Road cars

Superfast returns – and how

Ferrari reveals its latest fearsome flagship

Ferrari has unveiled the most powerful standard production car in its history. The 812 Superfast is a heavily re-engineered version of the flagship front-engine two-seat F12 and comes with a 789bhp, 6.5-litre engine. The ‘800’ component of its nomenclature refers to its power output as expressed in PS, the ‘12’ to the number of cylinders.

Compared to the F12, the engine has grown by 234cc, its output by 49bhp, making it even more powerful than the limited-edition 769bhp F12tdf. However the car has the same 1525kg dry weight as the F12 (which means around 1625kg for the more usually quoted kerb weight) so posts identical acceleration figures as the tdf: 0-62mph in 2.9sec, an extraordinary feat for a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car. Top speed is said to be beyond 211mph.

The Superfast name is taken from the firm’s luxurious 1964 flagship, whose 5-litre engine was the biggest yet fitted to a Ferrari road car and would remain that way until the launch of the 550 Maranello in 1996. Fittingly then, the 812 Superfast also boasts Ferrari’s largest street unit to date.

But perhaps of greater significance is that the 812 will likely be the last new Ferrari model powered only by a normally aspirated internal combustion engine. Its smaller V8 cars have already gone over to turbocharging and when the 812 itself is replaced, likely to be in either 2019 or 2020, the new car will still have a V12 engine, but one that is assisted by a hybrid electric drive, using technology transferred across from the LaFerrari hypercar.

It is also the first Ferrari to use an electric steering system, a move that is likely to cause anxiety in those commentators who insist no electric steering system has to date bettered the feel and response of the hydraulic system it is replacing. Ferrari’s motivation for the move would seem not so much to save fuel and therefore lower CO2, but to allow full integration with its famed Side Slip Control electronics and a second generation of the rear-wheel-steering system that’s carried over from the tdf.

Stylistically, the 812’s aim is evoke memories of the 365GTB/4 Daytona and includes a return to twin tail lights. While we’re on the subject, when new in 1968 the 4.4-litre Daytona needed 352bhp to reach 174mph and claim the title of fastest car in the world. That’s fully 200bhp less than the least powerful Ferrari made today, and a barely believable 437 fewer horses than that boasted by the 812 Superfast.

And if you think that sounds fast, bear in mind that just before the 812 is itself replaced, there is likely to be a limited-edition, lightweight still more powerful version cut from the same cloth as the F12tdf. And as the absolutely, positively and definitely final purely aspirated, unassisted Ferrari of all, that will likely prove one of the most collectable cars ever to emanate from Maranello.

New McLaren takes shape

McLaren has been teasing some details of its all-new replacement for the 650S ahead of its unveiling at the Geneva Motorshow in March. Widely reported to be called the 720S, the new car is known to be fitted with a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, described by the factory as ‘all-new’, presumably with the 720PS (710bhp) output alluded to in its alleged name. If so it will escalate the power struggle far beyond the current reach of Ferrari’s rival 660bhp 488GTB. McLaren says the car currently officially known only by its P14 codename will do 0-124mph (200km/h) in 7.8sec and a standing quarter mile in 10.3sec. This last figure is especially significant as it is a scant tenth of a second slower than that recorded for the McLaren P1 hypercar in independent testing.

McLaren claims that not only are power, torque and response significantly improved over the 3.8-litre V8 seen in all McLarens since the launch of the MP4-12C in 2011, but it also comes with better fuel consumption and a lower CO2 output as well. The car is also known to come with a new carbon-fibre monocell with a structural roof element, unlike that of the current 650S. This will likely allow an even stiffer structure that can therefore be made even more lightweight but which will likely need substantially more re-engineering for the spider version.

In the meantime McLaren has announced it is to build a new £50 million factory in Sheffield, where all its carbon fibre (including monocoques and body parts) will be in future be built and developed.

The move will create about 200 jobs directly and more in the local supply network. The new factory will work in conjunction with Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to pioneer new techniques in carbon fibre production.

Until now McLaren has outsourced the production of its monocoques to Carbo Tech in Austria, but once production has been brought in-house, the amount of British content in each car will rise from 50 per cent at present to about 58 per cent. The new factory is expected to be running at full capacity by 2020, with early pre-production monocoques starting to be manufactured from the end of this year.

GM to sell Vauxhall

General Motors has sought to quell suggestions of substantial UK job losses following news that it is in talks to sell its European businesses including Vauxhall and Opel to the PSA Group, owner of Peugeot and Citroën. Vauxhall has two UK plants, based at Ellesmere Port and Luton, employing 4500 people between them with a further 30,000 job at dealers and in the UK supply chain. Business minister Greg Clark has been assured by GM that, were the deal to go ahead, these UK facilities would not be ‘rationalised’ with those of Peugeot and Citroën.

Whether that is enough to allay fears remains to be seen. For GM the motive will simply be to rid itself of a loss-making operation, for PSA the reason for its interest in the acquisition appears to be volume and the associated economies of scale. In size terms it would make PSA second only to VW in Europe.

What it means for future Vauxhalls remains to be seen, not least because the deal, while advanced, has yet to be given the green light. But it would certainly mean shared platforms and shared technologies. Whether there would remain space for Vauxhall to have an identity of its own among hitherto rival brands as close as Peugeot and Citroën is not yet clear.

Aston tees up hypercar

Aston Martin has announced its main technical partners for its forthcoming Adrian Newey-designed AM-RB 001 hypercar. The carbon fibre monocoque will be produced by Multimatic, which has worked with Aston in the past on the One-77 supercar and Vulcan track car among other projects. It will work closely with Red Bull and take full advantage of the F1 team’s expertise in producing strong, ultra-light structures for racing.

The engine is a brand-new bespoke 6.5-litre V12 that is being developed for the car by Cosworth. The interest here is how the unit will produce sufficient power to hit Aston’s stated target of every kilogramme of mass being powered by its own individual horsepower. Aston is not stating a target weight for the car, but even if it could be kept down to one tonne (140kg less than the hitherto lightest carbon supercar, the McLaren F1) that would still require the engine to develop 1000bhp, which in turn would require a specific output of 154bhp per litre – a number that no normally aspirated road-going engine has yet approached.

Worthing-based Ricardo will build a new seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox for the AM-RB 001. Ricardo has impeccable credentials in the field, having supplied Bugatti with the transmission for the Veyron since its launch in 2005.

Other suppliers include Bosch for the engine and stability electronics, Alcon and Surface Transforms for brakes, a Rimac battery and Wipac headlamps.

Law suit looming at VW?

Volkswagen has threatened to sue Ferdinand Piëch over comments made in the German press surrounding the diesel-gate scandal. Piëch is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, former chairman of the VW Supervisory board and the man widely credited with turning VW into the most successful car company on earth, before being thrown out in a 2015 boardroom coup. He is quoted as saying he told key VW officials about the so called ‘defeat device’ at the heart of the scandal in February 2015, seven months before the news became public. This stands in stark contrast to the claim of the man who replaced him – Martin Winterkorn – that he knew of the issue only shortly before the scandal broke. There would appear to be a clear inference from Piëch that there was a cover-up in the interim which, if true, would worsen further the position of the embattled Winterkorn, who was forced to resign and now faces an investigation by public prosecutors into what he knew and when. 

For its part VW’s lawyers issued a statement flatly refuting Piëch’s version of events: “No evidence was forthcoming indicating the accuracy of these allegations, which were classified as implausible overall.” It added, “The board of management will carefully weigh the possibility of measures and claims against Mr Piech.”