What’s a “fairy tale” anyways? (Ferrari 812 to Neuschwanstein)

With just one day of sunny warm weather in the forecast and a “bucket list” itch to scratch of driving something very beautiful and very fast on the only derestricted highways in the world, as we left France and headed east last week, I reached out to a few of Germany’s luxury car rental companies to explore a few potential options for bringing to life this particular “fairy tale.”i

While a Veyron or Chiron would’ve been a massive exclamation mark next to this particular tickbox, as a practical matter, the damage deposits alone on such things were enough to break my credit card limit and then some, leaving more “mundane” options on the table, such as those from Lamborghini (too drug-dealer-y), McLaren (too ugly), Porsche (too familiar), or the mighty Cavallino Rampante herself: Ferrari.

Given that I didn’t love the 488 GTB I drove in Vegas with Jiran, with the choice between the similarly-powered F8 Tributo, new hybrid-assist 296 GTB, and the leveled-up 812 Superfast for Germany’s legendary highways and byways, I couldn’t help but choose the (last?)ii purely NA V12 grand tourer from Maranello: the 6.5L, 800 hp, 9000 RPM redline Superfast. It would surely have a few more miles on it and be bit a little scruffier than the hot-to-trot 296 – the looks of which are starting to grow on me now, particularly with Assetto Fiorano paint scheme fittediii – but the full-bodied soundtrack and more mature disposition somehow suited my intentions for this particular excursion. So in we booked the front-mid-engined 12-banger bahn-stormer to be delivered to our house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the southern German mountains at the foothills of the Austrian Alps.

Delivering the dark-grey Ferrari from Berlin(!), the rental car handlers arrived promptly at 10 AM at our house, and emerged from behind the wheel no less.iv The two tatted-up young gents had made the 700 km journey in record time, claiming to have hit speeds of up to 300 kph en route to our drop-off point. After a quick walkaround of the taught, basically pristine bodywork, and a bit of Google-Translated paperwork, I snatched the keys, jogged upstairs to grab my soon-to-be-6-year-old youngest son, and charted our course for the outbound leg towards our daytrip destination: the real-life-version of Disney’s Cinderella Castlev aka Mad King Ludwig II’s Castle aka Neuschwanstein Castle.

Ripping the V12 to life, with giddy disbelieving grins shared by both driver and passenger alike, we plotted the most direct route to the Castle, saving the more prolonged scenic route (with derestricted Autobahns) for the way home when we’d have the most comfort and familiarity with the new-to-us thoroughbred. Frequently described as “too fast for public roads” in journalistic reviews,vi and with unusually precious cargo aboard, this seemed prudent!

Setting off, within a hundred yards of our house, already construction workers were giving us a double-take, young boys were yelping uncontrollably, and middle-aged women on bicycles were shaking their heads in disapproval as we dropped our windows and cruised through the restrained resort village of Garmisch in second gear. Even in our difficult-to-photograph Canna di Fucile grey,vii the impact of a half-a-million-dollar Italian prowler was impossible to miss and overall really very positively received.viii The city ride was perfectly composed too, not that German roads are so terrible as to test it… This isn’t the UK, or even Canada! For all of its mismanaged foreign policy and energy policy, Germany’s infrastructure policy game is still as on-point as they come.ix

The roads opening up at the edge of town, towards the Austrian border that we’d be travelling through on the way to our fairy tale destination, the sun shone warmly from the driver’s side across our path, drying out any remnants of rain from the night before. This was the perfect day for high-powered motoring. As we left town, immediately traffic thinned and untouched stretches of pristine tarmac extended before us, inviting us to bellow our best V12 blasts against the verdant valley walls. Of course, we obliged, hitting 130ish kph for a split second here and there before slowing back down for the turns, the 9000 RPM redline coming all too emphatically (if a bit lacking in Nth degree spine-tingliness) and conveniently visible on the top of the steering wheel in a string of blue-and-red lights, an ergonomic delight permitting the driver to focus where he should: on the road, any obstacles ahead, and all-important closing speeds.

In general, the ergonomics of the 812 deserve special mention. While the black-and-red Daytona seats were manual in operation and lacked lumbar adjustment, they proved eminently comfortable and surprisingly supportive for longer stretches.x The dead pedal was also correctly sized for those larger-of-foot, and the transmission tunnel was appreciably closer-than-normal to the gas pedal lending to a pleasingly ergonomic shin-resting option rather than the usual knee-rest. It’s the little things you notice and appreciate as you get older… Even the much-maligned turn signals mounted to the face of the steering wheel – so “controversial” when released on the MY2009 458 Italia – were incredibly intuitive and took exactly 2 seconds to become accustomed to, at least for the neuroplastic (and neurodiverse?) among us. Furthermore, the visibility of the 812 was beyond reproach. So frequently with these “exotic” fares (here’s looking at you Lambo), the driver is expected to possess something resembling trafficulur omniscience, maintaining a real-time 3D map of any and all pedestrians and vehicles within a 500m radius. Ferrari makes no such impositions upon nor presumptions towards its driver’s perceptual abilities, instead offering reams of glass and clear sightlines in every direction, which is really a dignity in and of itself.xi With such dignity of progress assured, we twisted and turned the rear-drivenxii stallion through the alpine passes, cresting one more picturesque vista after another, the snow-capped peaks reveberating with the Sound of Music.xiii V12 Music!xiv

Arriving at the base of King Ludwig’s pre-post-modernism castle – designed and conceived as a reaction to the “degraded” days that we ironically can’t help but look back on with incredible fondness today,xv which should tell us a great deal about the eternal power and time-honoured prevalence of nostalgia throughout human history – we parked our gleaming 800-horse-drawn carriage and mounted a slightly more modest carriage pulled by exactly 2 ponies. Winding up the pedestrian pass towards the Castle for our 3:15 PM tour, the pair of steeds pulled our family of five up, up, and away. With a few minutes to spare before the tour, grabbing a few freshly made Quarkbällchen,xvi basically giant soft cheeseball churos with powdered sugar on top id est the greatest treat in the entire known universe. Finishing our treats, we grabbed our English audioguides and headed inside Neuschwanstein Castle. While pictures “weren’t allowed,” here a couple discreet peeks behind the curtain. Talk about detail and decoration!

Exiting Cinderella’s Castle and running down the hill towards our V12 chariot, my co-pilots traded places – the 8.5-year-old elder replacing the younger – with the younger taking our rented Volvo XC90 back home with my parents.xvii Driving northeast to take the more scenic route home, towards A95 with its derestricted speed limits, I started to poke and prod the breadth of the car’s ability.xviii As the sun lowered in the sky on the Friday early evening, the lack of roadway Polizei, dearth of speed cameras, and higher-than-expected average speeds of even the most humble Fiat Pandas and VW ID4s ahead of us, we elegantly ebbed and flowed through serene town after serene town, valley pass after forrest pass, over and under and across the densely inhabited but sparsely population countryside of southern Germany. With a few opportunities to gun it here and there, it had to be said that the 800 hp never actually felt overwhelmingly powerful. In fact, I’m not sure it even felt that much faster than my old R35 did, and really didn’t match the mid-range shove of the goliath-slaying 991 GT2RS. Although I never exceeded 5/10s, nor could I in good conscience given the precious cargo onboard, I found the steering to be light and direct without being terribly communicative, and as such not terribly confidence-inspiring. The 3`600 lbs curb weightxix could only be masked so deftly. But as a flowing cruiser, I could scarcely imagine something more refined and distinguished, and I could barely wait to go sehr schnell on the Autobahn.

Just as the sun dipped over the mountains and the sky started to darken, we arrived at last at A95 southbound: our own personal stretch of the world-famous derestricted Autobahn. In a Ferrari. With a V12. Surely a fairy tale come true! But what is a fairy tale? We were about to find out….

Pressing up to from 80 to 120 to 150 kph with barely a feathering of the throttle, with hands firmly at 9 and 3 a light vibration started to work its way up through the steering wheel, through our seats, and throughout the cabin. Odd behaviour for a car with a claimed top speed of 340 kph to be sure, especially give that it appeared to drive so well as slower speeds. So we cautiously pressed on just a bit further. But at 160 kph the vibrations were enough to make the headlights jitter up-and-down across the darkening reflective highway signs in the distance, so I tapped the “bumpy road” suspension button on the steering wheel to see if it would make a difference. but that only made things worse. By 170 kph it was clearly no longer safe to accelerate, such was the force of the BR-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-RRRRRR rippling the cabin.

So much for my dreams of 250, or even, whisper it, 300… Bringing the speed back down to a comfortable 140 kph, we drove the last 30 km back home in anti-climactic darkness, the last rays of sunlight fully resting for the evening, replaced by the nearly-full mid-March moon. Nursing the clearly bruised beast back to the gas station before rendezvousing with the handlers, I refilled the half-tank of gas we’d consumed in just 175 km of spirited driving for EUR 108 (USD 120 / CAD 160)xx and checked the tires again to see if something was clearly bulging or obviously failing. Unfortunately nothing in the dim light of the gas station was terribly revealing other than a closer look at the brand name and model of the tires, and sure enough, while the tread depth and evenness of wear appeared to be adequate to the task of handling such a powerful machine, the selection of proper Pirelli Sottozero rubber instead of of el fucking cheapo, Made-in-China V-rated “SlipMax” tires that were evidently unbalancedxxi and potentially about-to-explode, was “conveniently” elided by the rental company.xxii Seriously if Mossad had it out for me, this would be the way to do it!

But isn’t that what a fairy tale actually is? Y’see despite what Disney attempted to convey to his utopian American audience, a fairy tale isn’t a dreamworld fantasy, it’s not “happily ever after” – a fairy tale is a cautionary tale – a tale warning us to trust some people but not others, to go down this path but not that one, that it’s okay to piss off certain kinds of people but not all kinds, and of course all of the other many and several social immunizations required to survive a confusing and dangerous world; a type of world that, it must be said, is as true today as it was in the early 19th century when The Brothers Grimm published their famous anthology of Volksweisheit.xxiii So I can’t but count myself incredibly fortunate that the cost of this particular life lesson was just a few shekels and a missed opportunity to go frankly too fast.

And at the end of it all, what could’ve been better? Was there a better car with better company on better roads towards a better destination with a more fairy tale ending? Not one easily imagined, Mein Herr.

  1. For the cost of the monthly interest on the loan needed to purchase such a vehicle – which is somewhere between USD$300-400k (CAD$400-500k) in this market – I could seemingly extract practically all the joy from such ownership with just a tiny fraction of the outlay and inconvenience. Yes, crypto-wealthy arrivistes are frequently and accurately critiqued for their “rent everything” rootlessness, but there’s a time and a place to buy things as well as a time and a place to rent them. And falling too far at either end of the spectrum between “buy everything” and “rent everything” is simply too ideological and lacking in thoughtful context. More to the point, owning a Ferrari 812 while living with Central Canada’s bone-straight and frost-heaved roads makes about as much sense as owning a Ford F-350 in Rome. And after this experience, I’m not exactly dissuaded from this perspective either, as you’ll see shortly, dear reader!
  2. What a sales pitch, y’know? Perhaps it should come as no surpise that the two hottest luxury performance automotive brands on the planet right now – Ferrari and Porsche – continue to play their customers like flutes to the tune of “last xxx” and “last yyy” while continuing to churn out both xxx and yyy as fast as they can for years to come. FOMO is a hell of a drug! Not just in Crypto-landia either.
  3. The orange 296 in the Park Avenue showroom last month was pretty mouth-watering ngl:

  4. I’d definitely expected a car-hauler.
  5. I’d never even heard of “Neuschwanstein” until visiting Disney World in Florida last summer with the family and doing a bit of research for the blog post on it. What a super-powered connection-maker this blogging thing is, I tells ya.
  6. I should know by now that 99.9% of journalists (including Matt LeBlanc) are exactly as good of drivers as 99.9% of people, which is to say painfully average and generally dim of reaction speed, but it never ceases to amaze how non-threatening these modern “widow-maker” really are. The breadth of the computer-controlled safety nets on these ultra-high-horsepower exotic machines ensures that even the most ham-fisted lardo stays out of the hedge. So I have basically zero to “worry” about!

  7. It might’ve been Grigio Silverstone but that’s such a common and boring name, and this is a fairy tale after all!
  8. No, the opinion of middle-aged women on bicycles actually doesn’t matter, irrespective of what you read in the NYT.
  9. On the infrastructure side, Germany is right up there with France, as it happens. Can you name two better countries for quality of roads, tunnels, bridges, trains, airports, water, sewage, and urban planning? I’ll wait…
  10. My lanky legs were a bit cramped after the 90-minute drive home but I’m also not used to driving for more than about 10 minutes without cruise control, ideally of the radar-equipped variety. The flat-ass Prairies don’t provide such opportunities and even race tracks are only 15-minute balls-to-the-wall stints.
  11. So maybe Lambo drivers aren’t even assholes because they want to be? They’re just trapped into it!
  12. Rear-drive with four-wheel-steering, no less. Unfortunately the 4WS wasn’t seamlessly calibrated, yielding a very distinct “lurch” or “dive” right when the steering should’ve been loading up into a corner. Alas not everyone can do it as well as Porsche! In fact is seems no one else can…
  13. This is exactly where the 1965 film The Sound of Music was set, after all.
  14. To be nitpicky, I might add an aftermarket (Novitec?) exhaust to my own personal 812 Superfast just to spice up the tune a bit and let the old girl breathe a little better, but apparently such modifications are strictly verboten in Deutschland, which explains a lot of the OPF sadness for new European performance cars… Moot point even in Canada though, because an 812 would be utterly uninteresting and ill-suited to my quasi-suburban dad-life!

    If this most recent Ferrari experience has served any practical purpose beyond the “bucket list” ticking, it’s as a reminder of the pragmatism, reliability, and exquisitely balanced performance of Porsche. The Stuttgartians really are at the top of their game this last decade and I can certainly see adding more to the Contravex Garage in the future. Two almost isn’t enough!

  15. Even if Ludwig correctly identified the baked-in-the-cake errors of The French Revolution a century prior. Clearly, this King Ludwig guy had a few things figured out! Not to mention that he was a prolific and hugely impactful patron of the arts, supporting the likes of one Richard Wagner, as well as composer Peter Josef von Lindpaintner, painter Franz von Lenbach, and architects Christian Jank, Joseph Klenze, and Georg Dollmann. Basically, he was “mad” because he blew his wad on design and beauty… if for himself. Because this was a “democratic” era donchaknow and he was “supposed” to spend his inherited treasury on, y’know, giving a little shitty piece to everyone and in doing so ensure that not a shred of it remained for future generations to marvel at and appreciate. Sorry but what’s exactly “mad” about Ludwig’s approach again? de Tocqueville would’ve said: “not much!
  16. Take me back…

  17. Germany is definitely my new favourite driving country. It worked out well that we ended up renting cars on this trip too, because the workers unions have recently been striking, completely borking the otherwise clockwork precision of the domestic train and airplane networks. Thank goodness for automobility!
  18. 3`350 “dry weight” quoted by Ferrari is about 3`600 lbs wet weight in the real world.
  19. 102 baby
  20. Am I a tire expert? Only enough to know that for cars of this performance caliber, it’s Pirelli, Michelin, Bridgestone, or Continental AND THAT’S FUCKING IT.
  21. I checked the tires for wear when I picked up the car and saw that they were winter tires (as legally required in this region at this time of year) but didn’t recognize the “SlipMax” model name and quickly assumed that I just couldn’t see the ACTUAL car brand name for some reason, but not for a second did I imagine that a “high-end” luxury rental car company would be THAT FUCKING CHEAP AND RECKLESS until I googled this soi-dissant “tire brand” the next day. Holy fucking shit talk about dangerous and immoral behaviour. What else is there to say but stay away from Manstone VIP GmbH, kids. Great customer service and a clean, well-specced car, but  level of incompetence has no fucking place in any business whatsoever, let alone one with such stratospheric potential liabilities for (well-above-average-net-worth) individuals making potentially life-threatening mistakes. It takes a third-rate Mexican rental company – or at the very least a few key decision-makers with absolute rocks for brains – to even contemplate this kind of a stunt, nevermind execute on it.

    There are many places a rental car might want to cheap out, but the one place where the rubber LITERALLY hits the road ain’t one of ’em anymore than a pro golfer wants to use a range ball in competition. Like jesus mother of mary what the literal fuck…

  22. Volksweisheit = folk wisdom

5 thoughts on “What’s a “fairy tale” anyways? (Ferrari 812 to Neuschwanstein)

  1. tacyturn says:

    Such a shame and a waste to mount those cheap tires and so screwing the experience …
    Poor Enzo Ferrari if he knew such disgrace !
    Anyway, there is a lesson in there and you nailed it !

  2. MrHazard says:

    Awesome post Migo

  3. […] just returned from a full month in The Old Country, I can confirm that Marko nails it with his analysis of Europe’s surprisingly functional (if […]

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