► It’s the wildest 812 version yet!
► The Superfast evolves
► Think Ferrari’s V12 is dead? Don’t be silly
Ferrari’s V12 remains a gorgeously smooth engine and, thankfully, it’s not going anywhere. With the new 812 Competizione, it’s now one that retains an operatic vocal range but is undoubtedly less exotic and more gruff than earlier 812s – even an 819bhp V12 good for 213mph can’t outrun tightening emissions regulations.
But no one at Ferrari is saying that this is its last non-hybrid V12, or indeed the last variant of the 812 – just that they want to keep this link to greats like the 250 GTO alive for as long as possible (as do a very long queue of clients), even as the new 296 GTB is able to make identical power from a humble e-boosted turbo V6.
Still – what an engine…
The same 6.5-litre base engine in the 812 Superfast spins to a white-hot 9000rpm. The Competizione stretches that to 9500rpm, and serves up its 819bhp (up 30bhp) at 9250rpm.
No Ferrari roadgoing engine has ever revved higher – and Ferraris are all about revs. (We won’t mention there’s 20lb ft less torque, or the fact that at 2500rpm you’ve got 80 per cent of the 510lb ft you’ll find at 7000rpm.) The thing is, you feel this engine’s added aggression just leaving the pits, where the throttle is even more cattle-prod in Race mode than lesser 812s. It’s a Superfast on speed.
This is more than a tickled V12, surely…
Of course it is – it’s a comprehensive package of upgrades designed to tempt you from your Superfast (or more likely add it to the collection). The Competizione isn’t built for competition. Rather it follows the path forged by front-engined V12 predecessors like the 599 GTO and F12 TdF. It riffs on ’60s motorsport pedigree while adding the mods you’d expect of a homologation model. In addition to extra power there’s uprated suspension with springs some 15 per cent stiffer up front, nine per cent at the rear, while weight is down 38kg (carbonfibre bumpers, reduced soundproofing and a lithium-ion battery).
You can option the cabin to be plush, but the car we’re driving gets buckets seats with their centres in quilted square trim modelled on ’60s race suits, four-point harnesses and grippy technical fabric on the bolsters that recurs on the centre console. There’s also a twee gearshift controller that replaces buttons in a pointless homage to the open-gate manual you can no longer spec.
Ferrari’s virtual short-wheelbase gets a version 3.0 refresh. The rear wheels still turn by up to 1.5º in either direction, but this time the actuators work on those wheels independently, not simultaneously, so that one side can have more angle than the other. Ferrari’s hasn’t always been the most intuitive rear-steer set-up, so it’s an interesting update.
The bigger talking point is the aero (an additional 80kg of downforce at 124mph) and cooling. Huge carbon air intakes set in the front bumper channel cold air to Superfast-spec carbon-ceramic brakes like a whale gulping plankton, and there’s a carbon ‘blade’ draped over the bonnet and tops of the front wings to evacuate air from the nose.
I’m going easy at first – I’m nervous because I already know the 812 Superfast/GTS is faintly terrifying, and I’m not sure a more terrifying one makes sense. Ferrari’s PRs are also edgy because the Michelin Cup 2 R tyres are optimised for warm conditions, not a light veil of fog and a slightly damp surface.
Carving some heat into the rubber, the electrically-assisted steering eases me in. It doesn’t tingle with surface information, but its fingertip-fast reflexes and relatively light weighting quickly help melt away the Competizione’s 1487kg dry weight. There’s a consistency, purity and precision to the way it builds weight and responds to your twirling, as though nothing will upset it. The fact that it feels so faithful despite the rear wheels also moving bodes well – it’s just agile, not strangely on tip-toes.
Step on it and things get pretty frantic when you’re using those revs – the response doesn’t so much squeeze as body-slam you back in your seat, the needle racing around the dial like the 32x fast-forward setting on your Sky box. On track, the shift lights in the steering wheel rim aren’t just window dressing, they’re essential to free up some in-short-supply mental capacity: red when you need to have fingers primed on shift paddles; emergency-services blue when you’re about to clatter the limiter.
Pull for an upshift and the seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box snaps in the change (a smidge faster, apparently) and already you’re back in a stratospheric rev range. With most cars, if they were somehow able to hit these revs, you’d need a dustpan and brush, not another gear, to sort out the mess. Given we’re purely driving on track, you can bet the astonishing bandwidth will intensify on the road, where you’re more frequently building from lower revs, and more frequently running out of space.
Nonetheless, pretty quickly I’m finding Race mode too restrictive as it checks the 812’s movements prematurely when everything’s under control, so I move up to CT Off and everything clicks. Now there’s the freedom to use gorgeously progressive oversteer to adjust the car’s line, and to live with some wheelspin and rear attitude as you power from corners, version 7.0 of Ferrari’s Side Slip Angle Control preventing unwanted YouTube stardom.
Ferrari 812 Competizione: verdict
But behind the wheel it feels entirely natural, behaves in a linear way and has an unexpectedly agile, pure and light feel for a car that could be a bit clunky and unhappy on a circuit. I’ve never driven a Superfast on track, but gut feel says that as well as being more aggressive, the Competizione would be more progressive and actually easier to take to the limit. My one big gripe is a brake pedal that goes from firm and bitey to soft far too quickly, even during our limited hot laps.
But what a car, simultaneously anachronistic and state-of-the-art. Where the V12 goes from here we’re not sure, but amen to keeping those cylinders firing for as long as we’re free to burn petrol.
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