Power Corrupts!

With 740 horses under its hood, the Ferrari F12 delivers an unforgettable—and addictive—driving experience.

Power Corrupts! 1
February 27, 2018

Seven-hundred forty horsepower makes a compelling sales pitch, and that number was even more impressive when Ferrari launched the F12berlinetta in 2012. (At the time, just about the only thing more powerful on U.S. roads was the Bugatti Veyron.) But while its fearsome normally aspirated 6.3-liter V12 dominates the F12 experience, Ferrari’s sports-car flagship is far from a one-trick pony.

First things first, though: The F12 is fast. Really fast. Thanks to its abundance of power, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and impressive complement of electronic driver’s aids, the Ferrari sprints from rest to 62 mph in just 3.1 seconds; 124 mph comes only 5.4 seconds later.

The F12 handles, too. Its all-new (and still all-aluminum) chassis is about 20-percent stiffer than that of its predecessor, the 599 GTB Fiorano, and allows a more rearward weight bias (46/54 versus 47/53). The newer car also enjoys an inch-lower center of gravity, as well as a 155-pound weight loss.

Further aiding performance is the F12’s sleek aluminum bodywork, styled hand-in-hand for both beauty and aerodynamic efficiency. The latter required the usual Computational Fluid Dynamics and wind-tunnel time (350 hours, to be precise), and produced several innovations. The most visible example is the Aerobridge, a channel that directs air from the hood, behind the front fenders, and out onto the car’s sculpted sides. Add up all the aero trickery and you get 271 pounds of downforce at 124 mph (a 70-percent increase over the 599) and a lithe 0.299 coefficient of drag (an 11-percent gain).

About that beauty: The chiseled F12 makes the 599 look chubby. It looks as low, lean, and intimidating as its spec sheet suggests—but it’s far from difficult to drive. Treat the throttle with respect and those 740 horses are as docile as a pack of mules; the chassis is beautifully balanced, too. Just as impressive, the all-day comfortable F12 feels just as much at home on the highway as it does tearing up a mountain pass.

Power Corrupts! 2

In late 2014, Ferrari unveiled the F60 America. Inspired by the 1960s 275-based NART Spyder, just ten of these topless F12s were built—exclusively for the U.S. market and only for Ferrari’s most-favored clients.

The following year saw the arrival of a second variant: the track-ready F12tdf. Named in homage of the dual-purpose 250 GT Tour de France of the 1950s, the tdf boasts more power (780 hp in total), less weight (by 220 pounds), more downforce, new bodywork, shorter gears and faster shifting, a stripped interior, (much) stiffer suspension, and, in a Ferrari first, rear-wheel steering.

No matter which flavor you prefer, there’s really nothing not to like about the F12 family. Whether or not you have the budget to buy one, this is one Ferrari you simply have to drive.

Marketplace

THE FIRST F12s to reach U.S. shores sold for $100,000 or more over their already hefty stickers. The newest V12’s base price started at $320,000, and Ferrari’s profitable habit of piling on the options instantly took out-the-door prices into the $375,000-400,000 range—or higher. Popular items included such niceties as a carbon-fiber steering wheel ($5,000), dash inserts ($7,000), and driver’s zone (also $7,000), a backup camera ($3,600), suspension-lifter system ($5,500), and AFS headlights ($3,000). Then came the practically obligatory Scuderia shields on the front fenders ($1,600) and colored brake calipers ($1,400), along with any number of other goodies from the factory’s two-page list of available options.

Demand and cost rose sharply for the F12tdf, which featured a base price of $490,000. Beyond its new bodywork and extra performance, the tdf offered the promise of exclusivity: Only 799 were built. However, these cars were sold with a you-can’t-resell-it-for-18-months contract, which, while it prevented flipping initially, led to an early tdf selling at more than $1.3 million—well over double its original window sticker—at RM Sotheby’s Scottsdale auction this past January. Expect prices to correct significantly as more tdf’s come off contract.

Power Corrupts! 3

Also expect that $1.3-million figure to be less than one-third the price of the first F60 America to sell. With just 10 examples built, the F60 is the ultimate collector’s F12 (as well as the only convertible), and it’s hard to imagine one ever selling for anything close to its reported $3-million sticker price.

In the meantime, with an estimated 3,700 F12berlinettas produced, there are always 100 or more “base” F12s for sale. Thanks to the arrival of its even-faster 812 Superfast successor, depreciation, and that plentiful availability, early examples can easily be found in the $250,000 range. That’s not cheap, but given the F12’s staggering performance, eye-candy appeal, comfort, reliability, and all-around usability, it’s perhaps not too much of a stretch to call the F12 an exotic bargain. —Michael Sheehan

 
Model                                  Low               High            
F12berlinetta $250,000 $310,000
F12tdf $1,200,000 $1,300,000
F60 America   tbd
 

These prices are for fully serviced cars in good-to-great condition.

On the Road

The F12 offers blistering performance and—in the case of the berlinetta version, at least—impressive comfort. Here’s some of what we’ve said about the model since its introduction.

THE FERRARI’S SMOOTHNESS and sophistication at putting its prodigious power to the pavement is extraordinary, as is the way it dispatches bumps. While I don’t have a chance to explore the F12’s limits on a smooth, wide-open racetrack, I’m treated to all manner of broken and patched pavement on the narrow country roads surrounding Maranello—and the Ferrari simply absorbs them, whether I’m accelerating, braking, or turning.

All of this adds up to a relatively large, extremely powerful car that drives like a much smaller, lighter one. Before driving the F12, I never would have guessed that it could deliver the goods on tight and twisting country roads. But after only a few corners my heart begins to pound in my chest as I push harder and harder, dancing on the pedals, cranking the wheel and tugging the paddle shifters, which respond instantly and seamlessly. The engine’s deep baritone howl rises and falls, the corners come and go, the exhaust crackling maniacally on downshifts. And whenever the road opens enough to let the V12 soar past that magic 6,000-rpm mark, it’s hard not to start laughing all over again.

Power Corrupts! 4

It’s difficult not to be awed at what Ferrari has accomplished with its newest model. On the one hand, it is completely relaxed when cruising down the highway or puttering around town; on the other, it tears through the Maranello countryside with speed and poise that are scarcely believable.

—Aaron Jenkins
“Master Class,” FORZA #122

CLEAVE THE WEIGHT of an NFL quarterback from a two-seat coupe, even one that’s just over 15 feet long, and you’re likely going to feel that difference when you tentatively push the right pedal into the carpet-free footwell for the first time. But what you feel in the tdf isn’t just the results of a diet; it’s also the efforts of a powertrain that somehow makes even the berlinetta’s mighty 740-hp V12 seem almost meek by comparison.

Impressive as all this is, it’s actually so far, so familiar. There’s another piece to the puzzle, however: four-wheel steering. Anyone who’s driven an F12berlinetta, a car with a 54-percent rear weight bias and beautifully balanced handling, may well question why Ferrari felt the need to add the technology at all. The answer is it was the only way to get the desired, and frankly outrageous, front-end response while keeping the car remotely manageable for mere mortals.

[On the street] the tdf’s ride is surprisingly firm compared to the compliance of every other modern Ferrari, including the LaFerrari, and pushing the familiar “bumpy road” button on the steering wheel never brings about the step change I’m expecting. Nonetheless, this is an eminently usable road car, one with a generous trunk and a soundtrack that shrieks like an XX Programme machine when I’m hoving in on the rev limiter.

Power Corrupts! 5

—Chris Chilton
“Vintage Modernism,” FORZA #148

The Garage

GOOD NEWS FIRST: The F12berlinetta is as rugged and reliable as any low-production supercar can hope to be. There are few consistent problems with the model, the usual wear-and-tear items have proven to be impressively robust, and maintenance costs are minimal by exotic-car standards. Expect to pay $2,500 for an annual service (much of that cost going toward ultra-modern lubricants), with the once-dreaded, twice-a-decade cam-belt service a thing of the past.

The news gets even better when you consider Ferrari’s warranty. The current new-car bumper-to-bumper warranty lasts three years and unlimited miles, and owners have the option to extend that warranty for another year or two—albeit at a high four-figure price. After that, Ferrari further offers a limited mechanical warranty. While it also comes with an eye-catching price tag, you don’t want to know what replacing an F12 transaxle costs.

The most common problems seen so far revolve around various electronics. Transmission sensors have been a sporadic issue, for example, but so far as I can determine these have all been fixed under warranty. That’s a good thing, since many of these sensors reside inside the transaxle, which often needs to be removed to reach them. Much more common is a glitchy Apple CarPlay system, which is easily put right by plugging the car into the dealer’s in-house computer system and installing a factory update. (I did hear of one failed radio amplifier, which would have been a $10,000 out-of-warranty repair; not surprisingly, the owner elected to install an aftermarket unit.)

This leads straight to the bad news: The Ferrari dealer network holds a virtual lock on servicing and repairing these cars. That’s due in part to the aforementioned long-term warranties, since there’s no reason to pay an independent shop to do something the dealer will do for free, but it’s also a function of the F12’s astonishing electronic complexity.

Power Corrupts! 6

Like all modern exotics, the F12 utilizes a Controller Area Network (CAN) that links all its computers together: Envision a high-speed party telephone line (remember those?) that allows data and commands to zip back and forth from one module to another, letting the Powertrain Control Module, anti-lock brake/traction control/stability control systems, suspension, climate control, keyless entry, lighting, and dozens of other systems and modules all talk to one another. If something goes wrong, these systems can cross-talk, throwing off difficult-to-track-down warning codes that can only be interpreted by a dealer or a private shop with the latest $25,000 Leonardo computer (the older SD2 and SD3 models are now outdated).

As you can imagine, the long-term picture could be quite grim: How problematic will an exotic with interconnected computer systems be when the car is out of warranty and parts are no longer available from Ferrari? In the meantime, though, the F12 remains a fantastic exotic to own and drive. Just make sure you keep it in warranty for as long as possible. —Michael Sheehan

Owner’s Take

Doug Carlisle – 2015 F12berlinetta

Purchased new; currently has 8,000 miles

Why did you want an F12?
I have a 458 Spider that I bought in June 2012; what a wonderful car! It has about 18,000 miles and has been absolutely bulletproof. It lives in Northern California, where I spend most of my time, and I liked it so much I decided to buy another Ferrari for my home in Southern California. After reading the reviews, watching Top Gear, and talking with owners and my super sales exec, Charlie Miles at Silicon Valley Ferrari, I decided on the F12.

What do you use your Ferrari for?
I just drive it for fun, around town and on a few longer trips. It’s extremely comfortable to drive for 300 miles; I feel really fresh at the end of the drive, not beat up at all. I never drive it in the rain, both so it doesn’t get dirty and because I don’t want to get clipped by some idiot down here who can’t drive on wet pavement.

What did you like most about the F12?
I would say the overall ride. It’s obviously a super-high-performance car—it’s a lot of fun to drive and has so much power that in any gear it will spin the rear wheels and the traction control will kick in—but it’s also a very comfortable car. I also love the a/c vents, those big titanium eyeballs; you can direct cold air exactly where you want, they’re great for hot weather.

Any dislikes?
The one thing I would absolutely, positively change is the position of the battery-charger connector. It’s inside the car, which means you have to leave the window cracked in order to connect the charger, then snake the cable back to the trunk. If the charger gets disconnected and the battery drains, you’re in trouble. The problem is, you can’t start the car with the charger connected, you can’t disconnect the charger without opening the trunk, and the trunk release won’t work if the battery’s dead! What you have to do is twist around in the seat, pop off a small plastic tab near the roof, slip a finger in, and pull on the cable to release the trunk manually. The way they do it on the California T, with an external magnetic connector, is a no-brainer.

How reliable has your F12 been?
To be honest, the car had some serious teething problems with the gearbox. I had to take it back to the dealer four or five times in six months because it wouldn’t shift properly, or, in one instance, at all. The guys at Silicon Valley Ferrari always jumped on the car right away and tried to fix it with minimal disruptions—I give them all credit for that—but they couldn’t sort it out. In the end, after they had replaced a few different pieces and reset all the computers, Ferrari air-shipped in a whole new rear-end assembly. That fixed the problem and the car has run flawlessly ever since.
Before I bought the F12, everyone I talked with who owned one said, I love it! Runs great! I believe my problems were just some kind of anomaly with that particular gearbox.

Would you recommend this car to a friend?
Yes, absolutely. I really enjoy the car, and besides the gearbox issue the quality is really good. It’s just a great car to drive, and super comfortable.

Also from Issue 165

  • F12tdf
  • One-off Uovo
  • 24 Hours of Daytona
  • Owning a Ferrari 643
  • Dino 246 GT restoration
  • Ferrari in Formula 1: 1961-1988
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