There are several surefire ways to predict rain in Los Angeles: There’s the National Weather Service, the Newschopper 6 Doppler 6000 weather report, the rheumatism in your left knee and whenever Vaughn gets a Ferrari.
As you may recall from my last adventure, when I got a Ferrari GTC4Lusso T, it poured. So much so that the Ferrari guy took pity on me and extended the loan so I could drive that monster in the sun. It was worth it.
Then, when I got the 812 Superfast, a car so performance-oriented that it has “fast” right there in its name, it rained.
Not at first. At first I drove it to a dinner in Beverly Hills, where it fit right in. Everyone, I’m sure, assumed I was some kind of movie star, no doubt recalling my performances in Autoweek on the Speed Channel or Autoweek on Speed Vision, two seminal shows still revered by millions. To get to and from BH, I took, naturally, Mulholland. Back when our West Coast office was on Wilshire, I used to drive Mulholland a lot. Oftentimes late at night on the way home from work. Well, Mulholland isn’t really a place to work out a supercar, or even a GT if that’s what you want to call this big, beautiful Beelzebub. Mulholland is too cramped, too crowded, too pavement-patched, and there are too many black plastic trash cans of the rich and famous. The 812 is fun enough in those confines, but I always found myself reining in its mightiness.
So the next day I took it up Angeles Crest. No one lives on Angeles Crest except chipmunks, there are no driveways and once you get past the turnoff for Angeles Forest Highway, there’s nothing to hit except the occasional suicidal badger. It’s nearly perfect.
Except for the rain.
Now granted, this wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the rain I hit the last time. This was more of a drizzle. But enough drizzle can add up and make you skate where you wanted to skedaddle. Still, while you may have pitted for intermediates, you wouldn’t go for a set of full wets. My Ferrari had 275/35ZR-20s front and 315/35ZR-20s rear. I figured they could take anything, and they did. So I dialed the 812's mode selector switch over to wet and pressed on. Good decision, as the roadway never really got fully running-rivulets-of-water wet. I found a big, paved turnout a couple hundred feet in each direction and did a few donuts just to see where the 812 would start to lose traction — it was farther out than I’d been pushing it — and I went back out.
Oh, this car is magnificent. It’s not sports car magnificent like the 488GTB — that is truly a responsive go-kart of a car. No, it’s purely a GT, a Gran Turismo in case you’re a tourist in high-speed vacationland somewhere. And what a GT.
Ferrari says it is “…the most high-performance production Ferrari ever.” Who am I to argue?
At its heart is an “all-new” 789-hp 6.5-liter direct-injection naturally aspirated V12, mounted in front, aft of the front axle, driving the rear wheels through a rear-mounted, seven-speed DCT transaxle. With new heads, fuel-injection system, intake manifold, six-into-one exhaust manifolds and new crankshaft, rods and pistons, the V12 makes 59 hp more than the previous-model F12 Berlinetta and F12tdf. The DCT shifts gears 30 percent faster.
It is the first Ferrari to use electric power steering; it has Side Slip Control (SSC), and a four-wheel steer system Ferrari calls Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0, as well as both passive and active aero.
How does it feel on the road? Magnifico!
Right out of the parking lot I got a whoosh of rear-wheel steer, moving the aft end over like a giant hand had picked it up. The steering wheel is the same as the GTC4Lusso T and works just as handily here. I like the ease of controls like windshield wiper adjust, stability control adjust and even the push-button, steering wheel-mounted turn signals. This would be easy to live with (apart from the groupies).
Hit the gas and the V12 makes one of the most pleasing aural assaults your ears have ever felt, followed by immediate departure of the 3,593-pound car from a standstill. An object at rest may tend to stay at rest unless it’s an 812 Superfast, in which case it launches. Ferrari lists 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds and top speed at 211 mph. 211!
Farther up the road there were lines where the surface was starting to dry out. Farther still it was completely dry. Hammer the throttle, weeeee, repeat. In high-speed corners the four-wheel steering really helps the 812 hunker down and hang on just as it does with the GTC4Lusso T — it is so stable you’d consider it for a long-term investment. The power is available across a wide band, from about 3,500 revs to the beast’s 8,900-rpm redline.
While you could operate the DCT yourself with the conveniently located paddle shifters, on this twisty mountain road I let the algorithm do the shifting for itself most of the time. It behaved commendably, although I would occasionally have to paddle it down to fifth gear for some turns.
Most of the time in dry conditions the best setup was to put the mode selector to sport and push the little shock absorber button on the wheel for “bumpy road.” This seemed the best balance of handling response with ride comfort on all but billiard table-smooth surfaces. The EPS isn’t as good at communicating as the steering on the 488, but that’s perhaps not a fair comparison since the 488 is smaller and lighter than this. Who knows?
Back in the city, the 812 proved a worthy daily driver. Sure it only seats two, but how many people do you really like? The looks are universally loved (except by Corvette owners, who feel threatened and want to point out that their two-seater front-midengine sports car costs less). The long front hood and velvety smooth curved fenders make up one of the most appealing shapes ever conjured from the mind of man (though it could have been woman, too). It was styled at Ferrari’s own Centro Stile and looks every bit as grand as the car’s potential suggests.
It is a beautiful craft that you could be forgiven for just parking in your driveway and looking at. But do take it out and drive it, rain or shine. You won’t be disappointed.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $336,962
As Tested Price: $474,486
Powertrain: 6.5-liter V12, 7-speed DCT transaxle, rwd
Output: 789 hp at 8500 rpm, 529 lb-ft at 7000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,593 pounds (mfg.)
0-60 MPH: 2.9 seconds 0-62 (mfg.)
Options: $70 grand worth
Pros: Achingly beautiful, sooo powerful, soooo cool to gaze upon
Cons: A distant dream to all but a pampered few