Think of the Ferrari 812 GTS as two distinct cars and its $404,494 base price might make a little more sense. On one side of the spectrum, the 812 GTS is a luxurious roadster, but should you want it, the 812 will transform into a raging bastard of a car.
The 812 is the convertible version of the 812 Superfast coupe, which is based on the F12 that launched back in 2012. A 789-hp 6.5-liter V-12 sits just ahead of the driver, yet it’s positioned fully behind the front-axle line to shift 53 percent of the weight rearward. There isn’t a turbo in sight. This V-12 makes power the old-fashioned way, with seriously high revs. The big tachometer right in front of the driver is marked with an 8900-rpm redline. Revving it to its upper reaches results in a long melodic bark from the intake—every fake-sound system fitted to cars these days wishes it sounded this good. Fold the GTS’s hardtop back (it disappears with the touch of a button in 14 seconds) and drive it like someone might drive a Lexus LC500 convertible, and this Ferrari is subdued, quiet, and comfortable. The engine hums in the background, the exhaust is mellow. With the side windows and wind deflector raised, it’s possible to have a shout-free conversation at 80 mph.
Ferrari fits magnetorheological dampers to the 812. Set them to Bumpy Road and leave them alone since they tighten and loosen as necessary. Aggressive Pirelli P Zero summer tires are barely stretched over the wheels, but careful tuning of the springs and dampers mean the 812 rides with surprising plushness. The seats are much less forgiving, though. While we can’t fault the leather work, the carbon-fiber-framed thrones are a bit too firm, and if you stand six feet or taller the driving position is a bit cramped. A few more inches of seat travel would help, but the convertible-top hardware eats into interior space, preventing the chairs from sliding back any further. Provided you can find a comfy seating position, an 812 with its top peeled back is as luxurious and comfortable as any Mercedes-Benz SL.
The other side of the 812 reveals itself when you start prodding the mighty V-12. Make sure the tires are warm before flooring it. As with a race car, the power overwhelms cold rubber. Fortunately, the stability control will step in quickly before the driver turns this beautiful car ugly. The V-12 delivers its power progressively and without the explosiveness of a turbocharged engine, but with 789 ponies at 8500 rpm and 80 percent of the 530 pound-feet of torque available at 3500 rpm, speed builds ridiculously fast. Ferrari claims a sub-3.0-second time to 60 mph, and in typical Ferrari fashion, they wouldn’t let us strap our test gear to the GTS. However, we have tested the 812 Superfast, and it hit 60 in 2.7 seconds and charged through the quarter in 10.4 seconds at 138 mph. (Seriously, Ferrari, don’t fear the gear.) The 812 GTS presses you into its barely cushioned seat backs in a way that creates zero doubt about its claimed 789 horsepower and 211-mph top speed.
On a tight canyon road outside of Los Angeles that’s better suited to a Miata than a V-12 Ferrari, the GTS pulls off feeling smaller than its dimensions. At 77.6 inches wide and 184.8 inches long, this is a big and wide sports car. Start bending it into corners and the front end responds with such gusto that it seems like the engine is not only behind the front axle line but perhaps right next to you. The nose dances with feathery lightness, bringing unexpected liveliness to a car that feels rather refined and mellow when pointed straight. Ferrari engineers favor light steering efforts to make the driver’s job a little easier, but that lack of effort also gives the impression of lightness, of deftness. Light doesn’t mean that there’s no feel; the steering efforts rise as cornering forces increase.
An occasional high-frequency quiver runs through the GTS’s structure when the top is folded away, but we detected zero shakes or creaks when the top is in place. Compared to the 812 Superfast coupe’s 3851-pound curb weight, the convertible conversion adds 165 pounds of structure and top mechanism. We’d estimate the GTS weighs right around 4000 pounds. Drive one hard and it’ll have you thinking it’s a half-ton lighter.
Even if we try to justify the 812 GTS as two cars, the half-million-dollar sticker price of the one we drove—$534,835 exactly—still puts you at $250K per car. There’s just no getting around the price, but V-12 Ferraris have never been a rational or affordable purchase, and yet Ferrari doesn’t have much trouble selling them. In a world going electric, where gas engines are shrinking and turbos are becoming the norm, a naturally aspirated V-12 is even more unique than ever. No one builds a car that sounds, looks, behaves, and has the dual personalities of this 812 GTS, and we don’t think anyone ever will again.