Ferrari 812 GTS

A superfast spider.

Rumor has it that sports cars with convertible tops are called “spiders” (or “spyders”) because the eight wooden stays that held open the fabric top on historic convertibles seemed to resemble the eight legs on an arachnid. Amazingly, that moniker has stuck around for decades, even when an octopede insect is hardly the image that marketing suits want to have pop up when one thinks of a svelte grand touring car — they would prefer that the car generate romantic notions of carving the roads along the Stelvio Pass or cruising the Amalfi Coast on the way to an epic rendezvous.

The latter option always comes to mind when I am behind the wheel of a Ferrari, one where the more cylinders, the better. And the gorgeous Ferrari 812 GTS (for “gran turismo spider”) does not disappoint in the slightest. (Fans of the Ferrari 812 Superfast will be right at home in this iteration, as the two models are mechanically identical. And long-term fans of Ferrari will note that there is no “i,” which once was used to denote “injection,” following the “GTS”; virtually no car these days has carburetion, so it would be as superfluous as announcing “power steering and brakes.”)

Ferrari 812 GTS interior

Now, I am a fan of electrification of autos as much as the next guy. I mean, who doesn’t like instantaneous torque, for gosh sake? But the song of a finely tuned V-12 is both unmistakable and a siren’s call to those of us who long ago were baptized in the aural delight of a large-displacement, dozen-cylinder Italian rolling opera. To partially explain my sound bias, I did buy records earlier in my life where, at a mere 33 rpms, I could hear the race cars at Sebring or the footsteps followed by engine cranks and fires at Le Mans, my mind racing with visions of race cars exploding into action.

With that background in mind, is it any wonder that the 812 was love at first sound for me? Long gone are the “rer rer rer rer” sounds of the engine cranking before finally starting. The 812 is one of the new breed — a slight, short starter motor sound and we have ignition! I love the smell of petrol in the morning, but the sound of the 789-horsepower engine coming to life (the sound of “the most powerful production spider on the market,” says Ferrari) is worth the price of admission all by itself. But wait, there’s more!

Ferrari 812 GTS cockpit

Again, it’s probably due to my early-childhood imprint, but the look of a long-hood, bobbed-tail GT two-seater does spark my heart. “Mine” for the week was in Blu Ahrabian, a beautiful deep blue that looked at once menacing and elegant. It was a great contrast to the Bordeaux leather interior and Nero black carpets. Even after just a quick look at the specs (about 6.5 liters, almost 530 pound-feet of torque, close to 800 ponies, and a sub-three-second blast to 60 miles per hour), I knew before driving it that this gorgeous car was writing checks that the mechanicals easily could cash! Spirited driving that afternoon proved the point.  

But unlike some supercars, especially those of yesteryear, the 812 GTS is easy to live with. The convenience of a power-operated hardtop, for example, is great. With just a touch of a control, the top lowers in seconds and can even be put up or taken down at speeds up to about 30 miles per hour. Of course, it does impact the space in the trunk, but it’s a worthy trade-off. I am a top-down kind of guy, especially when that driving mode enhances the ability to listen to the melodic 12-pipe front organ, but it can rain in Los Angeles (not often), so it’s nice not to have to run home to get the hardtop hanging from the ceiling of the garage or even stop by the roadside to unsnap the tonneau cover to get access to the folded top.

Ferrari 812 GTS

Contrary to popular belief (“popular” in that there are daily postings to sites featuring wrecked exotics), having the money to buy an exotic car does not immediately qualify the owner as a capable driver of an exotic car. Ferrari apparently thought about that when designing some of the driving nannies that exist on the 812, such as:

Ferrari Peak Performance, which gives the driver feedback via steering- wheel torque to advise that the 812 is nearing the limit of grip. (Apparently, the idea of a disembodied voice yelling “Watch out!” loudly through the car’s sound system was voted down.)

Ferrari Power Oversteer, which again provides feedback via steering-wheel torque that the power being applied while exiting a corner is leading to the loss of the rear wheels’ ability to be at one with the road. (Also, see above “Watch out!” note.)

Driving the 812 was a sheer delight. The looks, the sounds, the comfort, and the overall sensations were terrific, and I enjoyed my time with this Maranello masterpiece immensely. With a zero-to-60 run taking under three seconds and a top speed of over 211 miles per hour, it’s clearly a stormer. But it’s undoubtedly equally at home at the Oscars valet or the front drive at the opera. With a base price of about $425,000, “nicely equipped” will be well into the “5s,” and if you have a heavy pen and a fat wallet, you likely can see the “6s.” Mine was “very nicely equipped,” with well over $100,000 in options, such as special paint, carbon-fiber bits here and there (engine covers, wheel cups, sill covers, filter boxes, etc.), front suspension lifter, passenger display, and more (a lot more). However you decide to outfit your Ferrari 812 GTS, I am very confident that you will be thrilled with the result for many years to come.