What Car? says...
The V12 engine and Ferrari have a long history. It can be traced all the way back to the first road car to wear the prancing horse logo: the 1.5-litre V12 used in the 125 S of 1947 that produced just 116bhp.
Over the years, that fabled engine has grown in size and power, fitted to iconic Ferrari models such as the 250 GTO, 550 Maranello and F12 Berlinetta. In short, whether you were playing in 1968 or 1998, if your Top Trumps card had a V12 Ferrari on it, you were laughing.
Fast forward to today and the latest V12 from the Italian firm is its craziest yet. Indeed, the Ferrari 812 Superfast is fitted with a 6.5-litre V12 that produces a frankly absurd 789bhp. That means a 0-62 mph time of 2.9sec and it’ll get to 120mph before some hot hatches will manage the former. If you’re feeling confident (and have enough room), it will carry on all the way to 211mph.
To ensure all that power isn’t wasted, there are various clever systems onboard to keep you on the Tarmac and beating lap times. But, of course, all this power and technology comes at a lofty price.
The lucky few who have enough cash to consider one might also be considering other coupé GTs such as the Aston Martin Vanquish S but, given the 812’s aggressive nature, also proper performance cars such as the McLaren 720S.
So, let us guide you through what the 812 is like to drive, what it’s like inside and its running costs over the next few pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Big front-engined V12 Ferraris have always been GTs – grand tourers – rather than out-and-out sports cars. However, Ferrari calls the 812 a “super GT”, meaning it should be able to get you to a racing track in the south of France in comfort but also embarrass pretty much everything else on the circuit once you get there. That sounds like a sports car to us.
Well, it certainly has the performance. It was nice of Ferrari to prewarn us of this by, er, making it fairly obvious in the car’s name. But, if anything, the company has underplayed it; 789bhp in a road car with a V12 that revs to 8900rpm is, we’re quite sure, a crazier experience than you’ve ever had in a car. And the noise that comes from the 812’s exhausts is similarly otherworldly. It takes all of Ferrari’s wizardry and the car’s launch control mode to get off the line as quickly as possible.
And this V12 has no turbochargers, making the savagery with which it pulls in any gear (it has seven) barely believable. And you’ll want to be paying attention should you decide to floor the accelerator in second or third gear on the move, because the engine’s response and the subsequent forward motion would have Tim Peake reaching for the grab handle.
Put it this way: if the road isn’t bone dry, leave the traction control switched on if you plan on using the lower reaches of the accelerator pedal. Or, if you fancy a thrill with it off, be very prepared to start steering and catch the rear end.
Handily, the 812’s dual-clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox is one of the finest we’ve come across. There’s some dither while the ’box hooks up from a standstill and at low speeds in town, but it is nothing short of brilliant on the move in both auto mode and when using the large metallic column-mounted paddles.
And for a car that has a weighty V12 at the front and measures almost 4.7 metres long, the way the 812 changes direction is simply staggering. Ferrari’s steering set-up is typically light and very quick, and the same is true here. In fact, it’s quick to the point of making the car feel nervous when you first get behind the wheel; it does take some getting used to. Especially so because rear-wheel steering is also standard, helping the 812 turn in to corners with even more gusto.
Ferrari’s wheel-mounted Manettino driving mode switch can be flicked to Wet, Sport and Race, with further settings for switching just the traction control off or both traction and stability control together.
If the road and weather conditions are bad, then Wet mode will keep the electronic aids fully engaged. But on a dry road, Sport and Race modes allow increasing amounts of slip at the rear – although surprisingly the 812 never feels overly snappy. The clever electronic differential also constantly monitors wheel slip and adjusts the amount of power to each rear wheel. Meanwhile, the standard carbon-ceramic brakes have great pedal feel and provide incredible stopping power on the road.
However, we’re not sure the 812 plays the GT role quite so well. It has a ‘bumpy road’ suspension mode that slackens the standard adaptive dampers for more comfort; while the ride is reasonable comfortable for a sports car, it's still firm and there’s some shimmy through the car’s body over rough surfaces. It’s also impossible to turn the exhaust drone down on the motorway and those huge 20in wheels kick up lots of noise inside.
All told, the 812 isn't quite as comfortable as an Aston Martin Vanquish S, although it's far more engaging to drive. In fact, when it comes to driving thrills, it's closer to the mighty McLaren 720S – an astonishing feat for such a large, front-engined car.
The interior layout, fit and finish
With so much power at your disposal, a perfect driving position is essential. Good news: the 812’s standard sports seats get plenty of adjustment and so does the steering wheel. The optional carbonfibre racing seats and racing harness hold you in place extremely well, but they aren’t as adjustable.
The 812 is a very long, very wide car that also happens to cost a lot of money, so at least you get a good forward view from behind the wheel. Of course, the view over your shoulder in this strict two-seater isn’t as good, although the door mirrors are a decent size, while front and rear parking sensors are standard to help guide you into parking spaces. Bright LED headlights are standard for good visibility at night, too.
Ferrari’s infotainment system is limited to a small colour screen and a rotary controller to the left of the steering wheel that you twist to scroll through the on-screen menus. Sat-nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth are all included as standard, but the system isn't as easy to use as the system in the McLaren 720S. And – be careful not to spit your tea all over the keyboard – Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is a £2k-plus option. A second screen on the right side of the steering wheel displays the trip computer and provides in-depth driving information.
You could argue that the 812 is all about the driving experience, so interior quality isn't crucial. However, when you’re spending this much money, quality has to count – especially since the 812 purports to be a GT car. Ultimately, McLaren and Aston Martin show Ferrari up in this respect.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s only room for two in the 812, but they do get lots of space. Indeed, two tall adults will find loads of head room and leg room, while there’s no danger of them rubbing shoulders. The doors open widely, although the low-slung driving position requires plenty of bending and shimmying sideways to get in.
Elsewhere, there’s a small tray midway up the dashboard, and a small cubby beneath the central armrest that can just about swallow a wallet and a set of keys. Each door has a small pocket, too.
Behind the two seats is a shelf for throwing coats and small bags, and behind that is the boot sitting beneath a hatchback. The luggage area is usefully square in shape and will take one large suitcase or a couple of carry-on cases, so the 812 is certainly practical enough for the grand touring it has been designed to do.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The 812 costs a colossal amount of money; you’ll need more than a quarter of a million to own one and most buyers will get extremely busy with the options list. Our test car’s price, for instance, started with a three.
So the question of whether you can afford one doesn't really need discussing. More often than not, purchases like this are additions to a collection and the 812 is already reportedly sold out for the first two years of its life. More than that, Ferrari pretty much selects who can buy one. But, for what it’s worth, the 812 costs more than both the Aston Martin Vanquish S and McLaren 720S.
Furthermore, it’ll come as no surprise that this 6.5-litre V12 uses a lot of fuel and pumps out a massive amount of CO2. But we can’t see potential owners twitching at the thought of that.
Potential buyers will be pleased to see the standard equipment list is at least decently long. Leather seats, sat-nav, cruise control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers and a cover to protect the car are just the start.
And the question of whether or not the 812 will be a sound buy only needs a quick glance at the history of Ferrari’s V12 portfolio. The best examples of the 550 Maranello, for instance, are back up to what the car cost new in the 1990s, while the 250 GTO is one of the world’s most expensive classic cars, costing tens of millions in the right spec. So this isn’t a car that’s likely to depreciate; it’s a car that will one day end up being worth many times its original price.
Ferrari includes seven years of servicing in the price and a four-year standard warranty. Not surprisingly, the 812 hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP or security tested by Thatcham Research. However, driver, passenger and side airbags are standard, as well as tyre pressure monitoring, an alarm and a tracking service. Automatic emergency braking does not feature.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here