Meet the Ferrari 12Cilindri, the New 819 HP GT With a Roaring V-12

Even as electrification is driving Ferrari into new and uncharted territory, the marque’s thrumming twelve cylinders continue to compose a lyrical through line of Maranello’s gran turismo history, which includes Enzo’s first 125 S that rolled from his factory in 1947. And the on-the-nose name Ferrari chose for its newest GT speaks to its pride and defiance of industry trends. For those who expected Ferrari to walk away from its internal-combustion heritage, meet the just-revealed Ferrari 12Cilindri.

Prior to this evening’s official debut of the model, tied to the Miami Grand Prix, Robb Report was invited to a showing of the 12Cilindri (pronounced “Chill-IN-dree) in Maranello, where Ferrari’s design chief Flavio Manzoni pulled covers off the successor to the 812 Superfast, revealing a modern GT with a delta-wing design that makes the car look ready for takeoff.

The 12Cilindri gives a cursory nod to Ferrari history, but also represents a clear break from its past. The model’s lineage shows in the black band that wraps the lengthy hood like a vintage Armani cummerbund. It’s an instantly recognizable callback to the plexiglass, headlamp-covering nose of the late-1960s-era 365 GTB/4 “Daytona,” before U.S. regulations forced a switch to retractable headlamps in 1971. Manzoni says the visor-like band also suggests a “futuristic spaceship” in a design that eschews a traditional grille.

A subtle take on a semicircular indent line—another Ferrari signature—sweeps the perimeter, anchoring voluptuous fenders and accentuating the vehicle’s length. Wheel arches are stuffed with 21-inch forged alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 5 S tires. Things get wilder toward the rear. A carbon-fiber-capped greenhouse incorporates a rear windscreen, the latter featuring a triangular shape inspired by an aeronautic flybridge. The blacked-out windscreen flows into a pair of electrically powered flaps that rise to 30 degrees to boost aerodynamic downforce. The rear winglets bookend a fixed center spoiler intended to create a full-width “blade” effect. Then there’s the four gem-like taillights, a departure from Ferrari’s round illumination of yore.

Unfortunately, the design of the aggressive rear diffuser—a set of aero jail bars—detracts from the fluid silhouette. But such are the functional demands of a two-seater with 819 hp and 500 ft lbs of torque, output that can supposedly launch the 12Cilindri to 211 mph after it knocks off zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds.

The 12Cilindri boasts the largest hood ever fitted to a Ferrari. Hot-formed from a single sheet of aluminum, the front-hinged clamshell looks big enough to float several island castaways. The red-headed V-12 mill perches below deck, shoved behind the axle in a mid-front-engine layout.

The 1946 blueprints for Enzo’s original V-12 engine outline a 1.5-liter displacement. Nearly eight decades later, Ferrari’s naturally aspirated V-12 has grown to a Detroit-sized 6.5 liters in the 812 Superfast, 812 Competizione, and Purosangue SUV. The 12Cilindri adopts most of the Competizione’s track-centric engine, including its aforementioned output (up from 788 hp in the Superfast). Gianmaria Fulgenzi, Ferrari’s chief development officer, mentions that the power plant’s reciprocating parts are 40 percent lighter than before, thanks to weight-saving measures such as titanium connecting rods and a new aluminum alloy for the pistons.

We suspect drivers will feel the biggest kick from an eight-speed, dual-clutch F1 gearbox, first offered in the SF90 Stradale hybrid. Compared to the 812’s seven-speed iteration, the extra cog with this one is touted to shorten the gearing by 15 percent, making shifts faster by eight percent overall, at least those are the claims. According to Ferrari, the paddle-shifted gearbox addresses the 812’s biggest shortcoming: acceleration in third and fourth gear that feels less forceful and linear than some owners might prefer. Remember, there’s no turbocharger cheat code here, but rather a hand-built engine that needs to spin like a mad Rumpelstiltskin to make power.

Ferrari also charts a notably heightened torque curve versus that found with the 812s, claiming that the 12Cilindri delivers 12 percent more torque to pavement than the Superfast. We listened to a recorded tease of the 12Cilindri shrieking to its violent 9,500 rpm redline and barking through downshifts, a seeming taunt to modern-yet-mute EVs. A fully redesigned exhaust system (including equal-length runners for both cylinder banks) is intended to highlight the free-breathing nature of the mill.

The new model’s wheelbase is shortened by 0.8 inches versus the 812 Superfast and its variants. That doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that four-wheel steering virtually shortens the wheelbase by another 1.2 inches. And an all-new chassis boosts torsional stiffness by 15 per cent compared to the 12Cilindri’s predecessors.

Driver-adjustable MagneRide magnetic dampers are matched to the brake-by-wire system from the 296 GTB—the six-cylinder hybrid that stops quicker than any current Ferrari. And the Side Slip Control system, the nerve center for Ferrari’s traction-and-handling systems, reaches its 8.0 version and combines with multi-axis sensing that allows individual braking at each wheel.

At Ferrari’s Centro Stilo, we were surprised by another debut, that of the 12Cilindri Spider in a fashionable coat of Verde Toscana (“Tuscan Green”). The hardtop convertible adopts the 296 GTB hybrid’s space-saving roof design, opening or closing in 14 seconds at speeds up to 28 mph.

The interior of both coupe and convertible take cues from the 296 GTB and Purosangue, the dual-cockpit effect due to binnacles that seem to individually wrap the driver and passenger. Fronting the enveloping sport seats is the familiar flat-bottomed steering wheel, its manettino lever enabling the pilot to twiddle through performance modes. There’s also the haptic start-stop switch that’s a less- compelling touch point than the physical button it replaced.

Regarding misguided touch points, Ferrari owners and critics have given thumbs-down to thumb-pad sliders and other maddening elements of the infotainment system on the 296 GTB and Purosangue. Those models also feature a separate screen for shotgun passengers, but eschew a center screen, leaving drivers locked in combat with an overtaxed driver’s display that handles virtually every function. The 12Cilindri eases that distracting workload with a 10.3-inch center touchscreen, in addition to displays for the driver and passenger.

Front-engine GTs were once Ferrari’s lifeblood, but they’ve been overshadowed by the company’s mid-engine supercars. Most recently, the SF90 and 296 GTB/GTS have grabbed the spotlight by adopting hybrid technology. This next-gen GT appears to be Ferrari’s stubborn defense of internal-combustion principles, wrapped in a body that teases an alluring future—regardless of whether it’s with or without 12 cylinders.

The first 12Cilindri coupes are scheduled to reach customers in the fourth quarter of this year, with convertible examples following in early 2025; the variants starting at RM2,009,316 and RM2,213,150, respectively.


Previously published on Robb Report USA

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