The biggest lesson we learnt from driving a bright red Ferrari into the heart of Putrajaya on a weekday afternoon is to not repeat that mistake. We were just feeling a little patriotic in light of the recent independence and Malaysia Day parades. What we failed to factor in was the amount of attention a car Ferrari boldly calls ‘Superfast’ would garner, even when it’s stationary.
Curiously enough, the Ferrari 812 Superfast looks fastest when it isn’t moving. Then again, it’s only natural for Maranello to reserve its sharpest styling cues, some inspired by the 1969 365 GTB/4 Daytona, for a V12 flagship deemed swift enough to justify its bizarre name. You can’t appreciate these lines when the car is reduced to a blur at 300kph (it can actually go all the way to 340kph). But you can’t stop your smartphone from jumping out of your pocket for a few shots if you chance upon one by the roadside.
That seemed to be the case for a busload of tourists who just had to alight right next to us as we were in the midst of getting the money shot with Perdana Putra, our version of the White House, standing tall in the background. Having interrupted our work for a good 10 minutes, the holidaymakers probably took off with more pictures of the 812 Superfast than the landmark they actually paid to visit. We just hope none of them were fixated on the visibly alarmed journalist cowering in the driver’s seat of his RM3mil rental.
After all, a Ferrari’s cabin isn’t exactly something with which the average Joe will ever be acclimatised. Yours truly has had the privilege of driving a few on the job and yet the sense of occasion from being in one never gets old. So don’t kick yourself if you ever find yourself in a supercar not knowing where the central locking button or air-con controls are. Fortunately, things were much more straightforward when we wanted to lose the crowd
You’re probably expecting us to credit the 812’s LaFerrari-matching 789bhp for the quick exit, but no car can safely put half of that onto a cobbled road riddled with traffic and pedestrians. It’s all about the ease of drive here. And we’re referring to the Formula One-inspired steering wheel which houses every knob and button a driver needs to fiddle with from the start to finish of every drive, high-beam and indicators included.
A contentious feature when first launched in the 458 Italia, the now-staple Ferrari wheel lets you start the engine, signal your way through traffic and fiddle with the Manettino dial on open roads without ever having to shift your palms from the three and nine o’clock positions. It might take a moment to get used to the layout, but you’ll feel like Sebastien Vettel by the end of it. Then again, the 488 GTB we drove last year oozed more F1 charisma than the 812 Superfast…
The 488 GTB’s rear-mounted turbocharged engine makes it a closer match to the SF71H race car Vettel calls Loria. Forced induction imbues the car with a track-ready lightness while having the V8 sit behind the driver does all sorts of stimulating things to the ears. With a naturally aspirated V12 mounted up front like a proper grand tourer, the 812 Superfast is of a completely different equine pedigree. If the 488 was bred to win races, the 812 was engineered to keep its smaller sibling’s ego in check.
At 6.5 litres in capacity – a cupful more than the 6.3-litre mill powering the F12tdf and LaFerrari – the 812 Superfast’s V12 engine marks the latest evolution of Maranello’s Tipo F140 block which made its production debut in 2002 under the hood of the legendary Enzo. Since there’s no turbo in this ‘traditional’ setup, maximum torque, which is 718Nm in the 812’s case, only arrives at 7,000rpm. The turbocharged F154 mill in the 488, GTC4Lusso T and Portofino gives you 760Nm at 3,000rpm, hence the more racy driving sensation. But like all of the V12 flagships preceding it, the 812’s native language is power. Sheer power.
The 812 Superfast has access to the same amount of horses as the LaFerrari, hybrid components aside, but they are unloaded onto the rear wheels 500rpm earlier. This makes it the most powerful naturally aspirated production engine in the world today. Even the Lamborghini SVJ which recently broke the Nurgburgring lap record is 30bhp shy of the 812’s output. It’s a proper beast, this. And taming it is no simple feat.
We say this in reference to the transmission tasked to manage the delivery of all 789bhp to the rear. From a driver’s standpoint, the 812 Superfast is fairly easy to operate under civil conditions thanks to how well the 7-speed F1 DCT regulates the output. You don’t realise how clinical it actually is until you stab the throttle, after which the gear changes become much more urgent, even violent at times, to ensure not a split second is wasted on the straights. And because the power and torque curves peak so late, the 812 feels exponentially faster with every upshift that pulls you deeper into the race buckets along the way.
Legalities aside, we can’t think of any road in Malaysia on which you can go anywhere near the 812’s 340kph top speed...
Ferrari 812 Superfast (22 images)
Ferrari’s official numbers validate this unreal sensation. The century sprint is done in a fairly believable 2.9 seconds, but keep your foot on the floor and the 812 will hit 200kph in only 7.9 seconds. That’s faster than you can spell out Ferrari 812 Superfast with a pen and paper. To top it off, the V12 engine provides a fittingly thunderous soundtrack to accompany the frantic build-up in speed – its powerful vocals rich in depth and sheer amplitude. And like the five-minute guitar solo in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird, this power ballad never wanes. Not at any speed humanly possible on public roads anyway.
Legalities aside, we can’t think of any road in Malaysia on which you can go anywhere near the 812’s 340kph top speed in the first place. And then there’s the issue of how taut the car is set up to ensure it doesn’t take off. You can tell that Ferrari’s F1-derived aerodynamics expertise has rubbed off on the car when you feel its grip on the road tighten the faster you go (there’s 30 percent more downforce than the F12 Berlinetta). Pair this with wide, 20-inch wheels hooked up to a track-inclined suspension and you have an unadulterated supercar that isn’t always kind on the spine.
As a result, the slightest dimple in the tarmac can feel like a pothole if you’re barrelling close to 200kph. It’s a necessary evil to uphold the dynamic purity expected of a Ferrari flagship. In fact, the hunkered down feeling shaped by the 812’s immense levels of aerodynamic traction raised its cornering game when we tackled the sweeping curves of Sepang’s B-roads. It’s also more agile than you’d expect a 4.7-metre long supercar to be thanks to a four-wheel-steer (4WS) system Ferrari calls Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 (PCV) and an electric power steering (EPS).
Yes, the 812 Superfast is the first Ferrari to feature an EPS. Call it blasphemous but it works tremendously well with the PCV system to bless the 812 with the footwork of a Brazilian footballer – it tackles the trickiest of bends with such grace and aplomb. They help with manoeuvring in and out of traffic too. There are already plenty of other acronyms, such as SSC5 (Side Slip Angle Control), ESP 9.1 and SCM-E (magnetorheological damping), working behind the scenes to begin with, so there’s no reason to nit-pick now. Cars like this just aren’t made for technophobes.
Yet, at its core, the Ferrari 812 Superfast is an absolute masterclass in form and function for its ability to deliver hypercar-challenging performance and presence without having to taint the sanctity of the supercar in its most definitive format. It represents a new zenith for the RWD V12 grand tourer, one truly deserving of its label despite how audacious it still sounds. The question is, where do you go from super?
Ferrari 812 Superfast (24 images)
|Engine||6,496cc, V12, 789bhp,718Nm|
|Transmission||7-speed F1 DCT|
|Performance||0-100kph in 2.9 secs, 340kph|
|Economy||14.9L/100km, 340g/km CO2|