the peterborough examiner Thursday, July 13, 2017
FR setup makes for best Ferrari
First Drive: 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast
handout/ferrari David Booth Driving.ca MARANELLO, Italy ? Have you ever bungie jumped? Rattled off a clip with an AK-47 on full auto? How about done a barrel roll in the back seat of an F-14? Now here?s the question I was really leading up to: The first time you took that leap of faith or turned a target into confetti, what were the first words out of your mouth? Probably not ?Golly gosh darn,? right? I?m guessing that ?dear me,? no matter how strongly expostulated, didn?t quite capture the moment either, did it? Well, I?ve never seen the sense of jumping off a perfectly good bridge, have something of a compunction against automatic weapons and have never been offered a ride in a fighter jet. But I have throttled an Ferrari 812 Superfast ? as appropriate a name for a car as ever there was ? through the gears along Ferrari?s Fiorano test track?s long back straight. You see, technically, this $350,000 luxury car should be impossible, the new Superfast being a classic front-engined, rear driver, the kind of sports car that, once considered state of the art, is now relegated to gran turismo. It?s a sobriquet on par with being told the blind date you?re about to meet has a ?good personality.? Indeed, it?s long been understood that supercars need to have their engine to the rear of the driver, not in front. By the time Lamborghini rolled out its groundbreaking Miura in 1965, pretty much everyone agreed that the days of the frontengined supercar were done. And yet, here we are some 50 years later and Ferrari is unveiling (actually, unleashing, I suspect, is a better word) its new 800-horsepower (really 790 because Ferrari quotes its power figures in those flouncy European CV thing-a-mabobs instead of good, old-fashioned American Society of Automotive Engineering horsepower) which David Booth behind the wheel of the 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast is at least two hundred more than anyone thought possible without turning a car into an uncontrollable moon rocket. Indeed, the 812?s predecessor, the less endowed (by 60 hp) F12 Berlinetta seemed proof that too much power actually did corrupt even the best effort at rendering a driveable front-engined supercar. The F12 Berlinetta was twitchy at the front, loose at the rear and was, without a doubt, the most intimidating supercar I?ve driven, save for Porsche?s ill-fated Carrera GT. So why am I now grinning from ear to ear, screaming profanities into a GoPro while racing the new 812 around Fiorano faster than God (or, bowing to an even greater deity, Enzo Ferrari) could ever have imagined? Because of some magic, I suspect that is the automotive equivalent of alchemy. Oh, Ferrari?s engineers trotted out charts detailing all manner of new technology, but I sense there?s a whole bunch of voodoo going on. To put it all into perspective, consider this: the Superfast is more than two seconds faster around Fiorano than the company?s own mid-engined 488 (1.21:4 versus 1.23:5). Yes, the 812 boasts about 200 more horsepower, but it doesn?t change the fact that, without Ferrari magic, it has no right being as fast as the turbocharged 458 replacement. One welcome departure is the quick-ratio steering that rendered the F12?s handling twitchier than Robin Williams pre-cocaine rehab. In its stead is a new electric steering system, which is a large part of the reason the new Superfast is so driveable. Not only does its ?boost? feel natural, but it also works in conjunction with the chassis-control system to optimize steering. The steering wheel will even ?suggest? ? a mere tug of counter-steer at the wheel, as opposed to a full correction ? steering into a skid should you inadvertently get the 812 wagging its tail uncontrollably. Now, God forgive me for thinking that anyone who needs ?suggesting? to steer into a skid might be better off behind the wheel of a Miata rather than an 800-hp Ferrari, but, nonetheless, it?s impressive stuff, with the computer, sensors and all the other widgets working a charm. Even the most skeptical diehard traditionalist will have a hard time deriding the fact the 812?s steering wheel is connected to an electric motor. The good engineers at Maranello have also worked on the balance of the car, the front tires being 20 millimetres wider: 275 mm across versus 255 mm for the F12. The centre of gravity is lower and the 812 heralds the introduction of the fifth generation of Ferrari?s Side Slip Control, the Italian version of electronic stability control. Where lesser systems ? Porsche, Jaguar and virtually anything Japanese ? seem specifically designed to take all of the fun out of driving, Ferrari?s SSC is all about maximizing it. Flip the little Manettino ? the red steering wheel-mounted button that manages the chassis control system ? into ?CT off? and all manner of torque-induced silliness is not just possible, but encouraged. Edge the (now more userfriendly) front end into a hairpin and then smoke those big Pirellis out, no need to worry that you have no business using even a significant portion of the big V12?s 530 pound-feet of torque. So easy is it to control the 812?s rear end that one can easily forget that it?s the car and not a sudden influx of driver skill that?s keeping front and rear wheels more or less in line. Flipping the Manettino to ESC completely off, however, should be more than enough to remind you that you?ll run out of talent well before the 812 runs out of power. That?s because the Superfast?s new engine is truly one of the wonders of the world. Boosted in displacement to 6.5 litres, thanks to a 2.8- mm increase in stroke, the big V12 still revs to an incredible 8,900 rpm, thanks to trickery such as hollow, sodium-filled and frictionwelded intake valves and a crankshaft so trick it should be spinning in an F1 racer. And that?s pretty much what the 812 feels like when you let the dogs loose. Mat the throttle at above 5,000 rpm and the Superfast grabs gears faster than Sebastian Vettel trying to T-bone Lewis Hamilton off the track. ?Holy Mother of God? simply doesn?t capture the slightly sickening but totally exhilarating feeling of nailing the big V12 in third gear and hanging on for dear life. Ferrari?s LaFerrari ? essentially a lesser-horsepowered version of the same gas engine hooked up to a 161-hp electric motor ? may be about two seconds a lap faster around Fiorano (the superiority of mid-engined physics will, ultimately, always win out) but it doesn?t feel any more terrorizing in a straight line. And doesn?t it sound the part! I don?t know if it?s because the LaFerrari is hybridized or whether there?s something in the 812?s tuning ? it also gets bigger bump camshafts and variable length intake runners in Superfast guise ? but this thing sounds more glorious than even Ferrari?s 949-hp monster. At low rpm, it?s all menacing growl and straight-cut gears. In the mid-range, lesser cars move over lest they get sucked into the 812?s twin intakes. And past 6,000 rpm, it?s the sound of menace delivered, its siren song at once both intoxicating and, if the next corner happens to be approaching too rapidly, terrifying. Turbocharging may be the future, but 12 naturally aspirated Ferrari pistons are internal combustion at its finest. Indeed, this may be Ferrari at its finest, the big GT?s chassis tamed but that monstrous engine let loose. Now that the 458 is gone, it?s definitely my favourite Prancing Horse.