Ferrari’s upgraded F12 is louder, faster and meaner, but is it still the ultimate expression of V12 performance?
In the broad, ill-defined spectrum of “modern” Ferraris, the F12 Berlinetta stands supreme in my book. It is as sultry to behold as it is sonorous to hear, not to mention a true joy to drive aggressively. It’s also remarkably refined when cruising around town and just an all-round wonderful machine. What can I say, I was pretty smitten back in 2014.
2019 Ferrari 812 Superfast
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- Outrageous performance
- Best. Sound. Ever.
- Remarkable, speed-focused technology
- Wide gulf between Sport and Race modes
- CarPlay is a $4,000 option
Holding the F12 in such high regard means I’m bringing baggage into this review of the Ferrari 812 Superfast. This, you see, is the 789-horsepower, $337,000 replacement for the F12, a new generation that’s dialed up in every way. It’s louder, both visually and audibly, more powerful, more extreme to drive and ultimately quite a bit quicker around a racetrack. But is it actually better? Let’s explore.
The 812 Superfast inherits that sweetest of Ferrari layouts: a V12 up front sending a few stables worth of ponies through to the rear wheels. Yes, I have full appreciation for the capability of machines like the mid-engined 488 GTB, a car absolutely divine to drive on the road or the track, but when it comes to the overall experience, 12 cylinders firing ahead of you is an awfully hard recipe to beat.
Especially when they fire like this. Compared to the F12, the Superfast is slightly longer and wider, yet lighter than its predecessor. The earlier 6.3-liter V12 is replaced with a 6.5-liter version of the same, powered up from 730 hp to that ridiculous figure of 789. That’s paired with 530 pound-feet of torque, directed to the rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
The result is a car that’s Ferrari’s fastest regular production car, carrying its highest-power naturally-aspirated V12 ever. A lot of that comes down to the technology keeping it all in check, including a more advanced stability and traction control system that can directly integrate everything from the rear-steering system to the new electronic power steering.
That’s all a step forward, but visually I have to say the progress isn’t quite so clear. Without a doubt the 812 Superfast is the more aggressive looking of the two cars, with bigger vents positioned more acutely across the long-nosed body. Where the F12 is sculpted in an almost sensual way, the 812 is creased in a purposeful one. The older car is the more pleasing to my eye, but that more angry visual character in the new one is fully echoed in the way it drives.
This is a car that walks the walk.
On the road
The steering of the Ferrari 812 Superfast is so incredibly sharp that, when flying over some of my favorite local roads, I barely needed to turn the wheel. Aided by a new rear-steering system that virtually shortens the car’s wheelbase, just a few degrees of turn one way or the other sent this machine slinging around bends that typically see me tapping the brakes and grabbing a lower gear. I actually had to go searching for more challenging roads — a sacrifice I was more than willing to make for you, dear reader.
This is also the first street car I’ve ever driven that required I aggressively warm up the tires before really unleashing it. Granted, my testing coincided with an early arrival of unhelpful autumn chill, but this Ferrari monitors tire temperature and goes out of its way to tell you when they’re cold, politely requesting you get them up to temperature before enabling its raciest of driving modes.
That’s a mode you’ll be using more often than you might think. Curiously, the 812 is sluggish in its default driving mode of Sport. The throttle isn’t exactly lazy, but you’ll need a lot of it before getting the kind of response you’d expect from a car with twice the horsepower of many other outrageously quick machines. The seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission is smooth and sedate in this mode. Even the carbon-ceramic brakes are easy to modulate and, other than a remarkable amount of road noise and some intimidating dimensions, the 812 is a breeze to pilot through town. It even has a cavernous trunk.
When pressed, that 6.5-liter V12’s song is absolute magic, the sort of shrill scream that made thousands line up along the front straight at Monza.
You need to flip over to Race mode to liven things up, and boy do they get lively. Under even moderate acceleration the 812 spins up its tires without warning in at least the first six of its seven gears, hopping and skipping in a way that both makes you glad you’re alive and thankful for modern traction control systems. Its 0-to-62-mph time of 2.9 sounds pessimistic to me, as the car leaps forward thanks to both the extra 60 horses and also some shorter gearing.
When pressed, that 6.5-liter V12’s song is absolute magic, the sort of shrill scream that made thousands line up along the front straight at Monza. It’s a song that may not be long for this world, at least in new production cars, but let’s not worry about what the future may hold, for now this is among the world’s best sounding cars.
In Race mode the 812 is brutally quick and outrageously fun, but a little too aggressive for anything short of ultra-aggressive driving. But again, in Sport mode things are simply too sedate. The only other mode is Wet, which takes you further in the wrong direction. In this way I felt like the F12 did a better job of being thrilling without being frightening on the open road, but I have little doubt that newer 812 would be far more rewarding on the track. (Sadly, I wasn’t able to test that hypothesis.)
Also putting a damper on streetability is a navigation experience that is functional at best paired with a voice recognition package that is anything but. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay is available — but you’ll have to pay a whopping $4,219 to enable it. Android Auto is still not on offer, but I get a little lightheaded thinking about what it would cost were it available.
As with all Ferraris, the $337,000 starting price here is very much that, a start. Tick all the boxes and you could come close to doubling it, adding tens of thousands of dollars in just interior trim alone. The permutations are too many for me to possibly iterate here, and given so many of them are personal tastes it’d be impossible to make a good recommendation suitable for everyone — beyond the $5,737 nose lift. But, if you have the cash, you can surely get yourself an 812 Superfast exactly how you want it.
In terms of outright performance, the Ferrari 812 Superfast is a triumph. Ferrari’s most powerful naturally aspirated engine is set with care into a polished chassis festooned with a world-class suspension, transmission, differential and all the go-fast bits you could ever want. Unleashed and driven in anger, piloted with purpose, it’s a remarkable package that will quite literally leave you breathless.
It’s also quite easy to drive in a sedate way should you be into that, but there’s an unfortunate gap in between those two extremes. When I wanted to have a spirited drive without going for lap records, I found the 812 to not be the world-conquering all-rounder I’d hoped.
So, if you found the F12 to be too soft for your tastes and you’ve just gotta have a V12, the amped-up, aggro 812 Superfast will be your ideal cup of tea — scalding hot and best served with a warning label or three.
2019 Ferrari 812 Superfast
Engine: 12 Cylinder Engine
Drivetrain: Rear Wheel Drive
MPG: 13 MPG
Passenger Capacity: 2
Body Type: Coupes