In a hushed corporate dining room not far from the foundry where his company’s engines are born, Ferrari S.p.A. chairman Luca di Montezemolo distills the essence of his latest flagship, the F12berlinetta. The dapper Italian conjures the requisite analogy to the female form while expounding how the front-engine two-seater complements the current Ferrari lineup. But his conclusion says it all: “I wanted this to be the highest-performance Ferrari ever made.”
Maranello’s storied manufacturer is responsible for extreme designs that inspire wild superlatives, yet even in this landscape, the F12 is a bit of a curiosity. The numbers are breathtaking: 730 horsepower from a naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V12 driving the rear wheels through a 7-speed transaxle. But the look is not: More Speed Racer than textbook supercar, this cab rearward sled is highlighted by a hood-mounted heat extractor flanked by two “aero bridges” whose negative space divert airflow to deep, upwardly swept grooves along the door panels. The appearance isn’t as otherworldly as the insectoid Enzo, but this aluminum 2-seater is almost two seconds faster around the Fiorano test track than its more unattainably priced, carbon-bodied ancestor.
A decade after the Enzo made its first mark, I’m ready to lap the fabled proving grounds where countless Ferraris have debuted. The sights and sounds on this warm July morning are, frankly, daunting. Test driver Rafaelle De Simone blasts out of the pits, the V12’s ascending bellow echoing off the Armco as the transmission bangs off incomprehensibly quick gearshifts before the rear brake lights flash for turn one. During a technical presentation the night before, several executives suggested the F12 was intended to be enjoyable at a broader range of speeds than its 205 mph predecessor, the 599. How on Earth 730 cavallini are to be tamed into two-wheel-drive submission seems like a mystery for the automotive ages, but the answers start to unfold when I take my turn behind the wheel.
My test car is finished in a crimson shade of “Rosso Berlinetta,” and climbing inside reveals traditional tan leather offset by aluminum trim. The optional carbon fiber package swathes the bucket seats, door panels, and various switchgear bits in the shiny, lightweight black stuff. In sum, the carbon, along with optional wheels, shaves 66 pounds from the 3,659.5-pound curb weight. As it stands, the car is 2 inches shorter in length, 2.3 inches lower, and over 100 pounds lighter than the 599 it replaces. The rear luggage compartment delivers 17.6 cubic feet of storage space with the rear bench panel removed.