Ferrari may have narrowly missed out on becoming Formula 1 world champions this year, but the Italian company is the undisputed leader when it comes to supercars on the road. The new F12, as a result, is an unimaginable combination of humungous power and only rear wheel drive. Yes, all that 730bhp goes through only two wheels rather than four as on other similar supercars.
It’s intimidating to begin with. The F12 feels super wide, the steering is too quick, and there is so much urge from the 730bhp motor, even from just beyond tick-over, you can breach the national speed limit without even properly getting on the throttle.
Soon, my overloaded brain accepts the new rules. You use less lock on the lightning-quick steering, any use of the accelerator is soon accompanied by a tap on the brakes, and keeping one eye on the speedometer quickly becomes second nature. The roads in Maranello, in northern Italy, where I am test-driving, contrary to what you might expect, are as bad as some of those here. So I expect a bone-jarring ride every time we cross over a bad patch. But that just never happens — which, frankly, boggles the mind.
Town soon gives way to country. Wider roads and no stop-lights allow the use of more throttle and revs. Frankly, 300bhp is a lot of power, using 600bhp over long stretches demands fierce concentration, and this car has 730! And the fear factor is real.
This new V12 motor uses direct injection, so the build-up of torque starts early. Ferrari says 80 per cent of the torque comes in by 2,500rpm and that’s entirely believable. Bursts of acceleration now have a springy, limitless feel to them. The motor almost teases you into using more throttle, and excursions up the rev range are accompanied by a massive wall of sound that includes wailing trumpets and chain-driven cams. It sounds almost as good as a thoroughbred Le Mans racer, the motor singing on the overrun, ready to snap back into the powerband at the lightest tap on the throttle.
The sheer athleticism engineered into the chassis also begins to shine through as I add more power. Suddenly, the super-quick steering and ultra-sensitive brakes make sense. Responses are both instant and measured, no time lost in wasteful slack, the F12 doing your bidding instantly. Ferrari says it had to “drag” the rest of the car up and make everything work faster to help match the potential of the engine.
Going to maximum attack, as expected, is a full-on sensory overload that literally leaves you gasping for air the first couple of times. The rear-wheel drive layout means the initial hit off the blocks isn’t as strong as a Lamborghini Aventador. It doesn’t daze you like the Lambo, but as soon as the rear tyres hook up all 730bhp, you are yanked forward on an unforgettable ride as the tachometer needle flick-flick-flicks you up to 200 in seconds.
The best bit about the F12 is how it allows you to enjoy the full potential of the motor. All you need to do is brake accurately, introduce it smoothly to a bend and feed in the throttle carefully on the way out, as the balance of the car shifts around under you. The F12 has a level of feel and sensitivity that is something that is difficult to fathom in such a powerful car, and it’s all down to the F1 inspired electronic differential that puts out precisely the right amount of power to each wheel.
Flick the Mannetino dial into Race mode and loosen up the programmable ESP, and the car becomes even more alive. You can feel the weight transfer to the rear, you can feel the back tyres fighting for grip as they slip and wiggle around, juggling torque between them, and you can even feel them hook up and shove you forward. It’s not just the steering, it’s like the whole car is talking to you.
What Ferrari has achieved here is nothing short of sensational, even by its standards. Here is a front-engined, V12-powered car that is comfortable, practical and useable on one hand and devastatingly quick on the other. And it’s not just straight-line speed I’m talking about. The best bit about the F12, the thing that really blows your mind, is the handling. It’s one of the fastest, most hardcore supercars there is, but if you wanted, you could actually use it every day, even in India. This just may be the greatest Ferrari yet. n
The writer is deputy editor, Autocar India.