Quite how fast is superfast? After all, it’s not as if there’s any shortage of 200mph-plus cars that can accelerate from 0-62mph in less than three seconds. So the big question is precisely how Ferrari could improve on the sublime F12, a car that we thought might be the last of the front-engined, V12 grand tourers with which Enzo Ferrari established his company and which have continued to feature in the range over the past 70 years (in fact, all the road cars were V12s until 1975).
Away from the new car’s looks for a second, the numbers. Ferrari claims to have built on the lessons learnt with the F12tdf, a tweaked version of the standard F12 that was more focused on the art of going fast rather than going almost as fast but in relative comfort. That incorporated engine and aerodynamic enhancements that have been further evolved for the 812 Superfast.
The headline figure is a peak power output of 800CV/PS, which equates to a Telegraph reader-friendly 789bhp at a heady 8,500rpm, which is only 400rpm shy of the red line.
The peak torque of 530lb ft is delivered at a similarly lofty 7,000rpm, with 80 per cent of that available at 3,500rpm, thanks to the use of a 350-bar direct-injection system along with variable geometry intake tracts derived from its Formula 1 experience. Its seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission features reduced times between up- and down-shifts.
For the numbers fetishists, the top speed is 211mph, with 0-62mph in 2.9sec and 0-125mph in only 7.9sec.
The heart of any Ferrari is the engine. You could write a book on the revisions to the 65-degree V12 compared with the F12berlinetta, but suffice to say it’s 75 per cent new with only the major castings being carried over.
The major change is an increase in capacity from 6,282cc to 6,496cc thanks to a longer stroke, together with reductions in internal friction. The power is both real and sensory, in that the gear ratios are shorter to improve the car’s responsiveness.
I’m a huge fan of the outgoing F12berlinetta but this is something else. Designed by the Ferrari Styling Centre, the 812 Superfast is clearly a derivative, but it has been restyled and is now festooned in aerodynamic aids that are effective yet discreet – the perfect antidote the the massive slots and vents and wings of so many performance cars.
You have to study it carefully to comprehend the extent of the airflow management. The flow around the front, the sides and the wheels is carefully channelled by a system of ducts incorporating active and passive aerodynamics to produce downforce while reducing lift and turbulence around the high tail, which is reminiscent of the famed 365 GTB4 'Daytona' of 1969.
The 812 also marks the debut of a new bodywork colour, Rosso Settanta, a lovely deep red, which marks Ferrari’s 70th anniversary this year.
Inside, Ferrari has retained the feeling of space and comfort that buyers of its V12s demand, although there’s a sportier look compared with the F12, along with new seats, steering wheel and instrument clusters, as well as upgraded infotainment and air-conditioning units.
That aircon was put to the test as we drove the 812 on the roads around the Ferrari factory in Maranello in 36-degree heat, together with a few laps of the company’s Fiorano test track.
As you might imagine, on the road it is simply mighty. Anything with this amount of power is bound to feel special although in the congested towns the 812 is so benign that it’s almost anti-climactic.
Escape to the nearby Apennine hills and let it off the leash, however, and it’s an entirely different beast, a snarling, crackling road-burner that commands respect as you’re inevitably travelling a lot faster than you imagine. The faster you go, the better it gets.
The most impressive feat is how composed it is, even over some truly awful surfaces. The best setting is Sport (selected as usual by the manettino switch on the steering wheel) to get sharper responses from engine and gearbox, together with the excellent ‘bumpy road’ suspension setting that provides a degree of suspension compliance for comfort with rapid responses.
On one occasion the car took off momentarily where a section of road had subsided. The engine hit the rev limiter at almost 9,000rpm as the rear wheels spun crazily and I expected something awful. The car simply landed, regained traction in a trice and powered on without a wobble. Uncanny.
Set up thus, it was simply devastating, the whole car seeming to shrink and displaying a nimbleness that something of this size (and with a big V12 in the nose) has any right to.
As if the chassis doesn’t make you feel heroic enough, the engine management software delivers a perfectly executed blip during downchanges. At the press conference there were the usual questions about whether Ferrari would consider selling a car with a manual gearbox for “enthusiast” drivers, but when a transmission is as good as this Ferrari’s seamless dual-clutch set-up I’m not surprised that the question was met with mild bemusement from Ferrari’s engineers.
On the Fiorano circuit, we were able to assess the raft of electronic aids by setting everything to normal than gradually dialling out the assistance. It’s truly remarkable how Ferrari has engineered in stages of help so your driving is really flattered yet you always feel in control and know that there’s a safety net should you get it badly wrong.
Powering out of the turns the 812 will smoke its rear tyres in almost any gear yet at the same time it’s so progressive and controllable.
It is the first Ferrari with EPS (Electric Power Steering) which is calibrated to work in tandem with the battery of electronic vehicle dynamics controls, including the latest version of Ferrari’s patented Side Slip Control (SCC). As with most modern systems, there’s little feedback but it’s never anything less than direct and responsive. As with the chassis electronics, it provides the confidence to explore the car’s limits in the knowledge that it will provide plenty of warning that you’re approaching the limit of adhesion.
And that’s the genius of the 812 Superfast, the way that all the systems integrate seamlessly to flatter drivers of all abilities while permitting full exploitation of the prodigious power in a series of carefully managed steps. At no point do you feel that it’s going to leave you high and dry.
Downsides? Very few. Ferrari reckons that buyers of its V12-engined cars spend an average of about £50,000 on optional extras. There’s a wealth of personalisation options, many of them fitted to the test cars, although the carbon-backed sports seats of the example I tried proved unyielding during a three-hour drive so I’d be inclined to stick to the standard seats.
The significant problem for interested parties is that the car won’t enter series production until September, with right-hand-drive examples not due in the UK until next spring.
Let’s hope that Lord March is able to use his considerable influence to ensure that there’s an 812 Superfast in the Michelin-sponsored supercar run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in less than two weeks, as part of an array of significant Ferraris to celebrate the company’s 70th anniversary.
We just know that British buyers want to see this remarkable machine in close-up - then watch it rip up the hill in suitably spectacular fashion in the hands of a professional racing driver.
That it will do so almost as quickly (although less spectacularly) in the hands of any driver is a measure of how stunningly competent this car is.
Super? Check. Fast? Undoubtedly. And so much more besides.
Ferrari 812 Superfast
TESTED 6,496cc, 65-degree V12 petrol, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in rear transaxle, rear-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE from £253,004 OTR/March 2018
POWER/TORQUE 789bhp @ 8,500rpm/530lb ft @ 7,000rpm
TOP SPEED 211mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 2.9sec, 0-125mph in 7.9sec
FUEL ECONOMY 18.9mpg (EU Combined)
CO2 EMISSIONS 340g/km
VED £2,000 first year, £450 next 5 years, then £140
VERDICT Super. And very, very fast. But as with all modern Ferraris the 812 is as mild-mannered and controllable as you like in day-to-day driving, but when unleashed it is simply astounding. The best part is how all the systems combine unobtrusively to deliver a scintillating drive where the driver still feels totally in control despite the mighty power output. It's never been easier to award five stars.
TELEGRAPH RATING Five stars out of five
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