Ferrari has just launched not one but two new convertibles. What makes the 812 GTS and F8 Spider unique? Story by Chris Rees.
In at least one way, this is a historic event: Ferrari has never launched two new road cars at the same event before, let alone two convertibles. The recent Universo Ferrari event saw the Prancing Horse roll out both the 812 GTS and F8 Spider. The drop-top F8 was entirely predictable but the 812 convertible came out of the blue. Of the two, the 812 GTS is perhaps the more significant, marking Ferrari’s return to series front-engined V12 convertibles for the first time since the Daytona Spider. Ferrari says there’s almost no overlap between coupe and convertible customers. So what makes the drop-top versions of its heartland models special?
812 GTS: DAYTONA REBORN?
Can it really be 50 years since Ferrari last launched a front-engined V12 convertible? It’s true. If you exclude Special Series models like the 550 Barchetta and SA Aperta, the 812 GTS is genuinely the first new front-12 drop-top Ferrari for half a century. 1969 was when the 365 GTS4 was launched (which everyone but Ferrari always calls the Daytona Spider).
“Ferrari makes play of the V8 engine behind your ears. In particular, it wants you to hear it”
And since the Daytona was the last GTS-badged V12, it feels entirely fitting that Ferrari should revive the evocative ‘GTS’ badge for its new drop-top version of the 812 Superfast. It’s clear that the 812 GTS is kind of a big deal at Maranello. Speaking to Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer, Enrico Galliera, he clearly sees it as a huge opportunity, commenting: “The market is ready for this car: clients have requested such a model more passionately than virtually any other Ferrari. It’s a highly anticipated newcomer.”
Removing the roof has one big benefit: you get to hear the engine and exhaust much better. And the soundtrack is without question where the new Ferrari 812 GTS is likely to make the biggest impact. There’s nothing like a V12 engine to get your juices flowing, and since many 812 buyers cite the V12 sound as the number one reason to choose the model, the opportunity to get up close and personal to those 12 cylinders is bound to make the GTS extremely popular. Ferrari says it’s designed things so that, top down, passengers get the full symphonic experience. That’s despite significant changes to the engine and exhaust to satisfy new emissions rules – but Ferrari has used this as an opportunity to enhance the sound of the GTS. For instance, the unique-to-GTS exhaust system is interconnected to amplify the aural experience, while the combustion system has been tweaked, too, making it more satisfying to listen to – especially in the 6500 to 8900rpm rev range.
The same insanely huge power output as the 812 Superfast has been kept (800hp) and performance is pretty much on the same level as the coupe. 0-62mph takes less than 3 seconds, 0-124mph is 8.3 seconds and top speed is unchanged at 211mph.
Ferrari says the GTS should drive very much like the 812 Superfast, particularly in terms of handling precision. There have been chassis changes, though, mostly because of the 60kg increase in weight compared to the coupe. Both the suspension and chassis control systems have been altered, while the body structure had to be strengthened.
While passengers want to hear the music of the car, they also want to be able to talk at speed, so the retractable hardtop is designed to minimise turbulence. The electric wind deflector behind the cabin can be raised or lowered depending on whether you want comfort or a full blast of the exhaust but still provide that crucial experience of a pleasurable flow of air through the cabin.
Most of the body panels are different to the coupe’s. Notably the entire rear of the car – roof, tonneau cover and boot – has been redesigned. Head fairings flow down the rear deck, with flying buttresses sitting atop the tonneau, below which the roof panels disappear at the touch of a button. I noted that what appear to be glass panels on the buttresses are in fact merely painted black panels for stylistic purposes.
This is the first ever V12 Ferrari with a retractable hardtop. The electrically operated roof is made of aluminium, and the roof itself is very light, partly because it’s very short from front to back. The hardtop can be raised or lowered in 14 seconds, at speeds up to 27mph. Since it’s a hardtop when closed, the 812 GTS can be treated like a coupe. Top down, two little aero winglets on top of the head fairings act to minimise air intrusion.
The rear wheelarches lose the 812 Superfast’s aerodynamic by-pass, which Ferrari has compensated for by giving the rear diffuser an extra flap. Unique to the 812 GTS are special forged alloy wheels (offered in a choice of three finishes: diamond, liquid silver or Grigio Scuro) and there’s one new unique paint colour: Grigio GTS.
One advantage of the classic front-mounted V12 layout is that roominess and comfort inside are better than a mid-engined layout, and the GTS’s seats have been positioned to provide maximum space. However, at 210 litres, the boot is a lot smaller than the 320-litre Superfast’s.
Prices have yet to be announced but Ferrari says there will be a premium of 11% over the Superfast (so expect around £300,000). As for the first UK deliveries, we’re talking about one year from now, give or take.
F8 SPIDER: OPEN INVITATION
While Ferrari may not have invented the open-topped V8 mid-engined sports car genre (Lamborghini just pipped it with the Silhouette in 1976, one year before the 308 GTS), no car company has a richer tradition of open-to-the-skies V8s. Open-topped V8 mid-engined Ferraris progressed thus: 208/308/328 GTS, Mondial, 348 TS/Spider, F355 GTS/Spider, 360 Spider, F430 Spider, 458 Spider, 488 Spider – and now F8 Spider. The F8 Spider was developed alongside the Tributo coupe, so it doesn’t look or feel compromised like some ‘converted’ models do. The main advantage is that chassis rigidity is identical between coupé and spider versions, so Ferrari claims a handling experience that’s equally sharp.
Although it’s 18kg lighter than the 488 Spider, the retractable hard top and associated gubbins means there is a weight penalty compared to the F8 Tributo of around 70kg but this doesn’t affect performance, at least at lower speeds. Ferrari quotes the same 0-62mph time (2.9 seconds) but a 0-124mph time that’s 0.6 seconds slower (8.2 seconds). The top speed is identical at 211mph.
As with the F8 Tributo, Ferrari makes great play of the V8 engine behind your ears. In particular, it wants to you to hear it. It’s essentially the same powerplant as in the Tributo: a 3.9-litre V8 twin-turbo whose specification has been pretty much borrowed from the 488 Pista. That means it has a power output of 720hp – let’s remind ourselves, that’s the most powerful V8 engine ever made by Ferrari. But it’s not 100 per cent identical to the F8 Tributo engine. It’s been specially mapped for the F8 Spider in order to create a unique sound, whether the roof is open or closed. An innovative new system (also used in the SF90 Stradale, incidentally) channels exhaust noise directly to the cabin: special ‘tunnels’ transfer it right up next to the cabin. Kudos to Ferrari for avoiding any of the artificial sound effects that are sadly so common these days: it’s actual gases moving through the tubes. Bravo: amplified audibles are a personal bugbear of mine; I find I can always tell fake sounds coming over the speakers.
Ferrari’s pitch for the F8 Spider is ‘pure driving performance’. In contrast to the 812 GTS, which offers a searing, high-revving V12, the V8 turbo delivers turbocharged heft with crisp responses and a lag-free torque spread right across the rev range.
So what about the roof system? The electrically powered retractable hard top probably looks familiar. That shouldn’t be a surprise: it’s basically the same as the outgoing 488 Spider’s. That means it should have excellent sound insulation when closed, and the opening mechanism is well proven. Like the 812 GTS, the roof takes 14 seconds to deploy and can be operated at speeds up to 27mph. When the roof is open, passengers are protected from buffeting by an adjustable wind-stop.
The engine lid is described by Ferrari as “mantalike” with a central spine running from the rear screen right back and under the rear spoiler, with three air intake strakes in black panels on each side. Sharply styled flying buttresses flow into the rear spoiler in a style Ferrari says is inspired by Formula 1 ‘swan neck’ supports. You can even order your engine cover and tonneau cover in carbonfibre for that extra twist of carbon cool. Expect prices to start at around £235,000 and the first UK deliveries to be in early summer 2020.
Cabin is identical to the F8 Tributo but sounds unique, as the engine and exhaust are tweaked in the Spider.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS FERRARI F8 SPIDER
ENGINE: 3902cc V8 turbo
MAX POWER: 720hp at 8000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 770Nm at 3250rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
BRAKES: 398x223mm front, 360x233mm rear
TYRES: 245/35 ZR20 front, 305/30 ZR20 rear
DIMENSIONS: 4611mm (L), 1979mm (W), 1206mm (H)
WEIGHT: From 1400kg
MAX SPEED: 211mph
PRICE: £235,000 (est)
Rear deck is unique, recalling shape of a manta ray, says Ferrari. Like the GTS, the roof folds in 14 secs.
Most of GTS’s body panels are new. Flying buttresses have winglets on top and a movable screen between.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS FERRARI 812 GTS
ENGINE: 6496cc V12
MAX POWER: 800hp at 8500rpm
MAX TORQUE: 718Nm at 7000rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
BRAKES: 398x223mm front, 360x233mm rear
TYRES: 275/35 ZR20 front, 315/35 ZR20 rear
DIMENSIONS: 4693mm (L), 1971mm (W), 1276mm (H)
MAX SPEED: 211mph
PRICE: £300,000 (est)