In the rarefied world of fast Ferraris, one is faster and more rarefied than them all.
Words: Denis Droppa in Maranello, Italy
The F12berlinetta (yes, it's written that way) replaces the 599 GTB as the top pony in the prancing horse stable and we travelled to Ferrari's home - which included a blast around the Fiorano circuit - to attend the two-seater coupe's world launch earlier this week.
It's the most powerful street-legal Ferrari ever, and the 545kW and 690Nm produced by its 6.3-litre V12 places it in the power output realms of Formula One cars.
Resisting the turbocharging trend, the Italian firm's endowed its pranciest pony with a large naturally-aspirated V12 that revs to 8700rpm and sounds like armageddon unleashed.
Power's fired to the rear wheels via a transaxle layout with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission mounted at the back. Apart from its claimed ability to blast the 0-100km/h sprint in a superbike-like 3.1 seconds and a top speed ability of over 340km/h, the F12 introduces aerodynamic innovations such as an Aero Bridge which uses channels on the sides of the bonnet to create downforce.
REWRITES THE RULE BOOK
Rather than an evolution of its very rapid predecessor, the 599 GTB, the Ferrari F12berlinetta’s rewritten the rule book with major leaps in performance and roadholding. It’s also the most aerodynamically efficient Ferrari ever and at 200km/h has nearly double the downforce of the 599 GTB.
But before I put such matters to the test I have to escape the urban bounds of Maranello with its traffic and 50km/h speed limit. It’s an important test as Ferrari’s designed the F12berlinetta to be more than just an angry track special, but also a useable daily drive.
And so it turns out to be. As I head through traffic towards the promise of hills and twisty roads beyond, Ferrari’s most powerful-ever road car feels civilised and almost benign in the slow-moving urban environment. For a car designed to ravage race tracks it feels content at a plodding pace, moving smoothly through the congestion as it catches admiring glances from passers-by.
The ride’s firm but a press of a button tweaks the adaptive dampers to better soak up bumps. It stops short of being uncomfortably spine-jarring. It’s docile enough to commute with. Really.
Finally we break free of the city confines into a stretch of open road, and I’m able to thrust the throttle in anger for the first time. Like a grenade being tossed into a crowded bunker, all hell breaks loose. The Ferrari explodes into sound and fury.
Holy cow, this thing accelerates.
My passenger and I, neither of us strangers to sports cars, exchange incredulous glances at the sheer brutality of the thrust. Perhaps even more impressive than the aforementioned 3.1 sec 0-100km/h figure is that the F12 reaches 200km/h in just 8.5. The speed with which that free-revving V12 races to its 8 700rpm redline is astonishing.
But what has my hairs standing on end is the predatory howl. It adds a fitting soundtrack to the beast unleashed, and few sounds in the world can compete with the sonic drama of a high-revving twelve-cylinder. I feel like I’m inside a V12 Velociraptor with a big hunger and a bad attitude.
After some fun and games on twisty mountain passes, our test drive ends with a few laps around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track. Because of the big engine up front, I’d expected a powerful grand tourer with great stability in fast sweeps but some nose-heaviness in tighter corners. But the F12 delivers quick, point-and-squirt handling of the nimblest sort, the front end showing no reluctance to turn-in briskly.
The engine’s mounted far back in the bay to optimise weight distribution, giving the F12 a 46-54 front-rear split more akin to a mid-engined car. It all boils down to neutral handling balance and a car that feels much lighter than its 1525kg mass.
The F12berlinetta, it turns out, is the fastest road-legal Ferrari ever to lap Fiorano with a time of 1min 23 seconds – a full 3.5 seconds quicker than its 599 GTB forerunner. It’s the complete racetrack package: brutally fast but balanced and forgiving.
The E-Diff ensures early-on-the-throttle corner exits by managing torque distribution between the rear wheels, and 545kW of potentially lurid tailsliding is kept in check by a stability control system offering various levels of intervention.
It can be disarmed completely if you’re feeling in a Fernando Alonso kind of mood.
The carbon ceramic brakes arrest velocity with seemingly enough force to threaten the windscreen popping from its frame, and they remain fade-free after repeated hard laps. The seven-speed dual clutch gearshift is a brilliant piece of engineering, and swaps cogs so slick ‘n smooth it’ll win over the most hardened manual-clutching purist.
No grand tourer this, but a thoroughbred track machine, with the bonus that it feels smooth and civilised in traffic. And styling that might just help you to pick up women. Una bella macchina.
Want one? Wave around R5-million at Viglietti Motors and get onto the one-year waiting list.