The LaFerrari may be the range-topping hypercar, but unless you were personally invited by the Italian firm, the quickest Ferrari money can buy is the F12 Berlinetta. Replacing the much-loved 599 GTB, the F12 ramps up the drama, the performance and the technology to create a successor to cars like the Daytona and the 575 Maranello.
List price is a hefty £240,083 but our test car was bumped up to £331,672, thanks to a terrifying list of options including a multitude of carbon fibre parts, titanium wheel nuts and a very slick passenger instrument display. A dream purchase, then, but does it drive like one?
The 458 Italia was the first Ferrari to showcase the new design theme, which blends aero dynamic trickery with the kind of presence and style expected from the Prancing Horse – and a fine job it did of it, too. The F12 Berlinetta applies the same ethos, although its front-engined arrangement means a longer nose is inevitable.
It’s hard not to be wowed by its looks. You can see the sweeping edges along the bonnet that are designed to channel air and provide downforce, but as well as being functional they add to the drama. The ‘hidden’ spoilers on the front wings, meanwhile, are particularly stylish. It’s neither as showy as a Lamborghini or as classically beautiful as an Aston Martin – and for many that’s perfect.
Strictly speaking, the F12 Berlinetta is a grand tourer so it should be at least somewhat comfortable and offer a nod to luggage. In actual fact the F12 is surprisingly good in this respect. There are only two seats, so that instantly means you have proper luggage space rather than a compromised attempt to carry tiny people in the back.
The luggage area has a divider allowing you to keep items secure as well as accepting fairly long loads, but it’s still probably best to give B&Q a miss.
The F12 is surprisingly easy to drive in traffic, considering the firepower under the bonnet. The gearbox is smooth in auto mode. With the wick turned down, it’s all fairly civilised. Your biggest issue is trying to keep away from other road users for fear of damaging your quarter million pound machine.
Performance and handling
Such is the F12’s power and performance, there’s actually a moment of trepidation when you find the courage to slam the throttle to the carpet. Do so and the response is immediate, electric and completely mind-scrambling. That mighty 6.3-litre V12 delivers instant response, surging forward and gathering pace at a staggering rate.
Even more impressive is how it accelerates in an effortless fashion even when you’re travelling quickly. Keep it pinned and red line in three gears and you’ll either be out of fuel, arrested or in the next county. 0-62mph is despatched in just 3.1 seconds and flat out it will reach 211mph.
Handling is remarkably benign despite the ferocious performance. The steering is super-sharp but not twitchy, although you need to keep a firm hand on the wheel when pressing on. The standard suspension setting is too stiff for most British B-roads so you need to punch the button to get the softer setting.
The manettino switch allows you to play as much as you dare with the traction (among other things). Few cars with 730bhp are, therefore, as easy to drift as the F12 Berlinetta.
Economy and environment
The upside of a naturally aspirated V12 is the laser-like response; the downside is less impressive fuel consumption and emissions. A combined figure of 17.3mpg is achievable if you drive like a bore, but realistically you will get nearer the low teens on a regular basis, especially if you make use of the performance.
Emissions are high at 350g/km of CO2. That’s higher than the hybrid LaFerrari, although the F12 is considerably cheaper.
Equipment and value
If you’re spending close to £250,000 before options you would expect a reasonable level of standard equipment. You get front and rear parking sensors plus a rear parking camera, tyre pressure monitoring, an electrically adjustable steering column, carbon-ceramic brakes, four-year warranty and seven-year maintenance programme plus the all-important tracking device with a year’s subscription. A reasonable haul, then.
It’s the options list, however, that really boggles the mind. Want the brake callipers painted black? That’s £864. A pair of Ferrari Suderia shields on your front wings will set you back £1,056. This particular F12 – being a press demonstrator – had a truly jaw-slackening £38,000 of carbon fibre bits on it. Ferrari owners like their options and Ferrari is more than happy to oblige.
The last thing you’d want to do is bend your F12 Berlinetta. Thankfully, you will have to try reasonably hard to do so. The mighty carbon brakes feel unburstable, the grip is phenomenal and – as long as you choose the appropriate setting on the manettino – the ESP and E-diff will do their best to keep you out of trouble. Should the worst happen the very stiff structure will do its best to keep you in one piece.
It’s easy to dismiss the F12 Berlinetta as just another Ferrari, but the current generation of cars manage to scale ever-more remarkable heights of performance and thrill whilst being easier to drive and live with than the predecessors. That the F12, in particular, is perfectly capable of trickling through traffic and carrying non-enthusiastic humans without fuss one moment and delivering borderline-terrifying performance the next is a testament to the engineering brains behind it.
There’s no denying it’s bloody expensive and will need deep pockets to maintain it, but the same goes for all its rivals. The Lamborghini Aventador is as quick but much less fun to live with in normal driving, the Aston Martin Vanquish is unable to keep up and neither McLaren nor Porsche have a direct competitor – yet. For the moment, then, the F12 is the baddest non-hybrid supercar on the planet.