It’s almost easy to come to the conclusion serious skill is no longer a prerequisite to driving a new Ferrari, but this review of the 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS quickly disavows you of that notion. Ferrari’s V-12-powered drop-top GT is a frightening car to the uninitiated—but once you learn its mysterious ways, it becomes the best driving partner a well-heeled car enthusiast could ask for. It is not difficult to drive, but it is difficult to drive well—and isn’t that what we want a Ferrari to be?
Indulge me for a moment as I step back in time to my First Drive of an 812, two years ago when the hardtop 812 Superfast won a spot on the 2019 All-Stars list of our sister publication, Automobile. We were granted the privilege of driving the 812 on the track, and my fellow speed demons couldn’t stop talking about what an incredible experience the car was.
I kept my mouth shut on that day, because the car scared the daylights out of me. If ever a vehicle had a homicidal streak, it was the Ferrari 812. Pushing it as hard as I dared, the Ferrari felt so twitchy, so alive, I was afraid it would spin off into the dirt at the drop of the proverbial helmet. I imagined I could hear it whispering to me in some decidedly non-Italian accent: Drive faster, Meester Gold, but eeef you make one wrong move, I … will … keeeell you. “But if you kill me,” I said to the car (possibly out loud; hard to tell over the screaming V-12), “we’ll both die.” To which the car replied: Yessssss, Meester Gold, I know.
Two years later, in the pilot’s seat of the retractable-hardtop 812 GTS, I had discovered a new level of motoring bliss. Blasting through the corners at hypersonic speeds, the insanely powerful V-12 singing its 8,900-rpm song, you don’t have to be a great driver to channel Ferrari Formula 1 ace Charles Leclerc. You learn to position the 812 so precisely, you feel as if you are driving by telepathy. But still, when a couple of other 812 newbies on our staff take the GTS for a quick blast, they unilaterally declare it the most terrifying car they have ever driven.
So yes, there is some skill involved, and for those who shake their heads and say, “Well, of course you need skill to drive a Ferrari,” let us introduce you to Maranello’s F8 Tributo. Here is a supercar in every sense of the word, and yet it feels like the nicest, chummiest guy you’ll ever meet. Anyone can go fast in it, and even if you’re not brave enough to push it as hard as it will go—smart cookie, you—it’ll make you feel like a driving superstar. It’s only when you crank the F8 up to 9/10ths that it becomes a challenge, but the mid-engine car’s saving grace is that it’s huge fun at half that speed. Get sloppy if you want; the F8 is just as happy with carne asada as it is with caviar.
Not so the 812, which feels twitchy, nervous like a dog poised to bite, a feeling exacerbated by the car’s four-wheel-steering system. Granted, every system in the 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS is hyper responsive—accelerator, brakes, and steering, in ascending order—but the wildly rapid direction changes are what make the 812 such a scary proposition.
Truth is, you’re quite safe in the 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS, its electronic nannies always ready for a two-seconds-to-midnight save. (I was reminded of this when I jumped on the throttle with cold tires, a dumbass move the car kindly reeled in before it evolved into a very embarrassing phone call to Ferrari.)
But if you want to enjoy the 812, good technique is essential. No, perhaps that’s not quite accurate, because most cars (the F8 included) reward good technique.
What sets the 812 apart is that it punishes bad technique.
As I settled into the 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS and prepared to have my knuckles whitened, I recalled something a race car driver told me some years ago: Before you head into a corner, concentrate on settling all your weight onto your butt. When driving an intimidating car—and make no mistake, 789 horsepower and a $534,835 as-tested price is the pinnacle of intimidation—it’s natural to tense up, grip the steering wheel and use it as a grab handle. But when you allow your arms to bear weight, they lose their ability to listen and talk. In the new Ferrari 812 GTS, you need that communication.
So, as you crank up the speed, remind yourself: Weight in the seat and off your arms and feet. Hold the wheel with a light pinch between the thumb and first two fingers, like an elegant Edwardian Englishman holds his teacup. Keep your movements light and small. Don’t command the 812—caress it. Finesse it.
Do that, and you’ll feel like you are driving the car by telepathy. The 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS no longer fights you, nor you it; instead, you fight together. Personally, I felt like the only limit to the speed I could drive with comfortably and confidently was my ability to pay for the ticket.
Now, all that said, should we expect a car like the Ferrari 812 GTS to be tame or even domesticated? The 812 GTS is a car of superlatives—first front-engine Ferrari convertible in 50 years, the most powerful convertible sold today—but it is also likely a car of lasts: Its V-12 engine is an endangered species, deriving that impossibly huge 789-hp figure from its 6.5-liter V-12 with no supercharging, turbocharging, or electric charging.
Part of that brag-worthy number comes from typical Ferrari sky-high revs. Horsepower peaks at 8,500 rpm and the engine redlines at 8,900, noteworthy figures when you consider the rotating mass of a big V-12 has got to weigh something significant. Torque is an easier-to-wrap-your-head-around 530 lb-ft.
And yet, honestly, those numbers almost have no meaning. You don’t need to floor the 812 GTS’ accelerator; you don’t even need to use the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission’s launch mode. No matter what you do, this Ferrari is quick, and it rewards in sound as much as in speed. The 812 GTS starts with a cacophony that would put the fear of God into God, and it accelerates with a wail that is everything we dreamed about when we hung posters of Ferraris on our walls.
Everything about this car adds to the experience, or at least manages not to detract. The ride is hard but livable, and noise levels at cruising speeds are quite reasonable. The retractable lid stows and deploys quickly and smoothly, and the car looks good with it up or down. Then again, with its $32,904 paint job and $40,330 worth of optional carbon-fiber trim, it had better look good.
The 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS, in other words, is everything you want it to be. Including difficult, even if it turns out it really isn’t.
2021 Ferrari 812 GTS Pros:
- As fast and responsive as you dream a Ferrari should be
- Soul-achingly beautiful (especially with a $30K paint job)
- Smooth, fast convertible-top operation
2021 Ferrari 812 GTS Cons:
- Intimidating as all get-out
- Ridiculous option prices ($4,219 for Apple CarPlay!)
- Complicated controls
|SPECIFICATIONS||2021 Ferrari 812 GTS|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||6.5L/789-hp/530 lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,900 lb (est)|
|L x W x H||184.8 x 77.6 x 50.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||2.8 sec (est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||12/15/13 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||281/225 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.47 lb/mile|