Collector’s Dream: Test Driving the Ferrari 812 Competizione
Back in 2017, Ferrari released their 812 Superfast, their then top-of-the-line GT coupe and was well received. Thanks to the pandemic, it had to soldier on for a rather long four years but finally, we have been invited to Italy for an opportunity to drive its new companion, the new 812 Competizione. Thanks to the myriad of models released by Ferrari of late, it can be difficult to understand where the 812 model range lies.
Here’s a quick primer: Ferrari has several model lines based on their V8 and V12 engines. The 812 is pretty much the top-of-the-range V12 model of their mass-production cars. Each model goes through a five or six-year life cycle and during the latter half of that cycle, Ferrari traditionally introduces a special, limited-edition version of that model. Previously, it was the F12tdf, and for the 812 Superfast model, it is the 812 Competizione.
Ferrari has limited its production to just 999 coupes and 599 open-top models. Even though all have been spoken for, we were still invited to drive the 812 Competizione around their own race track called Fiorano which is rather generous of Ferrari.
There is still good reason for continuing with the event in light of the sold-out production and that is the celebration of their fabulous natural-aspirated V12 engine that now spins to 9500 rpm. Sure, we have seen Formula One engines spin to twice that but this is still a record for V12 production engines, in the twilight of its reign no less.
A lot of engineering has gone into making this 6.5 litre V12 deliver 830 hp and perform at this peak reliably, not for just one race or event but for a lifetime. Coupled to Ferrari's F1 DCT gearbox, which has been tweaked to deliver quicker gear changes, helps slingshot this car to 100 km/h in an incredible 2.85 seconds. Given enough road, it reaches a top speed of over 340 km/h.
Being able to reach such a high speed and have the ability to cling to the race track requires clever aerodynamics because Ferrari does not want their GT cars to parade around with huge wings or spoilers. Ferrari styling maestro Flavio Manzoni has guided the team to keep the elegant form of the original styling and focus their efforts to gain as much downforce to help hold the car to the tarmac from the underside of the car.
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The visible exterior carries some clever solutions like the transverse carbon fibre blade on the front hood. There is one controversial styling detail though, the rear windscreen has been replaced by an opaque, body-coloured carbon fibre panel that features three pairs of aerodynamic deflectors to help spread airflow over the entire width of the rear tail spoiler, improving downforce by ten percent. To see out the back, Ferrari has opted for a high-definition camera and display to replace the rearview mirror.
Almost every striking external feature has an aerodynamic function, never just for aesthetic purposes. Even the trio of visually striking slats just behind the rear wheel arches have a combined duty to generate downforce yet evacuate the excess pressure within the wheel arch that would otherwise cause lift at very high speeds. A similar duct bleeds high pressure away from the front wheel arch and discharges it to the low-pressure area along the flanks.
While waiting trackside for my turn, the 812 Competizione entertained spectators with its lovely soundtrack while circumnavigating the tight circuit. That was just the prelude to the actual drive. Anxiously I strap in and am instructed to follow a pace car that would guide me around the track before allowing the faster laps in the second half.
What a daunting task, to pilot a two million dollar, 830 hp missile around the track and live to report about it. Of course it has to rain halfway through the allocated time slot but we continued with the session. It does have a silver lining, in that I could see how the newfangled hardware like the new independent rear-wheel steer system and governing electronics from the SSC 7.0 (side slip control) stability system helps keep me on an even keel around the wet track.
What Ferrari set out to do with the 812 Competizione is to make it more user-friendly. It is still a relatively challenging car to drive quickly especially when it has been given this much power but from what I garnered from the dozen or so laps, is that Ferrari has tamed the beast sufficiently, allowing their customers to tap far more of the car's potential than the previous limited edition model.
It really makes an occasion out of every drive, right from the moment it bursts into life after hitting the start button. You know it is special, it does not hide the fact. The loud exhaust is the dominant sensation and to get it moving along does not need superhuman effort but one has to acclimatize to the steering's quick and sharp reactions. The entire car, while tensed like a panther about to strike, abides by your commands as long as it is not unreasonable.
Keep it in Race mode and one can drive it along at quite a pace but near the extremely high limits, it needs an experienced hand. You must know how to keep it pointed forward in extremis so it appreciates proper driving technique and if driver and car understand each other, it is a real treat on the track.
Choosing Sport mode reduces the tendency for oversteer by electronic means but tries to allow for some fun. It is really the default daily drive mode but there is a wet mode for rainy days where the electronics curtail any exuberance that would upset handling balance through loss of grip especially from too much power.
Eventually the fabulous V12 will be consigned to the history books but for now it is riding high. It is harder to predict what fate awaits the V12 in the immediate future. We understand Ferrari is determined to keep it running. It could return as a hybrid or turbocharged, neither of which could be confirmed. But it is clear it will not return as a standalone natural aspirated V12 which might explain why the 812 Competizione has been snapped up in its entirety. A true great, a proper valediction to a golden era.
Car: Ferrari 812 Competizione
Price: SG$2 million before options and COE
Engine: 6496cc V12 Natural Aspiration
Transmission: 7-Speed F1 DCT
Power: 830 PS at 9250 rpm
Torque: 692 Nm at 7000 rpm
Compression ratio: 13.5:1
0-100 km/h: 2.85 seconds
Top Speed: over 340 km/h
Fuel Consumption: TBA
Agent: Ital Auto Pte Ltd