Ferrari Monza review: RM8 million of 800bhp Italian V12 fury

By topgear, 01 June 2021

Words: Ollie Kew     Photography: Johnny Fleetwood


OVERVIEW –  What is it?

A spectacular piece of business from Ferrari. Welcome to the first of Maranello’s new line of ‘Icona’ cars – limited editions inspired by Ferrari’s illustrious back catalogue. The Monza – a roofless, windowless rollerskate based on the 812 Superfast – is the first of these. Only 499 will be built, and you guessed it. They’re all sold out, at £1.4m (RM8.2m) a pop including tax.

The stunning bodywork is inspired by the 750 Monza and 860 Monza racing cars of the mid-1950s, referenced in the voluptuous front wing curves, those abrupt rear buttresses, and a choice of seating.

Ferrari offered a duo of Monza bodystyles: hedonistic single-seat SP1, or this more sociable two-seat SP2. Ferrari won’t reveal what the split between SP1 and SP2 commissions was, but word is each Ferrari-approved buyer could only pick one. No matching pairs for your collection.

All of that gorgeous coachwork is carbon fibre, and it’s all expensively bespoke. Even the LED light units – unusually a slender lightbar instead of quad round-lenses at the rear – and those turbine-spoke wheels are fresh, unrecycled from other Ferraris.

Underneath of course, the Monza’s foundations are more familiar, but hardly ordinary. The front-mid-mounted 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine is lifted from Ferrari’s psychotic super-GT, the 812 Superfast. Having received a token 10bhp and 1.5Nm power bump, it slots in under the new front-hinged clamshell bonnet, assaulting the usual seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox with a total of 799bhp and 719Nm. There’s no SF90-style hybrid boost, and it’s rear-wheel drive. Gulp.

While the Monza has jettisoned anything resembling weather protection, it’s far from being a featherweight Caterham that’s had some opera lessons. The SP1 weighs in at 1,500kg dry, while this SP2 is 1,520kg. Ready to roll with fuel, fluids and a driver strapped inside, it’ll be knocking on the door of 1.7 tonnes.

But you sense this is a rare thing in Ferrariland: a supercar that doesn’t sweat the numbers. Outlandish downforce claims are absent. Ferrari hasn’t bothered with a Fiorano lap time. Even the top speed is officially quoted as ‘over 186mph’. Daring you to go and find out, they are, while seeming to hint the Monza is all about the experience, not the data. And what an experience it is.

ferrari monza
ferrari monza

DRIVING – What is it like on the road?

As anyone who’s ever been a teenage boy will tell you, something that looks scary is nothing like as intimidating as something that looks beautiful. And the Monza is very, very beautiful.

It’s also enormous, and as you reach over the door top to tug the leather release strap, dodge the uppercut from the heavily-sprung, praying mantis wing that pops skyward, and straddle the huge carbon sill (here bearing the name of the gentleman who’s lent us his very own Monza in the Scottish Highlands), well, let’s just say the opening exchanges aren’t exactly short on supercar theatre.

Thumb the inviting red starter button on the familiar Ferrari button-ridden steering wheel and the finest engine in production today barks into a bored, menacing idle. Pull a paddle and the gearbox selects first. So far, so Ferrari. And just like in an 812, the Monza is tricky to smoothly creep away in.

Not simply because it sounds like the London Philharmonic Orchestra being fed feet-first into a blender, but also because the throttle travel is long and the pedal needs a hefty prod pedal before the driveline hooks up and the car scoots forward, chirruping its back tyres if you’re not careful. Gulp.

Once you’re underway, first impressions are worryingly… calm. The ride is sublime, and then you realise you haven’t even hit the Bump Road damper button. Prod it and the Monza relaxes into an even more comfortable, perfectly controlled lope. It rides more expensively than most German luxury saloon cars. The gearbox works away politely into automatic mode.

Don’t get lulled into thinking this is some sort of decapitated GT car though. Flex your wrists and the steering darts the nose halfway across your lane. Risk taking eyes off the road to adjust the heater vents (don’t bother, the blower is pathetic) and you’ll be slapping cats-eyes in no time. The steering is pure 812: light, flitty, and hypersensitive. Just what you want when you’ve got 800 Italian stallions versus two rear tyres and everyone in earshot is watching. And filming. Double-gulp.

Once you’ve built up some confidence – and preferably some temperature in the road-roller Pirellis – then you’ll discover the Monza behaves like, well, a very draughty 812 Superfast. It’s barely any lighter, and the centre of gravity doesn’t feel notably lower despite the roof-ectomy. How quickly you cover ground depends entirely on how much trust you’ve got in the rear axle maintaining any grasp of the road.

There’s that same constant sense that the back tyres are always j-u-s-t on the verge of letting go with every squeeze of the throttle – the same sense you’re not so much driving the Monza as constantly reigning it in, managing its flamboyant attempts to make you a headline item on the evening news. The gearshifts are fabulously savage going up and down the ‘box, the turn-in is always electric and when it finds traction the acceleration is genuinely frightening. Anyone who buys one of these is already going to boast a bunker full of hypercars, so they’ll expect something visceral from their new toy. Select Race Mode, and use as much throttle as you dare. Job done.

But it’s not the ride, the traction or the handling that are the most surprising thing about driving a Monza. It’s the noise. You’d imagine that stripping the roof and glass off an 812 would turn it into a mobile altar for worshipping the V12. But criminally, it’s already losing the battle against the onrushing wind roar by about 65kph, and once you’re at A-road speeds – 100kph or so – the Monza might as well be electric.

You simply can’t hear what the engine is doing. And that makes life quite lively if you suddenly spool up the rears and unstick the back end, because you’re denied that crucial aural clue of the revs spiking, and by the time you’ve checked the bagel-sized rev-counter, it’s likely to be too late.

In a tunnel, around town, or at the top of first gear, you can bathe in the operatic fury of this mind-blowing motor. But on the open-road, the noise is tragically lost in your wake. Perhaps the best place to enjoy a Ferrari Monza from is following directly behind, where you can look at it, and hear it. Life’s more fun in the audience than on stage, if you catch my drift.

ON THE INSIDE – Layout, fit and finish

To make a semi-graceful entry, best bet is to sit on the sill, post both feet into the depths of the footwell and then slide down into the embrace of the bucket seat. Reach up to thud the door back into position, cocooning you in a cockpit that’s all at once reassuringly familiar and bizarrely alien.

Ahead, the wheel and dashboard are regular Ferrari fodder, but the canted panel of buttons under the thick carbon tendon looks pretty Nineties. Happily, you’ll soon discover having a simple fascia of tactile buttons to prod is welcome when attempting to tame a Monza. The nose-lift works rapidly. Pity the heater is a weakling – just like an 812 GTS. And this example didn’t even have heated seats. Surely for cars not bound for the West Coast or Middle East, that’s a must…

The panoramic view from the driver’s seat is one of the great outlooks in motoring: unencumbered by a headlining or pillars, with the bonnet scything into the distance and the front tyres located by those helpful humps in the front wings. The front parking sensors look ugly, but are vital to avoid a viral parking incident.

The system you’ll be most interested in is the Virtual Wind Shield, which appears to offer an elegantly simple solution to a serious problem. With no windscreen, you’d expect to have your face peeled clean off by the self-generated hurricane you’re headbutting, but Ferrari reckons to have sorted it. A duct ahead of the driver purports to suck in airflow, channel it 90 degrees and eject it vertically over the cockpit, leaving the driver undisturbed.

Now, Ferrari knows its way around a wind tunnel, so it’s a surprise to discover, as you roll past 45mph and take a walloping from the breeze, that the Virtual Wind Shield exists virtually only in the mind of the person who wrote the name down.

It’s not half as effective as the much more trick active air-management gubbins found in the McLaren Elva. You can solve this by wearing a helmet of course, but that rather spoils the point of getting rid of the letter-box effect of a windscreen in the first place. Not to mention, no-one will recognise you as you wail past.

ferrari monza
ferrari monza

OWNING – Running costs and reliability

Too late. Ferrari only built 499 Monza chassis – the split between SP1s and SP2s remains a closely-guarded secret – and they all sold out back in 2018, for around £1.4 million (RM8.2 million) a pop, including tax. If you want one now, you’ll be paying over the RRP, and adding your name to a colourful roster of reputed owners such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gordon Ramsay and Max Verstappen. You know the type. Shy, discreet, subtle chaps.

All of them will no doubt have been seduced into signing on the dotted line by the seven-year servicing programme Ferrari provides for the Monza. It’s the same warranty package Ferrari offers across its regular production range, but impressively also applies to this extremely limited edition.

Next on your mind as a prospective owner will surely be worries about usability. Don’t worry, the Monza is as practical as a pair of Crocs. The official Ferrari cover is a touch pricey at around £4,000 (RM24k), but you’ll fit it and a weekend’s worth of luggage in the huge boot. Yes, there is indeed a hatchback’s worth of cargo bay under that humped rear deck.

While fuel economy is a some-teen to the gallon affair, with a 90-litre tank you’ll travel 500km between trips to the super-unleaded teat. Enough for most owners to only fill it up every five years or so, then.

VERDICT – Final thoughts and pick of the range

812 Superfast not crazy enough? Step this way, brave billionaires. One seat or two?

So, is the Monza the most pointless Ferrari ever? It lacks a smidge of practicality, and even on the deserted road of your fantasies, you can’t wring it out for fear of becoming a permanent fixture of the scenery you’re tearing past.

The Monza feels a like a bit of a riposte to naysayers who reckon supercars are now too liveable, too easy to drive, not scary or silly enough. Here’s a Ferrari that you can only drive on sunny days, and even if you’ve got an F1 track to yourself, it’ll still spit you off into the kitty litter if you look at the throttle pedal funny.

It’s a wild, unsanitised, utterly unhinged device – one we can’t make a rational case for. Of course the money would be better spent on an 812 GTS for enjoying the engine noise in, a 355 Spider for Sunday morning thrashes, and a million quid’s worth of petrol and tyres.

But that’s not how the hyper-rich think. Most of the satisfaction in owning a Monza will come from simply acquiring something only a select few hundred Ferrari aficionados were chosen for. It’s a trinket, but don’t dare disrespect it.

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