The F12berlinetta is the current model that defines the iconic brand: two seats, rear-wheel drive and a front-mounted V12. Itâ€™s a car numbering among its antecedents the illustrious and elegant 365 GTB/4 Daytona and the 275 GTB from the 1960s. The F12 offers punchy performance, but thatâ€™s not its sole preserve. Sophisticated underpinnings work with the driver too, and theÂ Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ looks the part also.
Itâ€™s kind of a clichÃ©, but the V12 in the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta sounds like a demonic symphony orchestra on the move. Thereâ€™s the now-common bark on start-up, there are light crackles on the overrun, some whine, and what sounds like a circular-saw in an echo chamber from about 3000rpm.
Use more throttle and the whole band strikes up in an orgy of classic V12 race-car audio chicâ€¦
By about 6000rpm youâ€™re simply beginning to lose track of which instrument is playing.
Instead, with the throttle wide open, youâ€™re staring at one of three shift indicator lights illuminated. A thousand or so revs higher and the second light illuminates, with the third, insistent light dispatching you on a guilt trip to change up â€“ but the revs are still climbing and thereâ€™s yet more performance up to around 8000rpmâ€¦
By that stage the eyes are popping and youâ€™re gripping the wheel like your life depends on it â€“ and arguably it does.
Ferrari F12berlinetta 2016 Review
At lower engine speeds the V12 sounds like itâ€™s revving faster than it actually is. Much of the time in commuter traffic itâ€™s revving as low as 1500rpm or less and no more than 3000rpm. At 100km/h itâ€™s ticking over at about 2200rpm and is barely audible.
NVH is almost irrelevant in a car like this, but if you must know, the tyres on the optional 20-inch forged alloy rims are the principal source of noise when cruising.
The engine drives through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that is basically foolproof, whether left in auto or used manually with the shift paddles. If it forsakes smoothness for efficiency, it does get the job done â€“ and in that regard itâ€™s completely in tune with the rest of the vehicle.
The DCT rides the clutch from a standing start unless the driver serves up a big dollop of throttle. So on light throttle openings the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ wonâ€™t run away from you. In this respect itâ€™s docile and easy enough to use around town. It feels like a powerful dog waiting to be let off the leash, but itâ€™s also quite obedient.
And on the subject of daily useability, the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ has adjustable suspension ride height for getting in and out of driveways without damaging the underbody, but the Ferrari provided relatively generous ground clearance even with the suspension left in normal mode.
Returning to the drivetrain and the way it delivers power in harmony with the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ dynamics, the big Ferrari is very stable and composed in most situations. Where the California T will hand you bags of oversteer at the slightest provocation, the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ is not as easily induced to drift the tail out. Thatâ€™s not to say thereâ€™s any shortage of power, itâ€™s more about how well tied down the rear suspension is.
Yet itâ€™s not a harsh-riding car. In fact itâ€™s very likely the overall suppleness of the suspension that keeps the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ properly planted. Ride can be adjusted from a button on the steering wheel for the magnetorheological dampers to respond faster to bumpy roads. This makes the F12 quite acceptable for everyday use on roads that are less than billiard-table smooth.
If thereâ€™s one thing that really stands out about the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ , itâ€™s the phenomenal steering response. Imagine a car with steering that is so direct â€“ with front-end grip to match â€“ that it requires a previously unknown level of finesse from the driver to turn the car into a slower bend without it spearing towards the apex at high velocity.
The F12 is even sharper in its steering response than the California T tested previously. Thereâ€™s a knack to cornering smoothly in the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ : lighter and slower application of torque to the steering wheel, increasing once the car has made that initial change of direction. Itâ€™s the exact opposite of most front-engined (and particularly front-wheel drive) cars youâ€™ll ever drive.
In that respect the F12 is clearly more focused as a driverâ€™s car than the California T â€“ which I wouldnâ€™t have thought possible from personal experience until I actually stepped into the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ .
What also distinguishes the F12 from the California T is that there are more demands placed on the driver to learn about the F12â€™s steering and handling traits. Where the California T can be a weapon from the moment you climb in for the first time, the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ is subtler and capable of ultimately greater feats, but it takes a while to learn about the car and determine whatâ€™s possible.
For all the added cost to purchase the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ over the California T (starting at $690,745 before the optional extras), the larger car is a bit â€˜grungierâ€™, for lack of a better term. Thereâ€™s a certain sophistication thatâ€™s obscured by what seems like a contrived rawness. As a further example of this, the brakes feature whopping great rotors and the pads clamp down on them accompanied by a bass vibration that signals these are some serious brakes. Yet the F12 pulls up nice and softly with just a gentle application of the pedal.
The seats in the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ are excellent and thereâ€™s a range of adjustments to suit most drivers, including the side bolsters for the base and squab, plus lumbar support. My one niggle was the level of steering column reach adjustment. I found the wheel was too far away (at armsâ€™ length) with the seat set to the right distance from the pedals.
If weâ€™re going to talk ergonomics, that will add another 500 words to this reviewâ€™s word count. There is very little in the F12 that is logically analogous to switchgear placement and operation in other cars. I like the indicators (toggles on the steering wheel spokes), but they can be hard to locate with steering lock applied. Use of the headlight high-beam button/flasher below the left spoke would take a little while to become second nature. Mirrored below the right spoke is the wiper button to clear the windscreen.
A single point controller on the dash between the steering column and the driverâ€™s door provides the means to switch between different music sources, but tracks/channels and volume are adjusted from toggles located behind the steering wheel spokes (press the nipple in the centre of the button to trigger Siri from your smartphone).
Without a gear lever, the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ shifts to drive by hauling back on one of the shift paddles. For neutral, pull back on both paddles at the same time. Reverse is actuated from a button in the centre console. Also in the centre console is a launch control button and an auto button to switch the transmission from full automatic to manual mode. The electric park brake is a finger pull below the infotainment controller and thereâ€™s a race-style facility on the dash left of the steering column for setting pit lane speed and taking in vehicle information such as tyre pressures and water/oil temperatures. Donâ€™t forget the Manettino on the wheel at the four oâ€™clock position for different driving modes.
In other words, there is a truckload of gadgets in the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ â€“ and they all tend to be scattered hither and yon, with trial and error learning barely adequate to find out the various locations, uses and operational parameters in just one night.
But the basics can be learned quite quickly with a briefing from the man handing over the Ferrariâ€™s keys, and the rest can be picked up over time.
What was the ultimate finding? I walked away from the Ferrari F12berlinettaÂ just a little bit smitten, I have to admit. Would that there was more than a 24-hour period to get to know this car better â€“ in every aspect.
That said, measuring a rear track too wide for the car to be parked behind the house, and priced at over $720,000 with options, the F12 was also a car I was relieved to hand back. Itâ€™s a car to be loved for the ownership perhaps, not for the custodianship.
2016 Ferrari F12berlinetta pricing and specifications:
Price: $720,095 (as tested, plus on-road costs)
Engine: 6.3-litre twelve-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Safety Rating: TBA