It's the most powerful V12 Ferrari to date and the F12 Berlinetta sends all that torque to the rear wheels. Is it fun or terrifying to drive? Paul Maric finds out.
I’m certain that every review of the 2016 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta — or any Ferrari for that matter — starts the same. A giddy journalist walks into a Ferrari dealership and fulfils their childhood fantasy of piloting an expensive Ferrari into the sunset.
I won’t lie — this review started out the same way. But, as an engineer I found this road test delving deeper than most. The $690,745 F12 Berlinetta employs Ferrari’s most efficient and most powerful naturally aspirated V12 engine to date. It also uses some incredible engineering and technology to help it excel beyond that of a ‘run of the mill’ supercar.
Built with the most discerning drivers in mind, the F12 Berlinetta packs a mighty naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V12 engine under the bonnet of a rear-wheel drive two-door, two-seat supercar.
The exterior styling is the most progressive to date with space-age angles and aerodynamic channels to get the most out of its available performance — capable enough to push the drag coefficient down to just .299.
Arguably, this is one of the best looking Ferraris to date. Stunning vertical headlights use LEDs to help it stand out in traffic, while a modest bonnet vent and black highlights preserve a level of traditional character.
The same can be said for the side profile. Phallic in appearance, the bonnet sits far ahead of the cockpit, while traditional Ferrari door handles and swooping lines flow to the rear. The rear end is an equally impressive design element with circular taillights and large quad-exhaust pipes.
Classed as a hatchback in the literal sense, the F12 Berlinetta has a glass rear door that opens upwards for luggage storage — 350-litres of it (expandable to 500L), which is pretty impressive.
Inside the cabin, it’s pure luxury. Presentation is key to every part of the interior. Leather surfaces are strewn throughout the cabin, while ‘Ferrari’ and ‘F12berlinetta’ wording graces the dashboard and doorsills. The passenger also has an LCD screen that displays engine revolutions, speed and other critical information — not the handiest feature if your wife is as vigilant about speed limits as mine.
As far as supercars go, the F12 Berlinetta is one of the most practical. The generous boot, along with many internal storage cubbies make it a car that can be used daily if you should so choose.
There is no central infotainment system; instead the F12 Berlinetta uses two LCD screens that flank a central rev cluster. This binnacle houses the satellite navigation, radio, performance modes and trip computer. It’s quite fiddly to use and even after becoming used to it, I found that it wasn’t very intuitive or user-friendly as time went on.
One of the screens features the car’s reversing camera and optional front camera. These features come in very handy when parking the long F12 Berlinetta. A front suspension-lifter kit is also a godsend for steep driveways.
The optional 1280W, 12-speaker JBL sound system fitted to our test vehicle sounded incredible. The strategically placed speakers produce deep bass and very clear high frequencies. The sound system features radio, Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB input. It doesn't come with Apple CarPlay though, which is optionally available on the Ferrari California T.
Ferraris are all about the noise, and boy does the F12 Berlinetta deliver it in spades. While turning the key and holding the starter button, an adrenalin rush hits your body as the naturally aspirated V12 engine fires to life. It labours for what feels like two seconds before emitting a godly bark.
This rush of excitement continues when you plant the foot in any gear while on the move. A trademark Ferrari bellow screams from the quad exhaust pipes after the pressure-drive exhaust baffles pop open — you can literally hear the car coming from blocks away.
Unlike the F12 Berlinetta’s four-seat all-wheel drive FF sibling, the F12 Berlinetta sends torque through the rear wheels. The 6.3-litre V12 engine produces a mammoth 545kW of power and 690Nm of torque, and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch rear transaxle. This combination makes it good for a 0-100km/h dash of just 3.1-seconds using launch control — that’s an incredible figure for a rear-wheel drive car.
While most Ferrari owners will never notice, or care, the F12 Berlinetta uses a combined fuel use of 15L/100km. Surprisingly, this was on par with what we achieved over the few days we had the car.
The engine feels most at home on the open road, where the F12 Berlinetta can happily reach a top speed of 365km/h. It is equally as malleable in closed quarters around town as it is through the bends of a tight mountain pass. The V12 engine produces slabs of torque throughout its rev band and works marvellously with the dual-clutch transmission to deliver that torque to the rear wheels.
At speed, the front end tucks in purposefully as the direct and weighty steering leads you into a bend. The turn in is spot on and offers the driver unparalleled feel through its chassis. Despite the F12 Berlinetta’s length and width it never feels too big to control, which is reassuring once you consider the power available at the prod of the throttle.
The aluminium space frame chassis sits beneath the skin, which uses 12 different alloys and elements of carbon-fibre to bring total kerb weight down to just 1630kg — some 50kg less than its 599 GTB predecessor.
The F12 Berlinetta’s five driving modes come in very handy when managing changing conditions. A rotary dial mounted to the steering wheel, called the manetinno switch, changes throttle response, differential lock and stability control interference on the fly. The rear end is very lively — despite the huge 315mm wide rear treads — so this adjustability is a godsend in wet conditions, for example.
That being said, the F12 is very easy to control when it does breach traction boundaries. It steps out progressively and follows predictable form — these two aspects make it enjoyable and fun to drive when approaching its limits.
Body control through corners is second to none with a flat stance and rigid chassis, aided by magnetorheological suspension dampers that react to fouls in the road and body load with aplomb.
Sudden changes in direction are equally handled with poise. The V12 engine sits far back in the engine bay, giving the car a natural and balanced feel. A rear-mounted transaxle further distributes that weight throughout the body.
Huge carbon ceramic brakes — six-piston, 398mm up front and four-piston, 360mm at the rear — adorn all four corners. Unlike some carbon ceramic setups, they offer bite and don’t screech before reaching operating temperature. Once warm the brakes accept an onslaught of hard stops and never once felt too hot to perform with consistency.
To diverge slightly — a carbon ceramic brake rotor is made up of a carbon composite that accepts a much higher and sustained heat load before fading. Non-carbon ceramic rotors can get too hot to provide friction between the brake rotor and pad. This setup ensures braking performance, even in the toughest of conditions. Carbon ceramic rotors also last longer than regular rotors — double bonus.
Brake rotor heat is further dissipated thanks to dynamically operating ducts in the front splitter that open as operating temperatures increase. This channelling of air hits the rotors and subsequently increases braking performance.
The F12 Berlinetta is a proven sports car, but what's it like around town? Well, it's big. The car is wide and the front end feels like it sits a million miles away. You also strangely need to be mindful of other drivers as they gawk, take photos and forget how to drive when around you.
Parking is easy thanks to a reversing camera nestled in the speedometer cluster that uses front and rear parking sensors, along with an optional front-facing camera — perfect for perpendicular parks against kerbs. The F12 Berlinetta's street appeal is also priceless.
In terms of day-to-day driving, it also manages to tick that box. You can use the F12 Berlinetta for a trip to the shops, down the road to the cafe or even as a daily driver for the work commute. It's also worth calling out that while the list price is just under $700,000, our test car had just under $110,000 worth of options fitted to it.
As a price and variant competitor to the Lamborghini Aventador, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta couldn’t be any more different in comparison. It is the gentleman’s racer that delivers style, performance, practicality and modesty in a stunning package.
It drives and sounds just like a Ferrari should. And, that’s what makes it one of the best Ferraris ever built.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images by Tom Fraser.