I WATCHED THE COMPELLING, IF INCREDIBLY sad, documentary, challenger: The Final Flight, on Netflix recently, where the key revelation is (spoiler alert) that the engineers knew the rocket-booster o-rings might fail but gave the go-ahead for the launch, causing NASA's space shuttle (this bit you know) to transform into a kind of 9/11 at 46,000 feet.
This cataclysmic disaster springs to mind as I squeeze the Ferrari 812 GTS’ throttle pedal to the floor in third gear on a slightly damp Scottish road. Said pedal controls Ferrari's most powerful ever series-production 12-cylinder motor, a 6.5-liter version of the f140 unit conceived originally for the 2002 Enzo and whose performance is bettered only by the hybrid-boosted Laferrari hypercar and limited Monza Sp1 and Sp2 models that squeeze out 10 hp more.
Compared to the 740-hp f12, the 812’s predecessor, Ferrari have introduced a longer stroke plus 350 bar direct injection, revised control of variable-geometry inlet tracts, a compression ratio upped just a fraction to 13.6:1, and a shrieky, non-turbocharged 8,900-rpm peak engine speed, far above rivals from Aston and Bentley that serve up less performance for less graft. oh, and Ferrari has shortened the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox’s ratios six per cent, so you can fast-forward to the good bits even quicker.
All this equates to 800 hp, 0-200 km/h in 8.3 seconds, a soundtrack that’d have the philharmonic downing tools, and a large side order of intimidation when you squeeze that drilled throttle pedal to its stop.
I’m in race mode, meaning the GTS’ responses are all tensed, with the caveat that the stability control’s responses are now more 101 than 999 and I’m clenching everything like a powerlifter going for a personal best. the 9,000 rpm on the tacho doesn’t seem so far away as the throttle responds instantly and the needle ticks up from 3,500 rpm or so, at which point 80 per cent of the 718 nm torque is already churning at the rear tires, the remainder not served until 7,000 pm.
Power and torque swell immediately, if without the sledgehammer of a turbo (Ferrari's V8s now produce more torque and lower down too). four thousand, four and a half… by now the GTS is pulling hard, the exhaust note starting to transition from burbling bass to shriller brass with a power curve that feels much like a (successful) space launch looks. Keep it pinned and shift lights at the crown of the steering wheel start to illuminate. Five thousand and we’re really shifting, five and a…. suddenly the tires — huge 315-section 20-inch Pirelli p Zeros with an unusually plump 35 sidewall and no shortage of traction — can take no more in these sub-optimal conditions. The revs flick up as the tires spin and I quickly stab in 5° of steering lock to stop the 812 looking at a field. G-Aaah! My heart continues to pound even as the revs stabilize. Suddenly, 9,000 rpm seems tantalizingly out of reach. but what a powertrain. what a machine.
The 812 Superfast on which the 812 GTS is based is a familiar recipe. it replaced the f12 as Ferrari's flagship V12 a few years ago, but the GTS adds a folding hardtop, making this the first series-production front-engined V12 since the 365 GTS4 (also known as Daytona Spider) of 1969, though there have been closely related special editions more recently (see panel).
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