COULD THE FERRARI F12 BERLINETTA BE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PRODUCTION CAR IN THE WORLD? It's a simple question to which this circa-$700K V12-engined Italian coupe provides an arrestingly affirmative answer.
Perhaps it does so even more emphatically than its rear-wheel-drive performance, which includes a 0-100km/h claim of 3.1 seconds. Its 0-200km/h claim of 8.5sec is about the same time a Mazda3 gets to the first speed increment.
A host of F1-derived traction control and aerodynamic systems are, meanwhile, at work (and working hard) beneath the surface.
So we wonder as we approach Ferrari’s latest long-nosed two-door two-seater: what really lurks below the slippery sophisticated surface of the F12 Berlinetta?
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $690,745 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 545kW/690Nm 6.3 litre V12 petrol | seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 14.9 l/100km | Tested: 20.6 l/100km
Coated in Nero Daytona paint with a cabin of Beige Tradizionale leather, our test F12 Berlinetta oozes ‘stealth’ appeal.
This flagship Ferrari appears larger in photographs than it really is. The bonnet is long, not only to accommodate twelve cylinders underneath but also to house them deep behind the front axle to deliver a 53 percent rear-biased weight distribution.
Gorgeous styling details double as aerodynamic aids. The hollowed front flanks – dubbed ‘aerobridge’ – sweep air from the bonnet through to the curvaceous sides. A ‘blown spoiler’ at the rear guides air to hidden outlets in the rear wheelarches, enough to generate 123 kilograms of downforce at 200km/h.
Then there are the tyres – 255mm-wide fronts and mighty 315mm rears, both mounted on 20-inch forged alloy rims with carbon ceramic disc brakes behind them. The back rubber may just be enough to tame 515Nm of torque coming at them at just 2000rpm, onwards to 690Nm at 6000rpm.
- Standard equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate air-conditioning, electrically adjustable leather trimmed seats, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Infotainment: Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, AM/FM radio and satellite navigation
Expect a modern technology onslaught inside the F12 Berlinetta and prepare to be disappointed. There is no centre screen at all, with all trip computer and navigation functions glowing through a colour screen to the left and right of the tachometer in front of the driver.
Even the dual-zone air-conditioning controls lack a digital display.
Truth to be told, the three-year-old F12 Berlinetta is lagging behind the all-wheel-drive four-seater GTC4 Lusso, its newer V12-engined sibling with its 10.25-inch colour touchscreen display.
This Ferrari targets indulgence in different ways, however.
The standard leather trim is soft and plush, covering superbly supportive front seats. Sitting on them is like cuddling up inside the baseball mitt that their colour and pattern resembles.
Unlike a mid-engined 458 Italia or its 488 GTB replacement, the F12 Berlinetta is easy to get into and step out of. In this way it really is unremarkable; it simply feels like a big GT cruiser inside.
The other way it indulges, though, is with a subtle but definite focus on its driver.
Admittedly the carbonfibre steering wheel with LED lighting – which illuminates towards the top end of the rev range to indicate to the driver to change gear – is a $9200 addition to our test car. But the monochromatic passenger display showing speed and revs to your passenger is standard.
Likewise, the liberal use of real aluminium on the door handles and front vents, the yellow tachometer, the red engine start button/manettino sports setting dial on the steering wheel and the alloy pedals all cross into sports car territory. The cruise control buttons are renamed ‘pit speed’.
As with the exterior styling, the interior of the F12 Berlinetta doesn’t aim to bowl you over with overstated aggression. The devil is in the detail and the details are really quite perfect.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine output and configuration: 545kW/690Nm 6.3 V12 petrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: carbon-ceramic front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Driving the F12 Berlinetta around town is easy, comfortable and cossetting. Except for its width, it’s even quite simple to reverse park it.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission slurs effortlessly between gears and the magnetic adaptive suspension in Bumpy Road mode – yes, its actual name – delivers staggeringly subtle ride-quality for a vehicle wearing 35-aspect tyres.
With 515Nm on tap from 2000rpm and with a kerb weight of 1630kg – the latter near identical to a Porsche 911 Turbo S – this naturally aspirated Ferrari finds the speed limit from traffic lights on light throttle as effortlessly as any turbocharged car.
Start to tickle the accelerator, however, and even in the manettino dial’s standard Sport mode the transmission awakens. Dig a bit deeper, and, particularly in the wet, those fat rear tyres start to want to drill into bitumen.
The 6.3-litre V12 spins up faster than almost any production engine I’ve driven; a light flywheel sees peak torque at 6000rpm give way to 545kW of power at 8250rpm and onwards to an 8700rpm redline quicker than you can grab a paddle.
Suddenly everything the F12 Berlinetta wants to do is done at around twice the pace of regular sports cars. Gearshifts are instant, speed piles on with relenting force, the steering becomes millimetrically sharp and the shrill shriek of that V12 would leave Pavarotti blushing.
There is little call to move the manettino dial from Sport to Race, let alone to CT-Off that culls the traction control and ESP-Off that disengages stability control. That is partly because on our tight testing roads this Ferrari quickly shows it relishes a light touch, shunning a ham-fisted approach like it shuns wild styling.
Firstly, how Ferrari has managed to engineer a front-end with such flat and sharp response when it has twelve cylinders ahead of the driver and also rides superbly around town on massive wheels, is beyond staggering.
It simply becomes a matter of guiding the creamy steering through corners while using the centre white lines like tracing paper.
Subtle inputs deliver incredible pace. Attempt to work the throttle early on corner exit as you would in a mid-engined Ferrari to cancel out understeer, however, and the F12 Berlinetta can start to feel snappy. Call it a driver error, though – its reward for smooth, subtle inputs is devastatingly fast, supercar speed.
Safety features: Dual front and side airbags, ABS, ESC, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Call this the V12 coupe club. If you want fire, look at the Aventador. The Vanquish is elderly, while the 1000Nm AMG S65 probably comes closest to the F12 Berlinetta in terms of speed and luxury, but possibly not outright handling.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
At the start of this test we wondered what buyers could expect when they fork out $700,000-plus for a new car. By the end of the test the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta provided some convincing answers.
From its exterior and interior, to its performance and dynamics, there is constant tension between sophistication and aggression with this V12-engined two seater.
What at one time feels like a comfortable, soothing, silken GT coupe can instantly transform into a battle-hardened supercar, a vehicle of staggering capability but also one that prizes a delicate touch and refuses to be bullied.
Ferrari reckons its ‘V12-isti’ set of buyers wouldn’t look to its mid-engined V8 models, even though a 488 GTB is cheaper, lighter and faster.
There is no refuting the broader character and greater breadth of achievement of the F12 Berlinetta though. As it turns out, that is exactly what $700,000 buys.
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