Maranello, 1961. Enzo Ferrari enters the modest room of Mr Gibellini with a designs for a front-engined, V12 sportscar. Il Commendatore subsequently throws the papers onto the table before saying, “make me a nice GT shape”. Mr Gibellini, a young designer, takes a look at the architecture, puts the paper to one side and sets to work with his metal thread, bending the wire with his fingers and laying the web on to a blank sheet of paper, the template of which he would then sketch with a pencil. Little did he know it, but Signor Gibellini had just designed the most sought after GT in motoring history, as well as the most expensive.
The first Ferrari 250 GTO was produced in 1962 and only in 39 units, because it was then the minimum production number for racing homologation. It’s impossible to grow bored of this story, as told by the man himself: enjoying our Christmas dinner together in Modena, as we do every year, it still gives me goose bumps to this day (it’s either that or the local Sangiovese Wine). It’s also the first thing that springs to mind when I clap my eyes on the latest milestone from the company the great Italian founded back in 1939: the 812 Superfast.
As soon as I get confirmed for a three days test drive of the latest Pranching Horse GT, I rush to the Ferrari dealer and here I see her, this time dressed in white. I walk around my date and she is beautiful. She’s caressed by the desert breeze, her lines are sharp but elegant, her front is aggressive and her back is a platform for underbody air extraction, because she is also an outstanding aerodynamic exercise. There are no big wings, and the air is instead channelled through the multitude of fins before being spat out in other areas to create downforce. Like in modern F1 cars, the aerodynamic efficiency is studied in the 1:1 wind tunnels, in order to tame the air flows, without compromising those beautiful lines. The underbody air is coming out from the back and it gets accelerated through the extractors to create lower air pressure, hence more weight on the wheels, at speed, without increasing the masses. This GT aerodynamics produces 210 Kg at 200 Km/h of downforce. The trick is always to increase efficiency without increasing drag.
I’ll admit, I find the predecessor – the F12 Berlinetta – a touch more elegant. The 812 Superfast is the semblance of an earth-to-earth Jet Fighter, made for cruising at 340kph on German autobahns. Ferrari made her more extreme looking but splendid, as adorable as a top model who passed her 30s and has become a mature woman. The interiors are driver-focused. The materials are all up to a great level, apart from some minor details, like the air vents, which are made of plastic. Ferrari could have made them in carbon fibre, like the majority of the finishing parts. The carbon fibre steering wheel is alone an art piece. It includes the commands for the indicators, the lights, the telephone, the window wiper, the suspension set up and the Manettino. Once you get used to it, it all becomes natural and intelligent. The sitting position is perfect and the pedals, the seat and the steering wheel are in perfect line. However, even the passenger can monitor the performance of the 812; the passenger dedicated dashboard will keep you busy with lots of interesting information as well as access to the media and navigation. I find it very useful when you don’t want your guest to talk to you when you are driving.
Mounted at the front is a naturally-aspirated 6.5-litre V12, capable of 789bhp at 8,500rpm. Considering the 812 Superfast is not in the Supercar Class per se, its power is yet comparable or even stronger than supercars icons, like the Lamborghini Aventador, which deliver “only” 730 bhp. It’s a pure monster, essentially, particularly because turbochargers – which save weight, deliver more torque at lower revs, use less fuel, pollute less, etc etc – have made the V12 engine a thing of the past. Not that this bothers the Ferrari press managers, who are busy promoting this particular dinosaur with words like ‘soul’, ‘sound’ and ‘tradition’. I couldn’t agree more.
Of course, any concept of ‘tradition’ completely disappears when you sit behind the wheel of an 812 Superfast. I legitimately don’t know where to start…
Instinctively I press the red button on the F1-style steering wheel – what a piece of art! – and the dinosaur emits a guttural roar that sends a shiver down my spine. I can imagine the light weight pistons accelerating into their cylinders, sending the gasses into the pipes and the explosion coming out of the exhaust Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but I’m instantly in love, tapping the accelerator several times to send the rev needle towards its 8500 rpm peak, the soundtrack more brutal every time I do so. This is no Tesla.
I cannot wait to drive it and I decide to leave the city. Am going North East and I point at Al Madam and then to Maleha, finding stretches of glorious secondary roads, far away from the chaos of the city. I am alone. The white 812 is a true GT and it’s very comfortable too. Once I reach no traffic areas, where it’s just us, the desert and a stretch of black tarmac, I dare more. I downshift to 2nd and floor it.
While at low speed the engine is a cream. 718 Nm of torque is gigantic (80% out of which is available at only 3,500 Rpm) and allows to use higher gears at virtually any speed, when you “go to the metal”, a world that was unknown to me suddenly becomes real as my body receives a push that I’ve never experienced before in a road car. The V12 monster screams to nearly 9,000rpm and the gearbox engages gear after gear at lightning speed. I’m completely blown away, and only after a few seconds have passed do I realize that I am laughing – not just smiling – and talking to myself, almost convincing myself that this performance is real. It’s hilarious. The combination of the violent physical push, the noise from the engine, the brutal gear change make all this a whole new experience for a road car, originally thought as only a fast Grand Tourism.
Don’t let the overly complicated name fool you either, the seven-speed F1 DCT / E-Diff is incredibly impressive. For years, I’ve been the old school elite that’s defended manual gearboxes against ‘soul-less’ paddle shifters, considering the clutch pedal both a skill to perfect and a genuinely pleasurable connection to the drive: heel-ing and toe-ing to drop the engine revs whilst downshifting and simultaneously preventing the axle locking is something I’m very proud of.
Ferrari’s seven-speed DCT so fast and so precise that it’s made this skill a thing of the past, but there’s such a raw connection to the mechanics at work that it’s no less engaging: it even allows me to practice left foot braking. It would also be impossible to change gear that quickly with a traditional manual stick anyway.
While it’s disturbingly easy to be mesmerized by the inhuman straight-line performance of the very aptly named 812 Superfast, the corners are soon upon us: this might be my one shot with this phenomenal machine, and I want to make the most of it. I twist the Manettino on the steering wheel from Sport to Race mode, which allows much more freedom in the Stability Department and a more direct throttle response. Essentially, the 812 becomes an even more focused fighting machine.
Despite weighing in excess of 1,600kg, the 812 Superfast feels incredibly light and agile. While the long wheel base pretty much guarantees mid-corner stability, the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system (PCV) allows instant turn-in with the precision of a mid-engine sportscar. This system combines electric front-wheel steering assistance with the mechanical concept built around tyre dimensions and the rear-wheel steering
There’s so much composure in-fact that the speeds you can carry into the corners is genuinely intimidating to begin with. Even at a minimal steering hint, the front end quickly enters a corner much quicker than I thought also thanks to the very direct steering. The chassis is so stiff that I can feel the communication between the front and rear axles right through my seat, allowing me to feel the exact amount of grip of both ends while they are interacting with each other. It’s just the confidence boost I need to push harder. The dance is exciting.
The next corner is reached at warp speed and I slam on the brakes. As expected, the gigantic, carbon-ceramic brakes (398mm at the front and 360mm are the back) are extremely efficient, but more importantly, they give feel and feedback: you always know how much margin you have before the ABS kicks in. This is a driving machine at its peak, and it’s daring me to go radical with the Manettino, so I switch off the traction control.
New shivers run down my spine: as I start exploring the levels of controlled oversteer into some of the mid-speed corners, I’m pretty much bating the Superfast to snap on me. Encouraging the monster to bite me. But it doesn’t. In its wake, the Ferrari leaves only an enormous trail of tyre marks and a cloud of smoke, all while using its tractor-like torque well up into 4th gear. I feel the intervention of Power Oversteer Support: in the case of power-on oversteer out of corners, the steering wheel weighting helps the driver to realign the car correctly. It’s subtle but very effective. I feel like a superhero.
After a long drive, I nearly reach the Oman border and I decide to have a break from this thrilling experience. I stop in the middle of nowhere, my heart still beating, the adrenaline in no rush to leave my system. All around me is silence, save the slight rustle of the wind against my shirt.
The GT class has an Italian queen, a powerful, insanely fast, comfortable and elegant piece of art and engineering display. My only concern is what is next? 800bhp in a road car is no joke and only thank to the electronics, these types of cars are usable by your average driver, yet at improbable speed. It is very easy to feel over-confident when driving these monsters, because the level of technology today, like the stability management, is very discrete, in order to enhance the pleasure, remaining in tolerable limits of safety. Manufacturers of machines like this are condemned of offering faster and better new models. There is no end. The next will have to be more powerful, it will have to accelerate in less than 2,9 seconds from 0-100 km/h because the rush cannot stop. I fear the technology is running faster than us nowadays. In the meantime, we are privileged to enjoy the fruits of human intelligence at service of adrenaline production. I cannot find any other logical reasons for this car other than enjoyment at its purest level.
While I am thinking all this, I start smiling again because I am 200 km away from home but I will still take a longer way.
The 812 Superfast is available in the UAE at a starting price of 361,143.00 USD