The sound is a sonorous cacophony. An auditory blitz. When a Ferrari V12 engine roars, your whole system awakens and you’re drawn in. The pedals pull your foot toward the floor. The wheel calls your hands in. The car entices you to drive.
The front-mounted Ferrari V12 engine lives in the hall of motoring legends, starting way back with the 250 GTO, then gracing the 365GTB/4 Daytona and the modern 550, 575M, 612, 599 and FF. Ferrari grand tourers have always been the potent gentleman racers of their respective eras, equipped with 12 cylinders — but the Ferrari V12, for all its lusty draw and carnal appeal, is a dying breed (in naturally aspirated form, at least), and the Ferrari F12berlinetta ($323,745) may be the last of the V12 GT cars.
The F12berlinetta debuted in 2012 as the replacement for the 599GTB Fiorano, and though it was better than the 599 in every way, its reign of media fame was eclipsed by the arrival of the 950 horsepower hybrid LaFerrari hypercar in 2013. Now the F12berlinetta is in driver’s hands, and it’s awash in the wowing drivers for more reasons than it’s power (730 hp) and cost (over $300k). The F12berlinetta has proved itself as a shining example of what Ferrari has been known for in its grand tourers. Purity.
Engine: 6.3-liter V12
Transmission: F1 8-speed dual clutch automatic
Torque: 509 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.1 seconds
Top Speed: 211 mph
My test car arrived with the Rosso Berlinetta paint, the soulful red of Ferrari racing. The wide, clean, big eggcrate grille, the deep-set hood scoop and the aerodynamically sculpted front flanks all accentuate the long and modern grand touring front end. The carved door panels, whose lines reach to the rear haunches underneath a sloping fastback, give the F12 drama. The F12 doesn’t look bloated like the California (the T is an improvement), and it’s not proportionally awkward like the FF or mechanical-looking like the 488GTB. And, because the F12 is front engined and long hooded, its profile is more pleasing to the eye than even the La Ferrari. Downsides are scant, but there are two: the long carbon fiber front splitter that extends a full 24 inches from the front tire and clears a few inches from the ground, and the lack of a nose lift function. Parking curbs and driveways quickly become a source of anxiety.
The cabin of the F12 sports leather and well-placed carbon fiber trim — a mix of luxury and sport. The leather-wrapped CF seats are remarkably comfortable and supportive, although the design is essentially cowhide stretched over a thin carbon fiber frame. The F1 steering wheel features the red manettino switching, huge CF paddle shifters, and rpm LEDs along the top edge.
Whereas many modern engines have giant plastic shrouds hiding the cylinder banks and exhaust manifolds, the F12 sits fully exposed. The traditional red crackle paint runs over the cylinder banks and mates gorgeously with the F12’s long carbon fibre air intakes. A push of the red engine-start button brings the V12 mill to life and kicks up the rpms. 12 naturally aspirated Italian race-bred cylinders emit an unmistakable roar that turns the heads of everyone within earshot.
Mashing the gas at 80 mph, the whoosh of power sets the rear tires loose briefly, then the car hooks up for astounding straight-line power.
In driving, the F12’s steering is extremely sharp, adjusting to even the most minor inputs — but it’s far from squirrelly and nerve fraying. In fact, the handling and weight shift of the F12 are very predictable, and getting back the rear tires when they break loose is a near-balletic exercise. Unlike the Lamborghini Aventador, pressing the gas at low speeds is smooth, and in auto mode you can cruise around town effortlessly, eradicating the notion that a supercar has to kick you in the teeth in normal driving conditions.
On open stretches of road, the F12 beckons for speed. The leaps from 55 to 100 mph happen with minimal effort, and manual shifts in the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox take 60 milliseconds — less time than it takes to decide to change gears. When mashing the gas at 80 mph, the whoosh of power sets the rear tires loose briefly, then the car hooks up for astounding straight-line power.
In hard turns, the chassis and suspension keep the body flat, providing additional confidence under semi-spirited driving. The huge Michelin Pilot Super Sports ensure the F12 stays firmly planted, and the faster I drove, the more confidence it inspired. The “aero-bridge” that flanks the upper ends of the hood help increase downforce by 76 percent over that of the 599, and they provide tremendous stability. And when braking aggressively, the F12’s grille-mounted vents open to cool the front brakes as the carbon-ceramic rotors require.
In terms of captivating style, driving comfort, everyday usability and performance euphoria, few cars approach the F12berlinetta. And because of its pure natural aspiration, you should experience it while you can. On a sweeping on-ramp as I headed north toward Wisconsin, the windows down, the throttle wide open, and the sound of the V12 singing its own praises, I found automotive bliss. The joy of driving a V12 Ferrari GT is magnified by the impending rarity of what surges under the hood, but in the moment there is no consideration of past or future — there is only the car and the drive, automotive purity in motion.