The Ferrari 812 GTS was the clear winner for lovers of high-revving power and red-blooded Italian style. And while Bentley’s Continental GT Speed ultimately took the crown at our Car of the Year, it was only by a one-point advantage, and because it does just about everything brilliantly. Yet so does the Ferrari 812 GTS; just don’t expect to haul junk in the trunk or listen to a mind-melting Spa Music channel in a silent cabin.
Enzo Ferrari famously drove Peugeots, Fiats and even a Mini Cooper. But his favored Ferrari during the early years was a 1962 330 GT 2+2, the most unassuming car in the marque’s stable. Ferruccio Lamborghini, who owned a Miura, much preferred driving his Islero, an understated 2+2. There is a reason that these titans of industry—men who could own any car on the planet—chose elegant luxury GTs for themselves. The winning formula for the model type, a front-engine V-12 with a gorgeous body and a luxurious cabin, hasn’t changed in 60 years.
Ferrari’s “modern” V-12 family tree began in 1996 with the 550 Maranello, and the latest car in its V-12 stable is the 812 GTS. Its Retractable Hard Top (RHT) design is a Ferrari signature, and with the top raised, the design is positively coupe-like. With the flip of a switch, the entire upper half of the car deconstructs like an origami swan unfolding, and once the clamshells, flaps and fenestration settle down, a sleek convertible reveals itself.
The 812 GTS is the first production series, front-engined convertible V-12 from Maranello since the legendary 365 GTS/4 “Daytona” in 1969. (The Barchetta, Superamerica and Aperta were strictly limited series, and not production models.) Anyone who is familiar with the 812 Superfast will immediately feel at home in the 812 GTS, for the simple reason that they are, essentially, the same car from the “waist down.” And as our COTY judges quickly learned, its acceleration is meteoric. This Ferrari’s 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V-12 produces 789 hp at 8,500 rpm, and 530 ft lbs of torque at 7,000 rpm, making the 812 GTS the most powerful production convertible on the market.
This particular Prancing Horse’s tempestuous power delivery is suggested by a long hood that, once lifted, reveals an engine pushed far back toward the firewall, making it clear how “front-mid-engine” translates to such remarkably well-balanced handling. As a V-8 engine is to filet mignon, Ferrari’s V-12 is more akin to a two-inch thick Wagyu Tomahawk that can stop your heart in three seconds—more time than that car takes to reach 62 mph. At lower revs, words like smooth, creamy and linear describe the power, with 80 percent of maximum torque available at just 3,500 rpm. But as revs approach 6,000 rpm, acceleration is nothing short of explosive, accompanied by a crescendo from intake and exhaust that intensifies as the V-12 wails all the way to the extreme 8,900 rpm redline. Top speed, we trust, is 211 mph.
Our judges discovered that the 812 GTS has capabilities that go far beyond acceleration and speed. Weighing about 3,550 pounds dry, the big GT is remarkably agile, with the reassuring feel of rear-wheel drive and a slight 47:53 rear weight bias that promise predictable (and predictably fun) response to steering wheel and pedal input. The rear-mounted transmission is a beefy seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that shifts with authority, and the rear will gladly step out when the steering wheel–mounted Manettino is dialed to Race.
Version 5.0 of Ferrari’s Side-Slip Control (SSC) stability system handily checks in when the driver bites off more than can be chewed, while the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system (PCV) employs four-wheel steering to enhance maneuverability. Magnetorheological dampers keep the car flat and stable, with a firm but genuinely comfortable ride over less than perfect roads. Altogether, the 812 GTS, for all its power and size, is not edgy or high-strung. Rather, like every great GT, it’s a car that’s easy to drive without fanfare until it’s time to make some noise.
Elegance and refinement are hallmarks of the interior. Leather upholstery and carbon trim are beautifully executed, and as with every modern Ferrari, the steering wheel is a stroke of ergonomic brilliance, managing to get nearly every control function within reach of the driver’s thumbs. The central analog tachometer “goes to 10” and takes center stage in the instrument display, a welcome presence in an age of videogame-like dashboards.
While its base price may be $397,544, don’t even think about escaping the temptation of an option list that, in the case of our car, elevated the sticker to $534,835, which included exquisite Blu Aharabian metallic paint—a $32,904 option. Among thoroughbred supercars, there really is no GT—apart from the spider’s soulmate, the 812 Superfast—that matches the pedigree, unbridled power and sheer perfection of the Ferrari 812 GTS. We can’t help but wonder if the car will soon become the last naturally aspirated V-12 made whose drivetrain isn’t tickled by electric motors.