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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

An icon worthy of Ferrari’s anniversary: the 812 Superfast

The 812 Superfast is a fitting celebration of the marque’s 70 years and a benchmark that will take some beating

The 812 Superfast's aggressive exterior is best seen in this shade of Rosso 70 Anni. Courtesy Ferrari
The 812 Superfast's aggressive exterior is best seen in this shade of Rosso 70 Anni. Courtesy Ferrari

Whisper it, because I’m about to commit motoring heresy – I have never really been that into Ferraris. It is appreciation rather than amore. Sure, I can see the value of a 250 GTO, aesthetically and financially, as the world’s most expensive car sold at auction; the unrepentantly mad F40 will forever have its personal status as fixture on my bedroom walls when I was growing up. But much like art or movies, cars are massively subjective. One person’s Ferrari is, metaphorically speaking at least, another’s Fiat Uno.

But for the first time in a generation, the Ferrari that I’m sitting in has me genuinely excited. The 812 Superfast’s name is half numerical logic (800hp plus 12 cylinders – an all-new V12, no less) and half knowingly ridiculous bravado that is also a nod to the past use of the moniker (0 to 60kph in 2.9 seconds; top speed 340kph). But what seals the deal is its aggressive exterior, which takes the evolution of Ferrari’s V12 lineage – one begun with its very first production car, the 125 S, back in 1947 – and runs screaming at design thresholds. Fitting, then, that the 812 is commemorating the iconic Italian brand’s 70th anniversary, succeeding another 12-chamber success, the F12berlinetta, which goes out of production this year.

With that weight on its shoulders, it had to be at least somewhere between brilliant and mind-blowing. What it actually does is further cement a legacy that is the envy of just about every other carmaker in the world, and in a manner that is far beyond its mere statistical status as the fastest and most-powerful road-going Ferrari in history – only a handful of special limited editions have troubled that mark.

Ferrari is undoubtedly confident that the 812 has the performance chops to wow, too, given that is has invited us to the famous Fiorano test track near the company’s factory in Maranello. Sitting alongside me is a man who knows a thing or two about the circuit – Ferrari’s chief development test driver Raffaele de Simone, who set Fiorano’s road car lap record in a LaFerrari. First, he takes me on a handful of hot laps, before turning co-driver as I get to blast around at my own slightly less accolade-deserving pace. My racing lines are almost all spot on, he says, but I’m not attempting to set any lap records.

Brutal acceleration aside, the chief thing that strikes you is just how determinedly the 812 grips. There are lashings of purchase far beyond what your brain and even your feet tell you should be possible. But most buyers of the car, which is due to land in the UAE in the third quarter of this year (local pricing is yet to be confirmed, but in Italy, it will retail from about €300,000 [Dh1.3 million]), won’t have a world-famous test track at their disposal. So when the pit lane is closed at Fiorano, I decide to eschew a pre-planned route into the scenic mountains near Maranello and instead road test it on busier suburban streets as a daily driver. And it stands up rather well.

When I recently piloted the 488 GTB around Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a few days, it was ultimately something of a relief to hand back the keys, such was its impracticality – every speed hump was accompanied by a small wait to engage its lifting system and a nagging sense of angst concerning the potential to break off bits of its angular frame.

Granted, you still won’t want to try parking up a kerb or disregarding more-severe road gradients in the 812, but it has a solidity that ensures it doesn’t exude any habitual vulnerability. And while the glorious V12 shrill will have you seeking out tunnels, an increasingly rare pleasure in a motoring world embracing the necessary trend of engine downsizing, at lower speeds, the 812 doesn’t mither like certain competitors we

could mention.

Its racy interior is intentionally free from receptacles for detritus such as phones and keys, yet with the comfort of a grand tourer – and it might be the only supercar with a cup holder that will successfully keep hold of your morning takeaway espresso while you’re proving the Superfast part of that name. Perhaps part of the usability is also down to this being the first Ferrari to sport electric power steering.

GTC4Lusso drivers will recognise the infotainment system, extending to the mini dash display ahead of the front passenger seat. No longer will your companion venture to ask: “How fast are we going?” Because the answer is there in front of them. And that answer will almost certainly be: “Superfast.”

My test car on the road is in a new paint shade, Rosso 70 Anni, which is about as self-explanatory as any Italian translation gets. Ferraris should be red, basically, and though you might need to be a Dulux designer to explain the exact subtleties of this shade, it has a magnificent deep, almost-crimson hue that somehow accentuates the danger of the 812’s grimacing grille.

The 812 Superfast is the first Ferrari to sport electric power steering. Courtesy Ferrari
The 812 Superfast is the first Ferrari to sport electric power steering. Courtesy Ferrari

The rear styling is arguably even more arresting, with a spoiler that’s significantly wider and taller than the F12berlinetta. That is not the only model-to-model increase, either – the ante is upped on almost every level. The engine capacity rises from 6.3 litres to 6.5L. More power and torque? Yep, boosted by 60hp and 28Nm (to a staggering 718Nm) on the standard F12. Even the gear ratios are shorter.

Even more commendably, all manner of boffin-level aerodynamic innovations, including but not limited to a series of striking air inlets from front to back, combine to aid the 812’s efficiency. Its CO2 emissions have also been improved.

The 812 is a supercar in every meaning of the term – from looks to performance to usability. It is a benchmark that will take some beating and an entirely worthy addition to seven decades of the Prancing Horse.