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Top Gear drives the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

So you’ve actually driven the new Ferrari F12? What’s
it like?

Let’s not get
carried away, because we need to put this car into context first. And the best
way to do that is to put some facts at your fingertips. So, open brain and
absorb the following: it has 730bhp and 509lb ft of torque, stats which give it
a 211mph maximum and a 0-62mph of 3.1secs. 0-124mph is dealt with in 8.5secs,
so 0-100mph must be around the 6.5 second mark. That makes this an
astonishingly fast car – Ferrari’s fastest ever road car, in fact. Quicker than
the Enzo, quicker than the 599 GTO. And not just in a straight line. It gets
round Ferrari’s own Fiorano track faster than both of them, too.

So it’s quite something, right?

It certainly
is. And these facts matter, because the car is so approachable, so easy, and so
friendly to drive that if you didn’t know the numbers you’d be forgiven for
thinking this was ‘just’ a replacement for the 599 GTB.

But without those famous rear flying buttresses…

Yes, but look
closely at the bonnet. Under CEO Amadeo Felisa, Ferrari is overlapping
aerodynamics and design to such an extent that both happen simultaneously. In
fact the holes in the front wings were proposed by the aerodynamicists, not the
stylists, after the first design proposal for the F12 was thought to lack a little
visual impact. So they also serve a particular purpose, cleaning up the airflow
down the side of the car. There are plenty of other such touches, all helping
the car slip more cleanly and securely through the air: flaps that open to aid
brake cooling, vents above the rear wheels to prevent pressure build up,
another in the centre of the bonnet to reduce air pressure on the base of the
 windscreen.

Click here for more pictures of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

All this and good looking, too…

That’s the
idea: elegance matters to Ferrari, so you won’t find ungainly spoilers and
wings on any new model. (And that includes the new Enzo. You heard it here
first…)   

But it uses the same engine as the Ferrari FF?

The basics
(V12, 6262cc, 65 degree vee angle) are the same, but thereafter it’s entirely
different. The work that’s gone on is little short of staggering. The
presentation we had on the engine alone went on for the best part of 45
minutes… They’ve tuned the harmonics of the inlet and exhaust, developed a new
oil scavenge pump for the dry sump, tested six (or was it seven?) different
injector patterns. The list is bafflingly complex and detailed. But it has to
be. As Ferrari has previously stated, the naturally aspirated V12 is the
beating heart of this company.

So let’s cut to the chase: how does it feel when
you give it the beans?

Completely
devastating. There was one stat Ferrari showed in the presentation that claimed
that as long as you’re doing over 2000rpm, from the moment you hit the throttle
you’ll have 90 per cent of maximum acceleration in 0.7 seconds or less. That is to say the thing hits pretty much
as hard at 2000rpm as it does at 8000rpm, and has near-instant pick-up and
response. Quite an achievement.

So you don’t need to use high revs?

This is the
possible flip side. The F12 has such massive punch over such a wide range and
combines that with such amazingly zingy throttle response that there’s no real
need to hit high revs. You will, of course. Often.

Would I be right in guessing that’s because it
makes some nice noises?

Yes, the F12
Berlinetta sounds incredible, a whole sweet shop of aural goodness pouring
treats into your eardrums. It’s even better when you back off (ideally in a
tunnel or next to a wall with the windows lowered) and receive a barrage of
exhaust crackles. It’s not perfect, though. Although Ferrari has fitted sound
pipes to the inlet system which are fed straight back to the front bulkhead, there’s
not as much induction noise as I would have liked.

Isn’t that a little picky?

Well, you’re
allowed to be in a car costs £239,736 (which, by the way includes a full seven
year, unlimited mileage maintenance package. Eat your heart out Kia).

Anyway, back to
that engine characteristic, of how accessible the power is. It’s true of the
whole car. This is really not a difficult thing to drive at all. Even with
730bhp through the rear wheels. Internally it was felt that the outgoing 599
was a bit top-endy – great to drive, but really great to drive if you yourself were a great driver. It rewarded Alonso, in
other words. So the principle idea of the F12 was to deliver its thrills more
readily, and not bite those who get it a bit wrong.

Click here for more pictures of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Does that mean it’s softer, then, a bit
 namby-pamby?

Oddly, quite
the reverse. It has the sharpest steering rack of any Ferrari, carbon ceramic
brakes that now have more top end bite, and bodyroll has been reduced by 30 per
cent from the 599. Turn in is 20 per cent faster, and you’ll use 15 per cent
less steering angle, the engineers claim.

But it’s been
so well honed. The brakes, steering, throttle, gearbox, all do exactly what you
expect. There’s no slack or slop at all, so you always know where you are with
it. It sounds ridiculous to say that a car with 730bhp (the same as a Pagani
Huayra, let’s not forget) is a doddle to drive, but this one really is. It
drives cleanly and precisely.

But is it fun?

OK, it’s not as
exciting as a 458. The F12 is a car for grown-ups. It’s an immensely rich and
satisfying machine, but despite its sharpness, power and ability it’s not a car
for instant, high octane thrills, and more aligned to the FF than the Italia.
It has that GT vibe. But there’s a reason for this. This type of Ferrari, the
front–engined two seat V12, is the most heavily used of all Ferraris. Owners do
more miles in them and often use them every day. So it has to be comfortable,
reliable and practical. As well as doing the driving stuff.

And is it practical?

It has a 320 litre
boot that expands to 500 litres with the neat load divider removed. Plus a
great driving position, adequate stowage and good seat comfort (although the
optional fang-like sports seats are decidedly firm). That enough?

Emphatically.

Let’s get back
to dynamic stuff then, and point out a couple more interesting things. It’s
lower, narrower and shorter than the 599 it replaces and this – together with a
chassis constructed from 12 different alloys of aluminium – helps make the F12
70kg lighter too, with a kerbweight of 1630kg. Most unusually of all for a
front engined supercar, the weight distribution is 46:54. It carries more
weight at the back.

Clever
engineering has put the double clutch gearbox (which is a complete honey,
almost as exceptional as the engine) in the back, aft of the rear axle. Either
way it means the F12 is a beautifully balanced thing, a car that works all four
tyres evenly and smoothly, that doesn’t seem to understand what understeer is
and why it should succumb to it and just feels meaty and precise and engaging
and really rather wonderful. Personally I’d like slightly weightier steering,
but for a front engined supercar, this is mesmerizing.

You like it then?

Absolutely. In
execution and direction it feels closest to the old 550 Maranello, one of my
all time favourites. This is a car you’d live with and drive and love and
admire and appreciate every day. Any day, in fact. Neither fragile nor
delicate, the F12 is bombastic, epic and howlingly fast. There’s nothing else
remotely like it.  

Want more? Click ‘play’ below as Ferrari unveils its fastest ever road car 

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