Once you’ve tried a 12-cylinder, you won’t want to go back to six, or eight, or even ten.
Twelve is the number of cylinders God intended an engine to have — one for each apostle, one for each month of the year, one for each hour on a clock. Even the ancient Greeks worshipped 12 major gods. An engine with this particular number of cylinders is harmonically, gravitationally, emotionally balanced. Maybe its chakras are perfectly aligned? Alright, we’re not engineers, but hear us out.
Nobody does a 12-cylinder engine better than Ferrari. In 1947, the company made its first V12, designed by the genius Gioacchino Colombo, and the Maranello-based firm has essentially been perfecting them ever since. Ferrari’s wasn’t the first V12, but it quickly proved to be the best. Fitted to a string of stunning road and racing cars — the 125, the 250 GTO, the Daytona — Ferrari V12s proved to be both versatile and dominant, chalking up victories in Le Mans, Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, and Formula One racing against more established rivals.
As of 2019, Ferrari’s glorious V12 tradition is upheld by the aptly named 812 Superfast, a front-mid-engine coupe. The engine is deliciously exotic. Its blood-red cam covers contain a mechanical ballet of 48 valves all tapping in time, displacing 6.496 litres with two banks of cylinders angled 65 degrees apart. At its redline, 8,900 rpm, the crankshaft is rotating 148 times every second. The numbers most people will care about, however are these: 789 horsepower (800 CV), and at 8,500 rpm and 530 lb-ft of torque.
In the 812, this V12 sings a silky siren song that enchants drivers into going faster, faster. Faster. There’s no lag. The throttle operates at the speed of thought. Speed builds until the sound is overwhelming, right up to the rev limiter. A flick of your fingers bangs in the next gear, and it happens all over again. The only trouble is you need a lot of road to let this mighty engine really run: 0–200 km/h takes 7.9 seconds.
Even more impressive is that the chassis is sharp enough to keep up with this motor. There’s electronic magic helping to put all that power down through the rear wheels. By all rights it should spin you into a lamppost every time you so much as look at the throttle. Except it doesn’t. You quickly find yourself somehow able to take control of this supernatural, mind-emptying, eyes-widening power.
It’s true that Ferrari sells lots of t-shirts and backpacks in airport shops these days. The brand, like all brands, is even working on some sort of SUV, and has, over the decades, had to broaden its engine portfolio to include some V8s. But as long as Ferrari continues making its V12 with those famous blood-red cam covers — as it promised to do — all is right with the world.