Neither midcorner bumps nor straight-line jumps seem to faze it, either. Driven in anger, the newest Ferrari handles like a formula car, almost always perfectly neutral with a slight tendency toward oversteer. Since all of the large masses are well within the wheelbase and since so much of the weight resides in the rear, it rotates more like a mid-engine sports car than a front-engine GT, turning in instantly and rotating on an axis right at the driver's spine.
Or is it all rotating around the computer's axis? This is the brilliance of modern Ferraris: the electronics are continually adjusting an incomprehensible number of parameters, but from the driver's seat, the F12 feels like there are no computers at all. The stability control doesn't interfere or even intervene, it merely influences. With all systems on, the F12 experiences more stability control interventions than an AA meeting at the Psychic Friends Network -- but the sole goal is to deliver an Enzo-beating lap time without slowing you down and while preventing you from killing yourself. Drive the F12 like a New York cabbie, and the stability control warning light will flash continually, but the F12 remains the most idiot-proof pussycat this side of the Cowardly Lion.
The F12's styling is perhaps the best-yet interpretation of the new swept-back headlights of the 458 and the FF -- thankfully without the FF's smiling anime air intake -- with none of the California's awkwardness. On the road, it instantly reads as a Ferrari grand tourer: understated, elegant, and timeless. There's no doubt that Ferrari took a purposefully conservative route here -- after all, the funky FF is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
That said, the F12 is aerodynamically advanced, with both a low coefficient of drag (0.30) and as much downforce as you're likely to see in a road car (a claimed 271 pounds at 124 mph). Some of the downforce comes from the Aero Bridge, a novel aerodynamic device you might not have noticed. Look closely at the photos and you'll see that part of the upper front fender has been removed, creating a tunnel that allows air to flow across the hood, out to the side, and along the door, creating downforce in the process. This is a whole new visual form -- removing body bulk for aero when, conventionally, designers have added wings, spoilers, splitters, and diffusers.
Inside, the F12 is typically Ferrari gorgeous, with enough controls and buttons on the steering wheel to confuse a C++ programmer. A new infotainment system has been codeveloped with Harman, but it wasn't finished in time for our drive. Sadly, the high-res screen is visible only to the driver -- a significant ergonomic foible in a car meant to take well-heeled (read: well-aged) couples on long trips. At least the F12 is easy to get into and out of, the firm seats are comfortable, and the driving position is natural. Up front, your view is punctuated by the tops of the air bridges; to the rear you see...not much. There will be an optional rearview camera.
The 599GTB Fiorano was a fine car when it debuted, but its evolution models, the HGTE and the GTO, highlighted that it wasn't quite perfect out of the box. By contrast, the F12 debuts as a whole; one complete vehicle that scores tens in just about every category. There is probably no other car that combines this level of performance, elegance, drama, and luxury with this much driver involvement. Many supercars are special by virtue of their looks, their sound, their price, and their speed, but this is a Ferrari that, even in the absence of the brand's mystique, is genuinely one of the world's greatest cars. As such, the F12 Berlinetta resides at the intersection of fantasy and reality.
2013 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
BASE PRICE $330,000 (est.)
ENGINE 48-valve DOHC V-12
DISPLACEMENT 6.3 liters (382 cu in)
POWER 731 hp @ 8250 rpm
TORQUE 509 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed automatic
STEERING Hydraulically assisted
SUSPENSION, FRONT Control arms, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR Multilink, coil springs
BRAKES Vented carbon-ceramic discs, ABS
TIRES Michelin Pilot Super Sport
TIRE SIZE f, r 255/35YR-20, 315/35YR-20
L x W x H 181.8 x 76.5 x 50.1 in
WHEELBASE 107.1 in
TRACK F/R 65.6/63.7 in
WEIGHT 3594 lb
FUEL MILEAGE 13/18 mpg (est.)
0-62 mph 3.1 sec
TOP SPEED 211 mph
Happy birthday to me
by Jamie Kitman
I'd never really driven a 1930s car, but ever since I saw a picture of a Riley Kestrel 12/4 six-light saloon half a lifetime ago, I've wanted one. Around my house it became a joke. Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I'd say, "A Riley Kestrel 12/4 six light." For good reason. The deco-streamliner movement of the 1930s never had a better exponent than this fastback, four-door gem, as handsome as the raciest, coachbuilt 1930s Bentley but smaller and better-looking for it. Earlier this year, after spending decades talking about it, I took the plunge (thank you, Premiere Financial Services, antique auto lessors). A 1936 Kestrel Sprite I'd admired was for sale. And now that it's living with me, I can see why Rileys were so well regarded in their time -- acceleration from rest feels like that of a '60s British car. Only the 1930s Riley has twin cams (activating pushrods), so it's more modern than most '60s British cars. Plus, it's even lovelier than I'd imagined. The extra rear side windows (two of the six "lights") and fastback slay me. Fantasy fulfilled.
by Donny Nordlicht
A father's promise never fulfilled: to tour the world, attending every major auto show in one year. Start in August at Pebble Beach, September at Frankfurt or Paris, November at Los Angeles, December at Tokyo, January at Detroit, February at Chicago, March at Geneva, April at New York, and May at Beijing.