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The F12’s key contradiction is that it is both pioneer and throwback. This is Ferrari's first ‘downsized’ super-GT, and the first car of its kind to be lower, shorter, narrower and lighter than the one that it replaces.

As such, it seems to adopt a path leading, in design terms, in the direction not of the imposing 550, 575M and 599 of relatively recent memory, but instead towards the company’s more effete front-engined models of the 1960s.

The rear track is 1618mm, identical to that of the 599

The F12 is more than 200mm longer than the 275 GTB but its short overhangs visually reduce its mass, and its cabin-rear profile contributes to a classic sports car silhouette.

Compared with the 599, the F12 has a lower scuttle and seating position, a lower engine mounting and a resultingly lower centre of roll. Packaging advances have made the rear-mounted transaxle gearbox and suspension systems smaller, allowing a shorter rear overhang and a rearward shift in weight distribution.

Built by Scaglietti, the F12’s monocoque underbody is made of 12 different aluminium alloys and contributes to a 20 percent gain in torsional rigidity compared with the 599, as well as a 70kg overall saving.

The car is clothed in aluminium, too, its panels sculpted according to Ferrari’s unique ‘aerodynamics via subtraction’ philosophy. The arcing channels cut into the bonnet form the so-called Aero Bridge, diverting air from the base of the windscreen and using it to reduce drag around the wheelarches.

The net result is that this car produces 123kg of downforce at 126mph but has a drag coefficient of less than 0.3. In our experience, the car’s styling doesn’t win universal praise but, like it or not, you can’t deny that the F12’s design works.

Carbon-ceramic brakes and magnetorheological dampers are standard. Power comes from a 6.3-litre V12 with normal aspiration and direct injection. It produces 731bhp and 509lb ft of torque, sent via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Open the bonnet of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and you’ll find a pair of unusual protrusions, one at the front of each cylinder head, that appear to have nothing to do with the drive system for the valve gear.

They’re resonance chambers, into which intake air flows where it is ‘pre-charged’ on its way to the cylinders. The process, says Ferrari, makes for better combustion and a more generous provision of low-end torque.

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And that’s just one of the things that Ferrari’s 6262cc V12 does particularly cleverly. Fed by direct fuel injection and ultra-precise combustion control, the over-square engine can run a compression ratio of 13.5:1 – 23 percent greater than that of the latest Aston Martin Vanquish – without knocking. The engine also runs so cleanly that it needs no catalytic converters.

The car’s headline 731bhp is the eye-catching figure – if you want more power than that, you can only really get it in production cars costing at least three times as much as the F12, although Ferrari has rectified this small issue with the 770bhp F12tdf. But its 509lb ft of peak twist is just as important, 80 percent of which is available from just 2500rpm.

As a swansong for not only the F12, but the naturally aspirated V12 engine, Ferrari is set to unveil the F12 M at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show with its headline power output increased to 750bhp.

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