I’ve never been nervous about driving other people’s expensive cars. I’ve (usually) signed a piece of paper giving me permission to do so, I’ve driven a few of them before and not scratched them, and it’s part of my day job. Besides… they’re just cars.
And for the most part, I’ve handed them back in much the same condition as I borrowed them in. There was the time that Aston Martin accidentally gave me a DB9 that was a customer car, not a demonstrator, and it may have copped a few (lot of) paint chips. Or that Mercedes-AMG C63 that lost a rear tyre. And a few ABS wires. And a fuel filler neck. Long story.
I have to admit, though, that when I saw the final recommended retail ticket for Ferrari Australia’s 812 Superfast demonstrator, it gave me pause. Serious pause. “Is this right?” I asked myself. “Can a car cost this much?”
“This much” turns about to be $795,123. And that’s before stamp duty. And delivery. And registration. I imagine floor mats are extra, as well. Wow.
It instantly created a few logistical issues; one does not simply park an $800,000 Ferrari in a public parking station, for example, which is the only option at the office at present.
There was also the matter of a couple of restrictions; I only had 500km of range, and I couldn’t drive it on track. Which, when presented with something that has the ability to hit the speed limit of most states in 2.9 seconds and a top speed that rivals a Space X rocket, is a bit of a downer.
“Maybe I shouldn’t even bother,” I opined to a colleague. “Get the %^$# over yourself, you sook,” she replied. ‘It’s a Ferrari 812 Superfast.”
And it is a special car in a number of ways, quite aside from the telephone number price ticket. For one, its 6.5-litre V12 longitudinal engine is, according to Ferrari, the best it’s ever made. Its providence is unquestioned, its output of 588kW is otherworldly, and it’ll no doubt bookend more than 60 years of naturally aspirated V12s for the Italian company.
It’ll spin up to an inconceivable 8900rpm, punch out a straight line of 700-plus Newton-metres of thrust, and it’ll sound like… well, nothing else on the planet. Combine that with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with shift speeds that makes lightning look tardy, aerodynamics done by the Ferrari F1 department and suspension that uses every trick in the book to keep the 812 pointing in the right way… my colleague is right. I have to drive this thing.
If I can turn out of the damn dealership… afternoon Sydney peak is in full effect, and people aren’t keen on giving space to a tosser in an expensive car. The 812, to its credit, is docile and manageable despite its performance pedigree, but a long, low-slung snout is giving me credit card jitters already.
Out in the flow, and I have my eye on everything and everyone. I’ve never driven more conservatively, ever. Every taxi is a potential carbon cracker, every P-plater a source of expensive angst.
Finally, I’m out of traffic, and I drop into a favoured stretch of road… only to come across lines of holiday traffic. That’s another reason that incredible cars are such an incredible pain in the arse – there are next to no places to exploit their moonshot limits. I trundle unhappily behind a parade of RAV4s and i30s for tens of kilometres, before the road briefly opens up, and…
Oh my good giddy aunt.
The 812, let off the leash, feels as if it transforms around me into a Star Wars-esque pod racer. Its ability to lunge unchecked at the horizon is simply unparalleled. Its raw, unbridled, furious pace is beyond shocking, and it’s absolutely impossible not to punctuate the moment with a long, loud drawn-out cuss word.
I’m snatching at gears as the shift lights on the dash start to light up, before I realise there’s MORE revs underfoot before the redline is reached. If I wind this thing out, I’ll be doing about 2000km/h, surely.
Its ability to hold course through bends, too, is unnervingly accurate – in fact, the steering may be a little too direct for some, and a subtle, steady hand will get the most from this telepathically accurate GT.
The way it tracks over the ground, especially with the Bumpy Road button pressed (a Michael Schumacher invention, I’m told), is truly impressive, and while its suite of electronic trickery - which includes all-wheel-steering and torque vectoring – is obviously working overtime, it isn’t rude enough to let you know that you, without its help, would have already crashed 14 times.
It’s truly a matter of recalibrating your senses to stay with the 812, such is its unflagging, sparkling, outrageous pace. It’s a lot of everything, this car – but underlying every blistering apex attack is the nagging knowledge of just how much this car costs… and how much it would cost to fix it. I nearly have a heart attack when I come millimetres away from brushing the underside of the front bar on a parking block… imagine if I rashed one of its $10,000-a-set rims.
My fun is over, and I trundle back to the city to hand back the car. I pop the steering wheel manetto in the lowest Sport mode, hit ‘auto’ on the gearbox and even engage the cruise control, and I’m finally able to take in some of the details of this frankly amazing rig.
Sure, a lot of the amazing is a result of frenetic option box-ticking – that passenger screen, for example, is $9500, and that carbon fibre strut that holds the gearshifter buttons is more than $6000 – but all told, this is a pretty special experience.
“How did you go?” asks the singularly unconcerned Ferrari attendant when I drop the keys back. I’m a little lost for words, to be honest. “Ah, really good,” I manage. And it was. It really was. Singularly unobtainable and entirely impractical, of course, but the 812 Superfast is, in a manner of extreme understatement, really good.