What is the first thing that comes to one’s mind when they think about the word Flagship? Googlers will know that it’s the ship of a fleet which carries the commanding admiral. It also depicts the best product owned or produced by a particular organization. OnePlus 7 Pro is the flagship of OnePlus. Panigale is the flagship superbike of Ducati. And uhh… xBhp is the flagship lifestyle motorcycling magazine of India… Moving on to the more pressing matters, how about the flagship of a revered brand like Ferrari? The answer to that, had us engulfed in Dubai and showed us how it feels when a 1600+ kg supercar accelerates like a superbike. The answer is, Ferrari 812 Superfast.
Why 8, 1, and 2, and why Superfast? So, the 8, comes from the peak power which is 800cv (cheval vapeur) or roughly 789 bhp. The 12, is the number of cylinders in the engine. And lastly, Superfast because, well… 0-100 km/h in 2.9s, 0-200 in 7.9s, and a top speed of over 340 km/h. No complexities in the name there, just plain-old pride in the engineering marvel that the car is, and well deserved too. The reason is that Ferrari has had flagship V12s for a long time now and every new one is an improvement over the previous but isn’t there a limit to how much you can extract out of a naturally-aspirated V12? Not for Ferrari apparently.
The predecessor, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta (the whole model run including the TdF) was a heck of a car hailed by car enthusiasts the world over and it felt like that was it… Don’t you think 730 bhp, or 769 bhp in case of the F12 TdF, should be it? No, not for the folks at Maranello. Maybe it is because of the racing background (with Scuderia Ferrari) or just deep-rooted mercilessness towards the tyres and the tarmac. Whatever it is, they just do not seem to stop. In 2017, the 812 Superfast debuted as a successor to the F12 and they were still able to extract more power out of the V12, 20 more when compared to the F12 TdF! That’s outrageous!
You must be wondering, “Why such a hoopla around the V12?” and stuff along those lines. The first reason is related to sentiments. V12, which has powered so many iconic cars in the past and continues to do so even today, is a dying breed. Most of the manufacturers that swore by the possibilities to explore with the V12 have moved to turbos and superchargers with smaller engines like V8s. Without taking anything away from those cars, you cannot get what you get from a V12 from anything else.
Remember the best racing games that you have played and the best cars you have driven in them. We are sure that the Ferrari F50 made the cut. We are sure that the Ferrari 599 made the cut. We are sure that the Ferrari Enzo made the cut. And LaFerrari… What’s common in all of them? They are all V12s and they all rev to the moon. Why did they make the cut? Because of the clenched jaw and the sheer grin that is induced when you floor the pedal and give it full gas like there’s no tomorrow!
Now imagine how the people who actually drive these cars feel… You just cannot beat that kind of a rush. Ah… how we are going to miss this mill when it is phased out. We really wanted to shed some tears thinking of this while driving the 812 Superfast but uhh… we gave it gas and they dried right up! So yeah, we are one of the lucky ones who got to thrash around a V12 Ferrari. Thanks to the Ferrari folks in Dubai who handed us the keys to the 812 right after we returned the Portofino. We did ask if we could keep this one for good… Sad that they said no… politely.
When the 812 was being brought out for us to drive, the first glance imbued a rather subdued, “Holy sh*t! This is gonna be a sh*tload of fun!” The exact terminologies used has been changed for quality assurance purposes. The long snout shouts Berlinetta-style grand-tourer. The lines, so many of them make it seem like it is cutting through the air even at a standstill. And that short tail… It almost borders to the point of being called a Sportback, or even a shooting-brake! But gladly, it is not. It is just excruciatingly beautiful and painfully out of reach… *soft sobs*
The design of this car is complex and most of it is because of the aerodynamic efficiency that the engineers wanted to achieve. Gone are the days when aerodynamics was meant for people who could not build engines. With almost the best being extracted out of the engines, how do you make cars faster? By reducing the retarding forces. In other words, reducing the drag caused by air.
There are so many lines and so many vents routing the air around the car making it more efficient in slipping through the air than ever. While the 812 Superfast is 0.2s faster in 0-100 km/h than the F12 Berlinetta, it shaves a cool 0.6s off of the 0-200 timing which would not have been possible with increment in power alone. With great speed comes the need for great stability and not just in a straight line. The 812 Superfast is equipped with active-aero. The front flaps, the rear diffuser and the spoiler (rear wing) move about thanks to the onboard computers calculating the need for downforce with respect to the speed among other complex factors.
Achieving that much aero-efficiency, without larger-than-life (literally) rear-wings and sawing off almost every part of the car which slows it down, is a commendable feat. The complexity of the design does not hamper the looks of the car and all the lines, routed properly, make for a beautiful flowing design.
Ferrari’s traditional 4-lamp taillight has made a comeback and gosh did we miss that… 430 Scuderia and Enzo lovers, this one is for you. 3 little LED couplets on the front and rings on the back serve as turn signals. Little things that make the kid inside you perform somersaults. Clean your hands properly and run them along those lines and contours of the Ferrari is an experience unforgettable. One can almost visualise the passionate engineers in Maranello working hard to bring joy to the owners of this beautiful car… and a lucky few like us.
While the instinct to jump in the car and gun it was overwhelming, we took out time to walk around the car and just… admire it and of course, to take a look at the engine. Pop the hood and there it is, sitting there in all its glory, the 6.5 L V12! Even when the engine is off, it isn’t hard to believe that this massive gem of an engine revs to, 8,900 rpm, runs a 13.6:1 compression ratio, puts out 789 bhp of at 8,500 rpm and 718 Nm of torque at 7,000 rpm, 85% of which is available from 3,500 rpm! Amazing what marvels are achievable when one puts their heart and soul into it!
Walk towards the rear and it has a real usable trunk… Grand-Tourer title justified! Opening the trunk reveals another leather cover of sorts which lets one in on a little secret. The trunk is very spacious and is decorated with the traditional Ferrari leather straps to tie your luggage in and a plaque that lists all the options and extras that are fitted in the particular example. And now, it’s time to get in. There’s something special with even the smallest things in these high-end cars. Even the door openers on the gates have a certain… tactile feel to them. Open the gates, get in the car, sit with your hands on the steering wheel, take a deep breath and inhale the sporty intent of the 812 Superfast. This is where the performance aspect gets ahead of the grand-touring aspect. Not that the car is lacking in creature comforts, but everything is just lean and stripped down. The interiors are plush, yet sporty. The bucket seats engulf you and have your back for what is about to ensue. But they are not electronically adjustable.
The control to all the action is right there on the steering wheel so that the driver is never distracted with mundane tasks like selecting a mode or changing the song. The best part though is a sort-of rev counter on the steering which works via the means of small-led lights that light up as you progress through the rev-range. On the left of the steering wheel, there’s a small display, controlled by a wheel below it, that shows you the vitals of the car such as the tyre-pressure, temperature, speed, selected gear, rpm, and even the g-forces. On the right, there’s another screen which shows you stuff like music, calls, navigation etc and is controlled by a wheel beside it.
Look further right and there’s a carbon-fibre bridge of sorts between the driver’s and the passenger’s seat. It has the reverse button, the Auto button and a button that says PS (Power Start, Ferrari speak for Launch Control). How do you put it in Drive? How do you put it in Park? Well, Ferrari has pedal-shifters (perhaps the best thing about a sportscar). To put it in Drive, you just pull on the upshift pedal once and voila! You are ready to go. To put it in Park, you pull on both the pedals simultaneously, switch the engine off and voila! The parking brake comes on and the car is now in park mode. Nifty eh?
Move further right and you realize that the passenger can also be a part of the action via the means of a little power button. Pressing that button brings up a touch-enabled screen on the passenger side which replicates all the information from the two screens on the driver’s side. It shows the selected mode, selected gear, speed, rpm and all sorts of stuff, in addition to the music!
All of that is well and good but the best part is yet to come… Driving the 812 Superfast. There are 3 modes; Wet, Sport, and Race. Engage Race mode from the steering wheel. Electronic Stability Control and Traction control are on by default and DO NOT switch those off unless you have breakfast at a racetrack. Push the starter and the mighty V12 settles into a mild but emphatic rumble. Blip the throttle and the peaky V12’s screams stir your soul and the little crackers that go off while letting your foot off the pedal, take you to heaven.
Once done with having static fun, put it in Drive, engage launch control, rev and let go and scream with the V12!! Let the needle kiss the redline, shift up, and repeat!! Even while we write this we have tears in our eyes from the freight-train-load of fun the experience was. The car makes you do all the above stuff with a clenched jaw and an impish grin… just like it was in the video games. Only this is more feral, more visceral, more furious, more fun, and more… real.
Man… the Ferrari 812 Superfast can really move, and it is not just in a straight line. The car handles like a dream which is no less than sorcery because a car with that much mass and engine at the front should not move like that. But then again, it is a Ferrari, isn’t it? While its performance is the best thing about it when you have a playing field, even in the humdrum city traffic, it does not feel out of place at all.
The engine isn’t jerky, the transmission is just as good in the boring city rides as it is in spirited runs and the suspension, well… it is stiff. But hey, what’s that button that has a doodle showing suspension? Press it and the suspension softens up… it even shows an 812 on bumpy roads on the screen! And just like that, a car which nearly pushed us through the seat and our eyes rolled backwards with our tongues out like a dog with its head out of a window of a moving car, blends in with the city traffic like its nothing. Someday, we’ll visit Maranello, and bow our heads in respect for the people who build stuff like this… un-effing-real.
It is an amazing car. It is an artistic example of automobile experience that remains fabled in the lives of most people. We do not know where the world is heading… Up, down, or sideways. We do not know how long V12s are going to survive. We do not know if the future has cars as insanely engaging and fun as this. But we do know one thing, at present, Ferrari is making cars like these and all the speculations about saturation and ‘What next for Ferrari’ can be thrown out of the window. With all our heart, we say, “In Ferrari, we trust.”