Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
When Ferrari unveiled the F12 Berlinetta, its follow-up to the highly successful 599GTB Fiorano, at the Geneva motor show last March, it hailed the new GT as the most powerful road car the company has ever built. The F12's place at the top of Ferrari's performance pecking order might soon be cut short, however, by the upcoming successor to the famed Enzo (see F70, at right). For now at least, let's savor the specifics of the F12 spec sheet: the same 6.3-liter, normally aspirated V-12 that's in the FF hatchback makes an incredible 730 hp at 8250 rpm and 509 lb-ft at 6000 rpm in the F12. Coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the V-12 will, Ferrari claims, help the car hit 62 mph in only 3.1 seconds and reach 211 mph, even while delivering a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy. Compared with the 599, the F12 will weigh nearly 150 pounds less, thanks to an aluminum-intensive spaceframe. The F12 is some two inches shorter in overall length and two inches lower in height than the 599 and is also slightly narrower. The jury is still out, we'd say, on the Pininfarina design, which seems to be trying too hard to combine history and modernity. There's no mistaking the F12 as anything but a Ferrari, though, and the big LED headlight strips evoke the 458 Italia, which is no bad thing.
On sale Late 2012
Price $350,000 (est.)
Engine 6.3L V-12, 730 hp, 508 lb-ft
Terminal velocity 211 mph
There's a new boss at Ferrari. The next new model to roll off a Maranello assembly line will be the successor to the 2003 Enzo, and it is all but guaranteed to join the hallowed ranks of Ferrari's high-tech, mid-engine flagships. When the still-nameless supercar (F70 is likely) hits the road in early 2013, it will be among the most exclusive, most advanced, and most expensive cars to ever wear the prancing-horse badge. It also will be the first production hybrid for Ferrari, with an electric motor adding 120 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque to the 800-hp, 6.3-liter V-12. Together, the two propulsion sources can deliver about 740 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Low drag and high downforce -- the former critical to besting the 217-mph top speed of the Enzo -- are achieved with an underbody tray, a rear diffuser, active aerodynamics in the wheelhouses, brake-cooling ducts, and grilles that can be selectively opened and closed. In addition to a carbon-fiber structure, the new car -- previewed below by our illustrator -- fends off weight with a honeycomb engine cradle, sandwich suspension links, hollow-spoke wheels, and a thin-wall exhaust system. We're told it should weigh less than 2800 pounds -- an impressive feat considering the bulky hybrid hardware.
On sale Early 2013
Price $1,000,000 (est.)
Engine 6.3L V-12/electric hybrid, 850 hp, 740 lb-ft (est.)
Terminal velocity 217-plus mph
We know who probably asked for this vehicle: Fiat's U.S. dealers. No doubt they want to expand the lineup beyond the current coupe, cabrio, and Abarth -- but have they seen this thing? One can argue about how successfully the similarly sized Mini Countryman translates Mini's unique styling, but the 500L seems to have lost all the charm of the 500. Four doors and a real back seat may allow the 500L to net buyers who bypass the standard car, but unlike Mini, Fiat won't offer four-wheel drive. Let's hope that Fiat engineers can wring more power out of the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine, as its 101 hp is already marginal in the much smaller 500. Perhaps Fiat will borrow the more potent 160-hp turbo from the Abarth for its four-door offering, which is nearly two feet longer and six inches wider than the standard 500.
On sale Early 2013
Price $20,000 (est.)
Engine 1.4L I-4, 101 hp, 98 lb-ft (est.)
Elusive buyer Fiat 500 intender who doesn't care about design.
Stepping in for the departed Escape Hybrid, the C-Max will carry the hybrid banner more visibly for Ford, as it will be a hybrid-specific vehicle and nameplate, a la Toyota Prius. Unlike the Prius, the C-Max will come in just one body style, a five-seat crossover, but it will offer two different hybrid powertrains: a standard hybrid and a plug-in called C-Max Energi ("Energi" denoting plug-in hybrids at Ford). In both cases, the hybrid system uses a 141-hp, 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder. Total output is estimated at 188 hp and 129 lb-ft, dispensed via a CVT. The C-Max is 4.5 inches shorter, fractionally narrower, and 2.4 inches lower than an Escape, but it weighs more: 3682 pounds. The Energi, with its larger battery, carries another 300 pounds. Compared with its chief rival, the Prius V, the C-Max Energi is some 400 pounds heavier, although Ford's claimed total system power is 54 hp more than Toyota's.
On sale Late 2012
Price $26,500 (Hybrid, est.)
Engine 2.0L I-4/electric hybrid, 188 hp, 129 lb-ft (est.)
The new Escape marks the first true rethink of the vehicle that helped define the compact crossover. The previous boxy shape is junked in favor of new styling that strikes a family resemblance to the Fiesta, the Focus, and the new Fusion. It's an athletic look, but outward visibility suffers compared with its predecessor. There's no downside, though, to discarding the old model's plastic-lined cabin, which has given way to a much richer interior. As expected, the MyFord Touch interface is present, part of a suite of electronics that includes active park assist, a hands-free tailgate, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, and Sync. Escape buyers now have a choice of three engines, all four-cylinders with a six-speed automatic. A 168-hp, 2.5-liter base unit is the price leader and comes with front-wheel drive only. A 1.6-liter EcoBoost (178 hp, 184 lb-ft) is the volume offering and is definitely adequate in this application. A muscular 2.0-liter EcoBoost (240 hp, 270 lb-ft) makes more torque than the old V-6. Although the Escape is taller and heavier than the Focus, basing this crossover on that model's excellent chassis pays noticeable dynamic dividends. Prices, however, have crept up by more than $1000 and crest $30,000 for the new top-of-the-line Titanium model.
On sale Now
Engines 2.5L I-4, 168 hp, 170 lb-ft; 1.6L turbo I-4, 178 hp, 184 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo I-4, 240 hp, 270 lb-ft
Room for Family of five.
Ford Focus ST
Ford's spiciest Focus was prepared by the chefs of the global performance vehicle group in close cooperation with Ford of Europe's Team RS and the American Special Vehicle Team, SVT. "It's a one-fits-all-markets concept," explains project leader Dieter Schwarz. "Design, engine specification, chassis calibration, and tire choice are identical, regardless of whether the car is sold in Beijing, Los Angeles, or London." The ST makes a visual statement with unique eighteen-inch wheels, larger front air intakes, a center-mounted exhaust outlet, a rear diffuser, flared rocker panels, and a roof-mounted spoiler. Inside, we notice dressed-up pedals, a newly designed leather steering wheel and matching shift knob, and auxiliary instruments (oil pressure, oil temperature, and boost pressure), but the center stack is still a messy affair. A pair of cloth- or hide-trimmed Recaro seats are mounted lower than in lesser models, and they're comfortable, supportive, and generously adjustable.
The ST's 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder develops 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque and, like most modern turbo engines, sounds more characterful than its normally aspirated sibling. It's hard not to be smitten by the faint turbocharger whine, the spine-tingling intake rasp, and the exhaust note that varies from blat-blat to thunderous. To transmit acoustic action into the cabin, the engineers installed a "sound symposer" in the firewall. In addition to being a stereophonic treat, the EcoBoost four also zips the Focus ST from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds and on to a maximum of 155 mph. A low-inertia turbocharger, variable valve timing, and direct injection mean that the 2.0-liter four doesn't suffer from excessive turbo lag. The sole transmission is a six-speed manual, and it's a slick one. Our only reservation concerns the excessively tall top gear -- it undoubtedly helps to save fuel but forces the driver to downshift frequently to keep up the momentum at freeway speeds.
To improve grip, Ford equipped its most ambitious Focus with special-compound Goodyear Eagle F1 AS2 tires (235/40YR-18), lowered the ride height by 0.4 inch, and fitted tauter springs and dampers together with redesigned suspension knuckles and fatter antiroll bars. The four brake discs (with vented 12.6-inch rotors up front) keep the 3000-pound Focus in check. The ST also gets variable-ratio sport steering, which is quite light at low speeds but firms up nicely as the mph readout rises. The ratio is so quick that one armful of lock is all it takes to master a hairpin corner. At the same time, the steering is relaxed at triple-digit speeds. But there are drawbacks. On rough pavement, the front suspension kicks and tugs, which means that going fast entails a fair amount of adjusting and correcting. It's fun, but it isn't smooth. The other complaint concerns an underlying artificiality, due to the Torque Steer Compensation, Torque Vectoring Control, and Cornering Understeer Control, which, together with stability control, aim to synchronize the steering input and the torque flow without affecting your chosen line. The intent is laudable, but less electronic intervention would result in a more natural and intuitive driving experience. Stability control can be disabled in two steps -- switch it off completely and you clear the stage for a good bit of lift-off oversteer. In this zero-interference mode, the ST can be a truly wild thing, swinging from wide-eyed understeer to arms-crossed oversteer.
At $24,495, the Focus ST plays in an almost deserted segment. Its main rivals are the Mazdaspeed 3, the Volkswagen GTI, and, to a lesser extent, the winged and turbocharged Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX/STI twins. The Ford ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance, or ergonomics. But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money -- and scores an undisputed ten on the entertainment scale. The only thing that distances the high-performance Focus from real greatness is some fine-tuning -- in particular, we'd like to see the computer-controlled cleverness scaled back in favor of a more homogenous steering and suspension setup.
On sale Late 2012
Engine 2.0L turbo I-4, 252 hp, 270 lb-ft
Worth the wait An overdue successor to the SVT Focus.