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Ferrari F12 Berlinetta review

 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: not just an awe-inspiring supercar but also a genuinely usable Ferrari that has few of the compromises of mid-engined rivals. What: Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Where: East Anglia, UK Date: October 2013 Price: £239,352 (£308,370 as tested) Available: now Key rivals: Aston Martin Vanquish, Lamborghini Aventador, Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series, Rolls-Royce Wraith We like: soul-stirring performance, sophisticated styling, gorgeous interior We don’t like: nothing really, though it’s undeniably expensive to buy and run

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 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: first impressions The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta supersedes the 599 GTB Fiorano at the pinnacle of the Ferrari production car range. With two seats, a 6.3-litre V12 motor and, crucially, a front-mounted engine, the F12 Berlinetta (we’ll call it the F12 from here) is the sophisticated, thinking man’s Ferrari, with a nod to the Grand Tour that would simply be too tiring to undertake in the mid-engined 458 Italia. Or indeed the forthcoming Ferrari LaFerrari, the car that will actually crown the Italian manufacturer’s range for a short while, though only for the lucky few who have deep enough pockets for the 963hp hybrid hypercar. In comparison, the F12 has ‘just’ 740hp, but it retails at a third of the cost of a LaFerrari. And, goodness, 740hp through the rear wheels is still a recipe for heady levels of excitement.
 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: performance The V12 engine is all new, sits proudly under an enormous bonnet, has crackle red cam covers and, on this car, £10,000’s worth of carbon fibre engine compartment trim. Ferrari is still proud enough to show off its engines, thank goodness, rather than hide them beneath layers of soundproofing. The lengths that Ferrari went to designing this engine – indeed, all of the F12 – is surely humbling for other manufacturers. Crucially, much work has gone into making the V12 respond instantly, with the result that the engine revs rise with racing car-sharp response to the throttle. A 0-62mph time of 3.1 seconds says it all. Driver and passenger are thrust back into their seats as the F12 heads forward at speeds that are initially hard to take in. And it goes on and on, getting to double the legal road speed in, well, what seems like a few seconds more. The optional LEDs mounted in the steering wheel rim are vital because, usually, you simply don’t have time to glance down at the rev-counter. Though by 8,700rpm there’s plenty of aural warning that the Ferrari needs gear-changing attention. The transmission has seven gears and, like every Ferrari in recent years, it’s a paddle shift system that can run in manual or as a full automatic. The double-clutch operation is fast and effective, faster still when the steering wheel ‘manettino’ is switched to race mode or beyond. There’s an argument that power of this magnitude is unnecessary in a road car, indeed, unexploitable. Let me assure you that’s not the case. Stick to the speed limits and the F12 is still a remarkable experience. It’s not simply the character of the engine that, without any form of forced induction, is free to sing like Alonso’s F138 Formula One car; there’s also the visceral acceleration that, even if exploited for less than a second, brings a shiver of excitement every time

 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: ride and handling These days, many manufacturers of über-perfomance cars bring four-wheel-drive into the equation in the quest to get the power to the road. Not Ferrari for the F12. That means a few tricky technical characteristics have to be addressed. Such as wheelspin in third gear when it’s dry. Such as wheelspin in almost any gear when it’s wet. There are ways for the F12 driver to deal with this via the manettino switch. The standard setting is Sport, which will allow some twitchiness from the back end. Initially that can surprise, but the F12 rapidly sorts out the problem and gets back into shape. Once the road surface is anything less than dry, the Wet setting provides increased reassurance without doing too much to dampen the thrills. There’s also a quick damper adjustment aimed at dealing with bumpy surfaces, plus an optional suspension lift system that raises the front to deal with aggressive road humps. Yet notwithstanding all this cleverness, the Ferrari F12 is no Audi R8 ‘everyday supercar’. It rarely demands less than your full attention: on the motorway to keep the speed in check, on other roads simply because new opportunities for enjoyment are being continually sought out. Get it right and the grip, composure and balance belie what is still a wide car, despite the slimming process the F12 has undergone compared with the 599 GTB. Find that elusive fast, sweeping, open road with good sight lines and the F12 rewards like few other cars, even those with a mid-mounted engine. Coupled to that is a smoothness of ride that, while being sports car firm, always feels like you could travel all day and be happy. Which we did, and were.

 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: interior Supercar interiors are tricky things to get right, hence the possibilities to option them up to the ultimate in tastelessness. No one said that wealth goes hand-in-hand with subtlety. This F12, however, was comparatively restrained: the options added scarily to the price (the Alcantara carpets alone added almost £4,000) but still looked good. And crucially, Ferrari does come up with the goods when it comes to the basic design. The machined air vents look like properly engineered works of art. The switchgear is all bespoke. There is clever use of thin film transistor displays that offer multiple functions at the roll of a switch. Sure, you won’t learn it all in a day, or even a week, but there’s a satisfaction in slowly getting to know and understand something as complex as the F12. The optional Leaf seats look fine and offer good levels of support and comfort, though the backrest became a bit firm after a full day in the F12. It’s a strict two-seater, but luggage space is pretty remarkable, both behind the seats and via the wide-opening tailgate.

 Ferrari- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: economy and safety Ferrari makes much of the improvements to the green credentials of the F12, so much so that the fuel tank size has been reduced over the 599 GTB without affecting the range. There’s even stop-start when stationary, for heaven’s sake. But even with the extreme engineering, the F12 doesn’t manage to crack the 20mpg average and CO2 is 350g/km. After one fill of the tank the computer predicted a range of just 200 miles, though this did eke up as the driving style was eased back. The body structure is undoubtedly very stiff and tough, which will help in an accident. Front and side airbags are part of the package.

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