2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Review

When only fast matters
By Imthishan Giado

 2014 Ferrari F12

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” 
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

We live in a world where a road car – driven from the rear wheels, no less – has 730bhp. Seven hundred and thirty brake horsepower. That’s nearing what Fernando Alonso uses for his Sunday drive on the world’s toughest racing circuits – except that his car doesn’t have to survive more than a few hours, doesn’t have to carry your shopping every week and seat more than one wiry Spainard, or park neatly in a mall car park. Ferrari didn’t give me the keys to a car, they handed the helm of a scientific impossibility.

2014 Ferrari F12

And boy does it look good. When the car was shown in Geneva in 2012 it honestly didn’t wow me, Ferrari being masters of taking the bad press shot usually against a bland black background.  In the flesh, the F12 is utterly captivating. Where the old 599 drew unkind comparisons to a Corvette the F12 is like no GT car on the planet, dominated by the phallic implications of that long sensual hood and boasting perfect proportions from stem to stern – speaking of the latter, does that tail remind you of a taut g-string? But I digress…

With cars like this there is a tremendous temptation to embellish reality in the name of falling from a great height into the manufacturer’s open, five-star luxury lap. Hence why you’ll note that most reviews of the F12 focus on its spectacularly nerdy ‘aero-bridges’ which channel air around that body and trick brake cooling ducts that open up when the car detects the action getting too hot for its humongous stoppers.

2014 Ferrari F12

I have no doubt that those devices function as intended, but they also look flipping great and cast the F12 in a different sphere to more, shall we say pedestrianly-styled cars like the MP4-12C or the R8. One drawback of that sensational length and erm, girth – this car will only just fit into a mall car space. Realistically in fact, only with the help of two friendly mobile car wash employees so I implore any and all future F12 owners – valet parking. It exists for a reason.

2014 Ferrari F12

Cross through the long low door and into another one of Ferrari’s wilfully odd ‘new’ interiors. Here’s what’s disconcertingly about it  – it’s incredibly well-made. Italian cars are supposed to have stitching that comes apart from the seam in the first 100 kilometres, glue that melts when you so much as look at it …but no. Everything fits together well like a crisply tailored suit, the A/C blows cold, the seats are firm but comfortable and even the passenger gets a little readout of the current speed and RPM so they can know exactly how terrified to be.

Oddly, the steering wheel didn’t irritate me as much as it should have. Maybe I’ve just driven enough modern Fezzas now to know where everything is, but after a couple of days behind the wheel your muscle memory kicks in and reminds you that the horn is on buttons at 10 and 2 o’clock, not on the boss, you indicate with your thumbs and flash with your left pinky and so on. OK, so the whole idea of randomly deciding to redesign the steering wheel is a bit bonkers but hey! This is a supercar. It should be encouraged to be different and mad and it’s no dealbreaker.

Pity I can’t be so complimentary about the infotainment/navigation system. Earlier electronics packages felt like they were designed in the language of il commendatore and then hastily translated in Spanish and then into English. Not so now – everything works but it’s getting it to work that’s the hard part.  The instrument cluster is flanked by duelling four-way controllers that respectively command telemetry on your left screen and nav/media/phone functions on the right one. If you’re thinking, “gosh that sounds complicated!” you’re absolutely right, like trying to rub your face while solving calculus and/or a crime. Stop it Imthishan – I’m thinking like a consumer reviewer, worrying about usability. Obviously, Ferrari owners are rich enough to have people to tell them where everything is. Or move it, if they don’t like the current position of said real estate.

2014 Ferrari F12

What you want to know is what the F12 is like to drive! Does it make tiny tingling sensations in your hands and feet, does the 6.3-litre 730bhp V12 absolutely tear your face off and try to feed you the wet bits while screaming to a gravity-defying top speed of 340kph, the seven speed dual-clutch thumping gears into your back like a raptor lunging for the kill?

You bet it does. The first day with an F12 (Manettino firmly in base Sport map) is a process of acclimatisation. The basic controls – pedals, steering wheel – are so lightly weighted that there’s precious little feedback about what the car is doing. Forget the GT-R, this is the real PlayStation supercar, all soft responses and unearthly feedback. What you are intensely aware of is how big this Goliath is; threading it through traffic is an intimidating affair, huge blindspots from the massive C-pillars, the nose stretching away into the horizon, immense power just crying out to be released at all times. It’s easy to drive, but a frustrating tease as well because you know there’s 730bhp awaiting you which you just can’t use.

2014 Ferrari F12

I mean it – you can’t use it. Flex your foot even a little in fifth and it’ll hit 120kph in a moment’s breath – where can you go faster than that in town? Sure, it’s very refined, the ride is good (forget about that ‘bumpy road’ button on the steering wheel, it doesn’t seem to do anything at all) but try giving it a bit of welly for even an instant and the F12 will find ways of taking your licence away with breathtaking velocity. So to stay legal you end up driving it round town like that Camry, short shifting, leaving the box in auto, cruising into gaps on the back of that effortless 509lb/ft of torque. Posing, basically.

Do not let me downplay the base Sport mode. It’s very good purely because it gives you the illusion that you are able to corral 730 horses. Put your foot down and there’s no slip, no wobble of the back end, merely immense traction from the back end as the ECU, electronic diff and huge Michelins jointly work out how much power to safely deliver to the fleshy mortal behind the wheel.  When they do, you are catapulted down the road – though it’s not the crazy sensation you’re hoping it will be, chiefly because the F12 is so well-insulated that the sound of the V12 doesn’t quite filter into the cabin.

Yes, the F12 is a little…quiet. Look, I’m sorry to be even typing this but it’s the God’s honest truth. And even with the windows down this isn’t the crazy bark of V12s of yore, that spine-tingling mixture of mechanical noises and crazy-high rpms. Smooth? Yes. Loud? Undoubtedly. Revs like a motorcycle up to 8,700rpm? Instantly. But passionate? Only if you haven’t heard a 308 turn your spine into chocolate.

There is a remedy for this apathy – click the manettino to Race. You will of course now be in day 2 of your F12 experience. Despite what a certain exceptionally famous BBC presenter says, you can get used to the otherworldly quick steering, just two turns lock to lock. In Race mode, the shifts are quicker and the box stays in lower gears, the E-diff takes a more active role in proceedings and both traction control and ESP are slacked off. If you want to be fast, you need to be in Race mode, simple.

2014 Ferrari F12

Except it’s not that simple. From mild mannered to fearsome fangs, the car’s attitude is notably more tolerant of oversteer. In fact, much like a gung-ho F1 driver, the car wants to be thrown into a corner as hard as possible, using the nailed-down nature of the apex-seeking front end to find the perfect arc while the back achieves a few extra degrees of yaw to help you set  up the exit. What all that means is thus: chuck it in, and keep your foot in as well so the car gets the green light to go max attack. No matter how hamfisted you are, the incredible traction control system will not oversteer you into the nearest sand dune – you just have to have faith. Which is jolly hard with a car costing AED1.17 million, and that’s just the base price!

Driving the F12 hard is a very odd experience. The sensation is strangely quixotic: you’re cocooned in this leather-lined ode to high style and Italian fashion and yet outside the car, there is the savage snarl of a high-strung Modenese V12, the world blurs through your windows, the way this car devours corners demands absolute respect and attention at all times. I’d love to pretend I was a hero who drove everywhere with ESC off hanging the arse out but truth be told, Race was the preferred steady-state for a mere mortal of skin and bone like myself. 

What’s truly impressive is just how well the wizards at Ferrari have managed to make a car like the F12 border on accessible for complete novices – you’ll really think that you’re capable of piloting something with F1 car levels of power using your superhuman senses to perfectly proportion traction to each of those fat rear tyres but reality you’ve got nothing to do with it – it’s all software. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.

2014 Ferrari F12

Verdict

What an amazing machine. What an incredible testament to the power of technology. What a beautiful piece of mechanical sculpture, speed translated into physical being. There’s no question that if you were lucky enough to buy an F12, you would be completely satisfied – from grand tourer to track rat, this car does it all, a triumphant return to form for the wizards of Modena. Don’t forget, this may well be the last naturally-aspirated V12 Ferrari ever makes bereft of hybrid gubbins, so it’s a milestone as well.

Do I love it though? Hand on heart, cards on table…no, not as much as I wanted to. Only a fool would deny that it’s a very good, very complete car, but paradoxically, that precision and attention to detail is off putting. There’s something artificial separating you from the mighty heart of this car, an barrier comprised of 1s and 0s between blood and brain that keeps you from truly being its master. It’s the difference between a paid companion and a wife; one serves your every need unquestionably, fulfills your every fantasy. The other enthralls and enrages in equal measure, asks unreasonably of you…and yet you wouldn’t have it any other way.

As Huxley said, I want sin – and the Ferrari F12 is much too good for that.

Specs
2014 Ferrari F12
Price: AED1.17 million (base price, no one ever orders a base F12)
Engine: 6.3-litre V12, 730bhp @ 8500rpm, 509lb ft @ 6000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 15.7L/100km, but if you care about fuel economy, you’re mad
Performance: 0-100kph 3.1 seconds, Top speed 340kph
Weight: 1630kg

11 responses to “2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Review”

  1. G's Honest Truth says:

    Not sure you qualify to give a verdict on a vehicle that I believe you won’t be able to buy. Justice to the F12 would only come from a person that has the option to buy this or any other vehicle of equivalent price. And no, I’m not talking about the guys that splash cash to buy a car as if it were pocket change. You should conduct a test drive with potential owner and have them give you the yay or nay.

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t review these types of vehicles, but a car like this shouldn’t have one’s personal opinion unless it’s well in your purchasing consideration.

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] By that definition, the only person who should be reviewing Ferraris is Jeremy Clarkson. That’s after he got famous and wealthy, of course.

      I think you’ll find virtually every journalist in the world is incapable of buying most of the magnificent cars they drive. What qualifies us to review them is the breadth of experience we have from having driven virtually every single kind of vehicle imaginable in conditions afforded to us by manufacturers that allow testing the complete breadth of a car’s ability – far, far beyond what most owners would ever engage in.

      We love cars, sometimes more than the people making them do!

  2. Kevin Hackett says:

    G’s Honest Truth – what a load of crap.
    If that were true there would be NO SUCH THING as motoring, travel, food or technology journalism. What gives one the right to review cars like this is not the ability to purchase one, rather the ability to compare like with like. If the only cars we ever got to drive were Fords and Kias then you’d have a point. But that’s simply not the case for most of us.

  3. Ronster says:

    I third Imthishan and Kevin…

    people that buy these cars as a prize for their hard work will always have a biased view affected by their love for the brand, or their lifelong mental preparation to make it into the club. most of them are not equipped to be able to give the car an unbiased opinion, because if they did, they would never buy one…

    That’s why most car journos that can afford these cars that are not Clarkson end up in a Porsche, most likely a GT3… and when they do venture into Ferrari land, they’re smitten and do get into the Ferrari club against every logical fiber in their body… cause Fezza’s just do that to you even if they are the worst Ferraris… not sure any other brand has the same ability to overcome logic.

  4. Zman says:

    I enjoyed the review. Just disappointed there was no mention of cup holders…

    I can’t afford this car either. Even if I could… Where would I put the car seats for my twins?

    😀

  5. Surprised. says:

    Seeing how this review mentions some really irrelevant things about a supercar, the author of this article only seems fit to be reviewing mid-size economy saloons. Sorry.
    As for the question of usable speed ? Again, please stick to reviewing mid-size sedans.
    Not bad though, as a generic review.

  6. Oh dear, Imthi. It seems that in your review, and the responses to it, you may have picked at a sore. Herpes of the disgruntled Porsche owner (or his like) is a disease best avoided, so your generic response is spot on!

  7. Surprised. says:

    Sadly every other reviewer seems to have an extremely different perspective on the car. And oddly enough you dont seem to take criticism in a positive manner either. I see a trend.

  8. admin says:

    [Imthishan] thanks for your ‘constructive criticism’ Surprised!

  9. jessica says:

    I have owned new Porsche 911s since I was 23, I love Porsches! My favorite is an 88 Turbo-Look since it can never be tamed and has no power steering or brakes, not even abs, with the only option besides radio being cruise control and paint to sample, best of all, it will ALWAYS challenge the driver to be more if they dare. Now I am older and my research has told me that Ferrari has matured to be as reliable as a Porsche with a major extra BANG of excitement and styling a 911 will never have, and many options my 88 never heard of. I want to get the F12 first because I can, yet mostly, after all the research I have done, there is no other auto I desire more, find as comfortable getting in and out of as well as room inside while feeling something I call magic to forever keep me interested as much as my 88 Porsche Turbo-Look and allow me to always feel it is a new auto despite it aging down the road. I doubt few will understand what it means to have an auto which one never gets tired of, it is as though it is alive as it becomes a part of you, it is much more than how fast it goes and how well it handles come 30 years later when there will always be something better…
    I do not review autos, I am a owner who cherishes what I go after.

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