drive on the track and on the road.

There are 20-inch tyres at each corner with the fronts measuring 275/35, while the rear gumballs span 315/35 for good reason.

You see, the 812 Superfast is powered by a front, mid-mounted, normally aspirated 6.5l V12 (200cc larger than the F12) to push out — wait for it — 588kW at a dizzying 8500rpm, while a stout 718Nm of twist is also achieved at those equally lofty rev heights.

All that is harnessed through a lightning-quick seven-speed dual clutch transmission which is rear transaxle-mounted in the interests of better weight distribution, which is 47% and 53% rear-biased.

The driven rear wheels benefit from an electronically operated differential to ensure the best traction on most surfaces.

According to the company, the model can reach 100km/h from rest in 2.9 seconds, which is impressive, but it is the 7.9 seconds to 200km/h from standstill that truly paints a more vivid picture. Top speed, meanwhile, is pegged at a hair-raising 340km/h, which places the model at the highest echelons of the exotic spectrum.

It is the first model in the company’s portfolio to feature electric power steering, while the rear-wheel steer gives it even sharper turn-in.

When it comes to cabin appointments, there has been a marked improvement as the infotainment screen is now located on the instrument cluster next to the tachometer.

An auxiliary screen just in front of the passenger displays a range of information, such as driving mode, and as well as a G-force meter, digital tachometer and other vital data that would previously have been the preserve of the driver.

This is thoroughly entertaining as it makes the passenger privy to most of the driver-oriented information.

Enough about that, though, as the crux of the model is in the way it drives and how it makes you feel in the process.

My expectations of the vehicle were thoroughly exceeded. The first time I opened up the taps, I was left gobsmacked at how hard the engine punches.

I found myself short-shifting at about 6000rpm because the engine only starts coming into its stride past that twilight zone as it bears down on its 8900rpm ceiling.

I felt as though I had been jettisoned towards the horizon and had to hang on for dear life as I was pressed back into my leather seat and the scenery became a blur in my periphery.

The acceleration is savage, unrelenting and almost too much for road application. I’m not pulling the wool over your eyes, but rather illustrating how ferociously this thing puts down its power on the road. Thankfully, the transmission is well up to the task, with upshifts said to take 400 milliseconds in Race mode, while downshifts are said to be 40% quicker than the F12.

Having thoroughly played through the gears via the paddle shifts, I have little doubt of those claims. Then there is the banshee wailing of that flat plane crank as it spins to the heavens, which climaxes into a shrill reverberation not far removed from the V12 Formula One engines of yore.

This engine is not as much a powerhouse as it is a nuke, such is the power delivery. The Superfast suffix in the model’s name is not misplaced.

I can go on about the merits and the engineering feat that has been achieved, but to sum it all up, the Ferrari 812 Superfast is a hypercar masquerading as a civil grand tourer.

It is equally as fun to exploit as it is challenging to drive properly — but get it right and you will be rendered speechless. – Lerato Matebese