Unlike lesser exotics that thrill briefly before heading to the used car market to be bought by budget-minded YouTube hooligans, Ferrari’s 812 Superfast promises an ever more complex and satisfying lifelong relationship, a generational relationship. If I had to choose one supercar in this year of 2020 to sit beside my everyday car, to be the permanent centerpiece wearing patina unique to my family’s decades of stewardship, to be driven often, Ferrari 812 Superfast is that car.
Not a single bolt, piece, angle or dimension in Superfast relates to the Ferrari berlinettas of the Golden Era, those delicately proportioned cars with Colombo V12s that trade for millions at David Gooding and Bonham’s auctions. But in its fundamental configuration and exterior design, 812 Superfast pays homage to those cars that helped build the Ferrari legend: front engine, shrieking V12, long hood, raked greenhouse, stubby tail, excellent sightlines, ideal man-machine relationship. Ferrari has not forgotten the ancient lessons. Superfast is intoxicating.
Superfast’s magnificent 6.5-liter V12 produces 789 horsepower by American measure, and 800 in Ferrari’s preferred Cheval Vapeur. Sure, sure, black boxes, scripting, fuel injection, variable cams, all the 21st Century trickery is scienced out, but Superfast makes power the old-fashioned way, breathing God’s air. I love the no-lag boosty bubble of torque that current high-performance turbo engines produce—it’s so easy to exploit—but there is something right and proper, deeply soulful, about a naturally aspirated screamer. Superfast’s V12 is all about size, and revs that rise and fall as fast as one can imagine. Imagine a 6.5-liter motorcycle engine.
Twist Manettino to “Sport” or “Race,” aim those fendercrests up a highway entrance or down an empty stretch of mountain road then squeeze the throttle from about two miles an hour. Superfast’s acceleration will light the nervous system on fire, all about increasing fierce wailing revs to 9000-rpm redline, red lights on the top of the steering wheel rim flashing till the blue LED shift indicators demand a clack-clack into second for another dose of sound and fury. Superfast runs through first, second and into third in mere seconds, relentless. With practice, you don’t need the flashing LEDs—listen, anticipate, clack that right paddle.
Scripting in “Sport” allows virtually perfect rear-wheel spin to break inertia. It becomes addictive and one thinks about the cost of those monstrously proportioned Pirellis being shredded down to the cords several times a year. In “Race” one can certainly burn up a lot of rear tire if that is the goal, like a drag racer getting heat into the tire carcass.
If all an owner does is enjoy Superfast’s supreme power on highways heading to extra-legal speeds in a straight line, street racing from stoplights and paddling up and down to compose an operetta worthy of Pavarotti in heaven, that’s OK. Every man, woman and child that comes for a ride will remember it forever.
Shifts are smooth but deliberate. Under heavy throttle one feels and hears the subtle ka-thunk as the two clutches perform their Ballet of the Milliseconds, grabbing a higher gear. The hit into second is authoritative, ensuring the overwhelming sensations do not let up till long past legal highway speeds. Third gear carries Superfast into Hyperdrive, that point when perception shifts on a balls-out acceleration run: wind ruffle starts to rise, gears are taller adding a few extra moments before the next upshift, the engine is pulling hard in the upper range, numbers in the binnacle turn to three digits, eyes looking ever farther down the road.
Engineers and designers at lesser companies need to lift a Superfast hood to understand how a thoroughbred engine should be presented: crackle finish on the artfully sculpted air boxes, every detail tucked and tailored for stunning presentation.
In its automotive way, it’s like opening a leather and velvet box with a new set of cufflinks from your better half. The intakes reach forward like the arms of a gigantic crab to draw air from the double mouth. Inner mouth tends the engine’s cooling, the outer corners of the mouth are an aerodynamic element to help Superfast slice through the air and remain firmly planted at ultra-high speeds.
Superfast is a wonder of aerodynamics. Start with the double mouth, the vents at the headlights and the exits further back on the hood, vents that are part of sightlines to place the car in cornering. The channels formed at the chin feed air to the brakes and later help air adhere to the sides.
Belly pans and diffusers bring stability at extremely high speeds. And the intake and outflow vents atop the rear fender line. If you buy, ask the dealer’s favored mechanic to provide a walkaround at delivery, including putting it on a lift to see the bellypans and have a good look at the suspension pieces. Time well invested.
Unlike extremist trackday supercars that demand physical compromise, proving uncomfortable after an hour or two, their engines producing as much racket as music, 812 can be as silky, refined and placid as a mainstream coupe.
Superfast can be cosseting and almost plush in the Wet setting, able to eat up 500 miles in a day. A Ferrari berlinetta is the best first choice for a romantic assignation that involves a daylong journey through beautiful countryside.
Superfast is a car to buy and hold, to keep in the family for many decades. Superfast is the car noted by chassis and engine number in documents carefully constructed by a trusts attorney that ensure this car is left to the grandchild who best appreciated two-up drives with Grandpa at dawn, that child who is a kindred spirit, levitating off the gravel when the barn door swings open, and predawn light plays across the curves of Superfast’s long hood. Leave the others money and a house, but this object only goes to the child with passion and romance in his or her soul.
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