Taming the Ferrari 812 Superfast in Dubai
“How’d you like to come over to Dubai and spend a weekend driving the Ferrari 812 Superfast?” Now what sort of a question is that? Who, in their right mind, says no to a weekend at the Bulgari-spelt-with-a-v resort with the keys to two Ferraris in your pocket? And then I had to pinch myself when they added, “don’t worry if you’re busy, we can accommodate you next weekend too!” Like there could possibly be anything more pressing than driving one of the fastest Ferraris ever!
Even in our rarefied world such invitations, such flexibility, is absolutely unheard of, and in any case, I have not been known to look this particular kind of gift horse in the mouth. The following weekend I found myself wrapping up a leisurely breakfast at the spookily deserted (of people, not million-dollar boats) marina of the Bvlgari Yacht Club before setting off for The Very Special Road in the fastest front-engined Ferrari ever made. Until the SF90 Stradale was launched three weeks later.
Mind-blowing performance of the 812 Superfast
The Superfast! As far as names go, this is as honest as anything you will ever come across. 789bhp. 0-100kmph in 2.9 seconds. 340kmph top speed. The 812 really is Super Fast. And that’s what we’re going to experience today. Just how fast it can go in a straight line.
Now I’ve driven the 812 Superfast (evo 47) and it was the most visceral, hair-raising, hysterical car of all the shrieking, mental supercars I’d driven that year. But the one thing you cannot do at the hallowed grounds of Fiorano, or the hills around Maranello, is keep your foot planted through the firewall for more than a couple of seconds. There are noise restrictions around Ferrari’s race track and you have to lift off on the main straight. And there’s no fun in falling off the side of an Italian mountain. Dubai, though, now that’s a different opportunity. I’ve been known to crib endlessly about arrow-straight roads and speed cameras but that’s before my old lensman Martin moved out here and discovered roads that have yet to be assaulted by speed cameras. Our mission? To film a 0-200kmph run. Of course I don’t mention any of this to the Ferrari guys.
Front-engined and natural aspiration
First a quick recap. Up ahead, under that long, striking, insanely-detailed hood is a V12 motor — a new motor that took the F12’s 6.3 litres and stroked it out to 6.5 litres. Naturally aspirated, and without any electric or hybrid assistance, it is the last of its kind (the SF90 is a plug-in hybrid), this V12, howling all the way up to 8500rpm making a noise that bitch-slaps modern F1 cars. The F12’s twin-clutch transmission was quickened and the ratios shortened. It shifts faster than you can blink. And of course the electronics are now so clever the 812 lets you oversteer like a God without screaming Oh My God when you run out of talent. Yet it remains rear-wheel drive — that’s 394.5bhp (or 400 German horsepower) delivered to each rear tyre.
Today we need all the straight-line traction we can get but our plans to VBOX it are put to rest because we’re out in the desert and there’s a wind blowing sand across the road. In fact the wind is strong enough for us to worry about stability at the speeds we’re hoping to achieve. All the data you see on the next page is from our other test at the Anglesey track in the UK. Timing gear stowed away in the boot then, Manettino in Race, gearbox in Manual, press Launch on the bridge, left foot on the brake, right flat on the floor and feeding revs and… launch. Martin has his own readout in front of him — a bar graph of revs, a digital readout of speed, and a g-force meter so he can tell the doc exactly why his rib cage has caved in.
Launching the Ferrari 812 Superfast
There’s too much sand and the 812’s brain has to meter out the revs; for a split second it feels like a tame launch, and then the tyres find purchase and the V12’s rev counter flies to the redline like a superbike. First, second, third, fourth, the twin-clutch gearbox bangs in gear after gear as the V12 howls and shrieks. No car I’ve driven, and for sure no turbocharged car ever made, assaults the redline so vociferously and with as much violence as this V12. It’s incredible. Later when we review our fly-by footage, the 812 sounds exactly like a wildly magnificent superbike. I’ve driven all kinds of cars but nothing that sounds like this. This is why electric cars will never match the hard-on that a V12 on heat delivers.
And, God, it is fast.
Forget 100, 200kmph comes and goes before I finish shouting out the power and torque figures for the camera. I have my eye on the horizon, to a this-is-brave-enough point where I’ll let off and begin gently braking, but that still is some distance away. We’re not yet on the horizon. I keep my foot in. There is a cross wind but the 812 Superfast isn’t asking for any corrective steering lock. The aero-sorcery is obviously working. Let’s keep at it. 250kmph. There’s no let up in the rate of acceleration. The Superfast isn’t slowing down. At 280kmph the numbers slow down enough that I can count it down. 290, 295, 300… I’m not yet at my braking point… 305, 310, 315 and I run out of bravery. The obvious expletives are let out. Martin and I laugh maniacally. From start to end it’s less than a minute, the shortest video I’ve ever made, yet the most intense minute of my life. Martin doesn’t ask for one more take. I don’t offer one more take. Neither of us have the balls to sit through it again. You don’t tempt the devil twice.
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Instead, we head to some wide-open corners. It’d be a shame not to show Martin what all the electronics can do. What do we have here? Rear-wheel-steering, or Virtual Short Wheelbase as Ferrari calls it, enhances agility. Ferrari Peak Performance applies a suggestive torque on the steering wheel, to tell your brain via your palms that the grip limit is being approached. And best of all is Ferrari Power Oversteer that similarly applies steering torque to suggest how much corrective lock is required to catch, hold and drift an 812. If the car thinks you’re not going to crash, it’ll let you light up the rear tyres. If it thinks otherwise, it’ll save you from a very embarrassing phone call to the Ferrari PR man. And all the while it treats you to the sounds of absolute fury, the most hysterical automotive soundtrack there is.