Turning heads in the Ferrari F12Berlinetta

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The F12berlinetta is the latest in a long line of front-engined V12 Ferraris and picks up where the 599GTB left off. It’s a relaxing GT car when you want it to be, but Ferrari has pulled out all the stops to make sure it’s also a bona-fide supercar. Just tickle the throttle if you don’t believe me.

In fact, the F12berlinetta was the fastest road-legal Ferrari you could buy until the hybrid-engined LaFerrari came along. But they cost a million dollars and they’ve all been snapped up, so, unless you have access to ludicrous sums of money and can find someone willing to part with theirs, the readily-available and more affordable F12 is still the fastest road-legal Ferrari you can buy.

Not that you’d call it cheap. If an iconic badge, thumping engine and crazy rear-wheel drive capers are all you’re after, you can buy seven brand new Ford Mustangs – one for every day of the week – for the £240,000 price of a “basic” F12. Or, if practicality is what you’re after, our optioned-to-the-hilt test car’s price tag of £332,000 is enough to let you drive a different Dacia Duster every day of the month.

Those options, which take up one side of an A4 sheet, include Bianco Italiano paint for £15,360, full-electric seats at an electrifying £3,552 and a boot carpet that will set you back £960. It’s quite a big boot, mind. There is just the one cup holder, but it’s woven from carbon fibre and costs £2,112.

See? Told you it wasn’t cheap. Still, every new Ferrari comes with seven years’ maintenance included in the price (don’t scoff until you’ve seen the servicing bill for some of its rivals) so, as long as you have the money, you can rely on Ferrari to supply the thrills.

And how. The 6.3-litre naturally-aspirated engine features the same basic V12 block that you’ll find under the bonnet of the Ferrari FF, but with a series of tweaks to let it develop more power. Much, much more. How? To summarise Ferrari’s half-hour pre-drive presentation: The crankshaft has been re-profiled so it’s lighter and slices through engine oil like a hot knife through butter. The cylinder head has sprouted a pair of probosces at the front which allow the engine to ingest more air, the compression ratio has been raised and the inlet and exhaust pathways have been reshaped, all in the pursuit of efficiency and speed.

The results speak for themselves: 0-60 takes just three seconds and Ferrari quotes a top speed “in excess of” 211mph. In the right hands, the F12berlinetta can lap Ferrari’s Fiorana test track in less time than the legendary Enzo. In my hands? Well, no test track for me, but at least the 450-mile schlep north from Ferrari’s UK lair in the Home Counties comes with the promise of a weekend spent haring around the Highlands as a reward.

Fortunately, the F12 devours the motorway miles and, with the “pit speed” dial set to 70mph (because “cruise control” sounds a bit tame, presumably), I almost forget I’m driving such a high-performance car, but in a good way. The two-seat cabin is spacious and comfortable, visibility is good, the steering is effortless and the carbon-ceramic brakes are easy to judge. Something so potent shouldn’t be so easy to live with, surely?

The important controls are built into the steering wheel, save for the stereo buttons, which are mounted to the extreme right of the dashboard, out of your passenger’s reach. Too bad if they don’t like your choice of music.

Although the F12 trumps its predecessor in the fuel economy and emissions stakes by 30 per cent, it’s still a bit on the thirsty side. On the plus side, a generous 20-gallon fuel tank means there’s just one splash-and-dash stop for super-unleaded at Tebay, where the Ferrari’s arresting outline quickly draws a crowd.

A man emerges from a Rover 75 to ask what the “holes in the sides” are for and I explain, doing my best to stick to Ferrari’s script, that the car owes its sensuous, sculpted aluminium form to a fusion of style and aerodynamics. That there are no unsightly spoilers is no accident. Instead, gaps in the wings direct a channel of smooth air from the bonnet toward the flanks of the car, reducing drag. Flaps on either side of the grille only open when a blast of cold air is needed to cool the brakes. This matters most when the speed nudges above 140mph, apparently. The rest of the time, it just looks fabulously pretty, a rolling feast for beady eyes on the M6.

As motorway gives way to A-road, and A-road to writhing B-road, so too the Ferrari’s character changes. In a car borne of the single-minded pursuit of performance, it would be far too easy to fall foul of the law, but much of the F12’s charm can be found on the right side of the legal limit.

Keep the revs around the 2,500rpm mark, and almost all of the acceleration is available within a split second of pressing the throttle, so you get the full Ferrari surge without needing to rev the nuts and bolts off it. Not that you won’t want to, I expect.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox zips up and down the ratios without pausing for breath. Sure, it’ll only take you three seconds to reach the legal maximum, and you’ll only have used three of those seven gears to get there, but that’s all you need for the roller-coaster rush of adrenaline to course through your veins. Oh, and it sounds fabulous.

Show the car a bend and its nose reacts instantly to every twitch of the wheel. If I’m being picky, I’d say the steering is too light for my liking, but the F12 has a wonderfully-balanced feel and, were it not for the long bonnet stretching into the distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the engine was behind the seats.

Over-eagerness with the throttle, even in the dry, is met with a wiggle of the car’s hips as the rear tyres break traction, but it’s easy to correct with a flick of the wheel and a more-measured dab of the right foot.

Based on my – ahem – exhaustive research, the third most common question a Ferrari driver will face, after “How much?” and “How fast?” is “Where will you ever use a car like that?”.

In the case of the F12berlinetta, it’s comfy enough to pop to the shops in, or to the south coast of France. It’s sharp enough to raise a smile on a sweeping A-route, twisty back road or de-restricted section of autobahn. For most owners, I suspect that will be enough but, if you’re hell-bent on testing it – and yourself – to the limits, then the racing circuit beckons. Just try not to scratch the £15,000 paint job, and definitely don’t spill your Vimto on the cup 
holder.

FAST FACTS

Ferrari F12berlinetta

Price: £239,470 (£331,672 as tested)

Engine: 6.3-litre, V12 petrol, 730bhp, 509 lb ft

Transmission: 7-speed automatic, RWD

Performance: Max speed 211mph; 0-62mph 3.1sec

Economy: 18.8mpg

Emissions: 350g/km