Car reviews - Ferrari - F12 Berlinetta - Coupe
Brutal V12 performance, attention-grabbing exterior design, demonic engine note, scalpel-sharp steering, everything
Room for improvement
Glitchy console storage lid, pricing
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23 Apr 2015
Price and equipment
This is usually the part of a review where we line-up all of the test vehicle’s rivals and compare price and specification to judge how it stacks up for value.
Um, it’s a $690,745 Ferrari. Plus on-road costs. No amount of talking up the exclusivity or highlighting the other-worldy nature of the drive experience can make you forget about the price-tag.
It’s hefty. It is the most expensive Ferrari on offer in Australia, edging out its smaller, but just as wild 458 Speciale A drop-top that retails for $635,000.
The only other supercar that is even in the same realm, price-wise at least, is its Italian arch-rival Lamborghini and its off-the-chart Aventador LP700-4 coupe at $761,500.
Porsche’s 911 Turbo S is not an unfair comparison at $466,900, and the $645,000 (driveaway) Rolls-Royce Wraith is big and fast but it ain’t no supercar.
Aside from a coveted Ferrari badge, and a future that will involve being stopped in the street by strangers who want to talk about, look at, touch and get inside your car, potential F12 Berlinetta owners can also look forward to a decent level of kit including Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a supreme cabin, and a fairly robust resale value.
But again, no-one is going to ask a Ferrari dealer if the F12 Berlinetta has seven seats, or loads of storage, or if it has shopping bag hooks in the boot.
For the record, it doesn’t have any of these things.
Before we step inside the Ferrari flagship, a note or two on the exterior.
The F12 Berlinetta is unmistakeably Ferrari, but there are striking touches that take it to the next level, such as the deeply sculpted aerodynamic vents that start with lines at the tip of the bonnet, before traveling up over the wheel arches through the wings.
It is a design highlight, and a definite talking point – and talking is something you do a lot of when you get out of this car. Everyone, and I mean everyone, gives a second, or third look.
During one day of driving around Victoria's Yarra Valley, every stop we made involved detailed discussions about the car, which again added to the feeling of being a celebrity for a couple of days.
“Yes, you can take a picture.”“Yes, it is incredible to drive.”“No, you can't get in it.”“No you can absolutely under no circumstances drive this $700,000 Ferrari as I just met you and you are drooling.”
You get the picture. Oh, did we mention we had the car in Melbourne on F1 Grand Prix weekend? That made it even more popular. In saying that, we noticed a lot of highly affordable Ferrari 458s on the road that weekend, but we did not spot another F12 Berlinetta, which made it feel even more special.
Back to the cabin. It is a wonderful space to spend a day or two, surrounded by the stunning, ultra premium tan Poltrona Frau leather that is everywhere, as is real carbon-fibre. Not just “carbon-look” panelling that is on everything these days either. Actual carbon-fibre.
The two-tone black and tan dash is a winner and all surfaces feel luxurious and expertly crafted. You can literally touch, see and feel the precision and passion that has gone into the interior.
The seat-backs are set back a little too far, but they offer a perfect combination of firm, yet comfortable.
Ferrari's familiar 'human machine interface' ergonomic layout for switchgear and instruments has everything facing the driver's seat, and there are clever LCD displays on either side of the tachometer showing all the information traditionally displayed by a dash-mounted screen, including navigation.
But some of the instruments and the gear-shift paddles, take some getting used to.
The automatic gearbox does away with the traditional shifter in favour of three buttons in the centre stack – R for reverse, Auto for when you want to move forward, and Launch for launch control, which we did not touch.
After reversing, forward drive is selected by simply pulling on the up-shift paddle.
The Formula 1-style steering wheel is a serious bit of equipment and hints at the performance capabilities of the race-bred Italian beast. Indicator controls are housed on the wheel near the top, which feels awkward at first, but by the time we handed the keys back we decided that all cars should have the controls on the wheel.
Perhaps not, but it works here.
There is no big multimedia screen, but there is an unusual narrow information display on the passenger side of the dash that details stuff that is normally reserved for the driver, such as engine speed, road speed and the gear selected.
Our incredibly cynical passenger found it hilarious (“faster driver, faster!”) but it is a cool point of difference. Why should the passenger be kept out of the loop?Behind the front seats is a plush leather-strapped parcel shelf and back further still is a boot that offers more cargo space than expected. More than enough room for a pair of Gucci weekend bags, and then some.
A minor quality niggle was the centre storage compartment that got stuck and didn’t open on a number of occasions, but that's about it for the negatives in the cabin.
Engine and transmission
Until the hybrid-powered LaFerrari turned up and ruined the party, the F12 Berlinetta was the fastest Prancing Horse-badged model from 0-100km/h in recent times.
While the petrol-electric Italian can hit 100km/h in 2.8 seconds, the F12 takes 3.1 seconds.
Helping it achieve that blistering sprint time is the bonkers 6.3-litre V12 powerplant, pumping out 546kW at 8500rpm, and 690Nm at 6000rpm, with 80 per cent available from just 2500rpm.
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot to like about the engine, but it’s the look of thing that impresses first.
As one of our correspondents noted, some onlookers audibly gasped when the bonnet was lifted, revealing the massive red wrinkle-finish powder-coated plenum chambers that are a work of art in themselves.
Turning the key and pressing the big red Engine Start button on the steering wheel for the first time sent shivers up and down the spine. It also caused us to giggle like an insane clown but that says more about us than the car. A quick rev of the superb V12 while in neutral produces one of the best sounds we have ever heard.
In case you hadn't guessed, this is not a vehicle to choose as a daily commuter. Sitting in heavy traffic on Melbourne's disastrous Punt Road moving at 4km/h is almost an insult to the car.
It also sits so low that one must engage the suspension lifting function when navigating driveways and speed bumps.
Thankfully we took it out of town to stretch its legs and terrified/delighted ourselves in the process.
The unfathomable acceleration combined with the addictive engine note is like nothing we have experienced.
Punting our right foot heavily into the aluminium pedal planted us firmly to the back of the figure-hugging driver's seat, with the unparalleled straight-line performance an astonishing highlight.
Ferrari's seven-speed dual clutch transmission is eerily intuitive, changing up and down at the perfect time, every time. Switch to manual model, and it feels even quicker and once we had sampled manual mode it was difficult to go back to auto.
The F12 is alarmingly quick. It's hard to believe any machine can reach the legal speed limit so rapidly, but it does, and it is a joy to experience. And again, the sound of lightening fast upshifts at the redline is a noise that will stay with you forever and heavily reminiscent of the V12 Formula 1 days.
It is unlikely many will care, but the official combined fuel consumption is 15 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions are 350 grams per kilometre.
Ride and handling
The F12’s utterly brutal straight-line performance is undoubtedly a showstopper, but show the big 1500kg rear-drive coupe a corner and it knows exactly what to do.
Depending on the tightness of the bend, the Ferrari acted like a smaller sportscar – it is more than four and a half metres long and almost two metres wide – breezing through winding roads at blistering speeds. In very tight spots it’s perhaps not as at home as, say, an all-wheel drive hot hatch like the VW Golf R, but let’s not compare apples with very expensive Ferraris.
The sheer power combined with the weight means the F12 can be a handful at times, and that savage power is always trying to spin the rear wheels, even in a straight line.
Just a small amount of steering can provoke oversteer when under even light acceleration, but the unobtrusive stability control managed to gather things up when required.
The ride is completely flat, with zero roll, and the Ferrari offers a few driving modes to cater to individual preferences.
We stuck with Sport and Race mode as the other options sounded borderline irresponsible for road use. There is a sizeable difference between the two modes, to the point where it is more noticeable than on any other car we can remember.
Sport offers a calmer ride, thanks to a softening of the dampers, and is suitable for whatever day-today driving Ferrari owners do. Race on the other hand was so stiff that we felt our man boobs jiggling even on smooth roads.
That mode also makes the exhaust note even shoutier, and while it is fun for a while, it is almost unnecessary given how perfectly tuned the Sport setting is.
Some of Victoria’s poorer roads proved challenging, with the F12’s big 20-inch wheels skipping a little over bumpy and loose surfaces.
The steering has a heavy feel, but it is so effortlessly direct that it gives a feeling of being completely connected with the road – more so than in any other car.
While some carbon composite brakes can be soggy when cold, the Ferrari's grabbed a little at low speed, but performed admirably when scrubbing higher speeds. You would need a very fast track to find their limits.
Safety and servicing
Being a very expensive, niche supercar, the F12 has not been crash tested by ANCAP.
Servicing costs are unlikely to concern the well-heeled F12 owner, but just for reference, Ferrari offers seven years of general maintenance which is included in the purchase price and covers scheduled services, parts, oils and labour.
For the uninitiated, it is difficult to understand the fanaticism surrounding Ferrari cars and the brand in general. But to drive one, even briefly, is to become immediately hooked, and for the decades of passionate ranting about the Prancing Horse brand to all suddenly make sense.
Even in Ferrari’s exclusive catalogue, the F12 Berlinetta sits right at the top. There are pricey cars out there and then there are cars like this. Just a handful of people will ever own one in Australia, so it is clearly a rare beast, which for many will partly justify the $700k outlay.
But those lucky few that have one in their garage will get to enjoy the pure exhilaration that is consistently delivered by the F12 over and over again.
They will also have to contend with the celebrity status that comes with being seen in one, whether they like it or not.
And we reckon it is worth putting up with the gawkers, the photos, the nosey parkers and the questioners, because the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is quite simply one of the most completely perfect cars on the road.
Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, from $761,500, plus on-road costs
It is a good $60,000 more than the F12, but the Lambo offers all-wheel drive and look-at-me exterior styling that cannot be mistaken for anything but a Raging Bull model. You are either a Lamborghini person or a Ferrari person.
Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, from $479,995, plus on-road costs
If Italians aren’t your thing, then you could take a look at an Aston. It might be getting on a bit but the big Brit is a classy supercar offering its own style. It's performance can’t match the Ferrari though.
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