The F12 Berlinetta is a car that demands your trust, and your skill. Supply it with those things and the result is a fine machine indeed
Nic Cackett
25 December 2013

There is a standard litmus test for cars as off the scale as the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: you ram them into an average, ugly working day – one where you’ve sweated blood and seen red – and find out if they’ve got the brio to blow your hair back.

Because if £200k-plus doesn’t buy you a fierce and insistent antidote to banality, its maker has failed in its primary duty. 

It is surely for this reason that Ferrari opted to locate its press garage on an industrial estate in Slough; trekking down the Bath Road to a retrieve an F12 is like going to a pub toilet to meet Buddha. It is also the reason why the test car has £15k worth of dried blood red paint on it, the reason why it has 731bhp and why, when brought around 

from the back of the building, it glowers in the car park like a supermodel asked to make an appearance at Tesco Express.

Like all Ferraris, there is an uncanny, magnetic aura to the F12. But unlike the smaller 458, you don’t necessarily orbit the car with the intention of touching it. Instead, it is so big, so charged with potency, that it practically threatens to leap from the tarmac and jack-knife your chest. Thus, you circle it slowly, warily, unconsciously taking pigeon steps. 

Obvious beauty is not the F12’s trump card. Drape the right-looking harpy over it under show lights and it probably simpers well enough, but photoshopping it on to grey drizzle reduces it to cheekbones and eye sockets – less the prancing pony and more a high-bred Pinscher.

Appropriate, really, because what lurks beneath the starter button has the potential to bite down hard on your desires and shake them about like a rag doll.

Fire it and a whirr of electrical chatter gives way to a cold-ridden clamour of highly strung idle. Then you wait. Wait for warmth and oil and viscous harmony to find its way into the ironmongery. If you’ve got any sympathy, you wait an eternity. Then you blip it. Then you do it again. And again.

Despite innumerable heavy metal parts, the engine spins up with apparently no inertia at all. Much later, it turns out that the V12 is emitting 92dB at max revs in third. At this pitch, amid the rapid-fire and raucous Italian piston riff, it is just about impossible to process any other information beyond aural euphoria. 

Road test editor Matt Prior later intimates that there’s a hint of old-school Ferrari about the F12, about it being a great engine with a good car thrown in. Rest assured, there’s a formidable car aft of the bulkhead, but it’s true that the V12 doesn’t even need first gear to utterly convince you of its magnificence.

As a mechanical mood elevator, it is unmatched. Forget the standard litmus test; remedying a dull day is its default setting. The F12 is the ideal place to receive all future bad news. Break-up? Bust? Bereaved? Just blip it. 

Log on to Autocar.co.uk again tomorrow where we'll continue our rundown of the best cars of 2013.

Our Verdict

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Can Maranello evoke past greats with its latest front-engined V12?

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK