Ferrari's F12tdf demands you pay attention at the best of times, but on slippery Welsh roads, it requires every ounce of focus you have

What is it?

It’s Ferrari’s limited-edition, powered-up, pared-down F12tdf, seen here prowling UK roads for the very first time. We’ve driven it before in sun-kissed Italy, after which our estimable Matt Prior concluded, quite rightly, that it was a car that "takes some learning".

Transfer one thousand miles to the north-west, drop the temperature 20deg C or so and swap the hills around Maranello for a wet Welsh mountainside and we can probably upgrade that judgement to "takes some learning, unwavering concentration, a reasonable chunk of talent and every crumb of courage you can muster". We’ll get to why that is in the next section.

For now, however, let’s examine a little more closely exactly what we’re dealing with here. Ferrari will hate me for saying this, but the F12tdf is, in its basest sense, a run-out special. The F12’s much modified (but not entirely new) successor will be with us next year, so Ferrari needs something to maintain interest in the meantime. Some 799 are being built and offered to favoured owners for £339,000 a pop before they play fast and loose with the options. In broad terms that’s £100,000 – an Aston Vantage V8 S plus change – more than the F12. You’ll only stop snorting when you realise what, in addition to rarity value, that buys you.

You get a car that’s 110kg lighter than the F12 thanks to the deletion of most of the interior and the addition of much carbonfibre both inside and out, where both bumpers, the front wings, all the additional aero devices and much of the underside are now made of the material. The entire aero package is upgraded to almost double the amount of downforce, with aggressive dive planes at the front, a bigger wing at the back and even a different angle for the rear screen in between.

The chassis gets springs stiffened by 20%, revised dampers and a four-wheel steer system, the latter to balance the fact that the front tyres are now two sections wider, while those at the back remain unchanged.

But as ever with a Ferrari, it is the powertrain to which your attention clings most keenly to you. The engine retains its 6262cc capacity but its power is raised from 730bhp to 770bhp, which is 123bhp per litre without a turbocharged in sight. It’s been done partly by letting it breathe a little better but mainly by replacing hydraulic tappets with mechanical items which permit it to rev a little higher: peak power now comes at 8900rpm instead of 8500rpm. You might want to allow yourself a moment to imagine what a Ferrari V12 developing 770bhp at 8900rpm sounds like. The seven speed gearbox offers even more rapid shifts in both directions.

What's it like?

Easy, forgiving and surprisingly docile: just some of the words that will never be used by anyone to describe what this car is like to drive. From the moment the mighty V12 blasts into life, this car lays down a challenge. The prize is a driving experience unique among road cars, and yes, I include the McLaren P1LaFerrari and Porsche 918 in that, the price being that you’re going to have to fight every inch of the way to get it.

There is little this car does to make life easy for you. On the user-friendly side, while the ride is now very hard, it remains impressively smooth, and the car is still quite quiet on the motorway and it still has a surprisingly big boot. The thin bucket seats with their four-point harnesses are brilliantly supportive, too. So the standard F12’s superb long-distance credentials, while degraded, remain intact.

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But sooner or later you’re going to want to drive it fast, and if it's cold and/or wet, I wish you luck. Firstly it tries to deter you: on country roads those fat front tyres hunt about like bloodhounds following a scent, and on Pirelli Corsa tyres and with super-stiff springs, traction can be challenged even just easing away from quiet junctions. The traction control can’t always keep up even in its Wet setting. The car retains the F12’s super-aggressive off-centre steering response despite the four-wheel steer’s ability to effectively lengthen the wheelbase. And when the back goes, you’ll need to be as fast with the corrective lock as I’ve known a road car from a mainstream manufacturer to require, just to make sure it doesn’t stay gone.

And yet there’s this other thing going on too. The car has an addictive quality that makes you feel like a moth drawn to a flame. The tdf is so hard to drive in difficult conditions, so different indeed, that you find yourself fascinated, fixated even, on finding out more. Partly this is because of the engine, the most free-spinning, free-spirited, simply bloody heroic road car powerplant I can recall, more unhinged in its appetite for revs even than that in LaFerrari.

But there remains this suspicion that if you are able to bend it to your will, or even adapt yourself to its way of doing things, something sublime awaits. And even on the narrow, wet and cold roads that must comprise a tdf’s worst nightmare, it proved to be one of the most exciting cars I have ever driven.

Should I buy one?

Leaving aside the fact that you can’t because they’re all sold, this is the most flawed Ferrari I’ve driven in years. Truculent, treacherous and at times genuinely terrifying, if anyone were to write a review damning it for these qualities, I would be the first to understand. But that’s not going to be me.

Firstly I cannot really blame it for the conditions: owners would just leave theirs in their air-conditioned, dehumidified garages. But second, what the tdf does is provide one of the most intense, exhilarating and, when you get it right, rewarding driving experiences it is possible to have on a public road. To me and above all, that is what Ferraris were put on earth to provide. And I’d go to hell and back to get it, rather than never sample it at all.

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Ferrari F12tdf

Location Wales; On sale now; Price £339,000; Engine V12, 6262cc, petrol; Power 770bhp at 8900rpm; Torque 520lb ft at 6250rpm; Gearbox 7-spd auto; Weight 1415kg (dry); 0-62mph 2.9sec; Top speed 211mph; Economy 18.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 360g/km, 37% Rivals: McLaren 675LT, Lamborghini Aventador SV

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abkq 12 November 2016

As this is a primarily driver

As this is a primarily driver's car, the lack of effect put into styling can be excused.
On the other hand, as the author admits, "owners would just leave theirs in their air-conditioned, dehumidified garages", this is where styling matters.
I just wish Ferrari paid more attention to the looks of its cars so that those of us who can't afford one can at least enjoy the sight of one driving past.
James Dene 11 November 2016

At a tenth of the price

For 1/10th of £339,000 you could buy a Focus RS that on the same Welsh road would have left the banana wondering where it went. Of course the RS doesn't have the look-at-me qualities of the banana - should that be your priority - but it does leave you with £300,000 to buy, for example, two DB11s.
gigglebug 13 November 2016

James Dene wrote:

James Dene wrote:

For 1/10th of £339,000 you could buy a Focus RS that on the same Welsh road would have left the banana wondering where it went. Of course the RS doesn't have the look-at-me qualities of the banana - should that be your priority - but it does leave you with £300,000 to buy, for example, two DB11s.

I can never understand the logic of posts like this, they show absolutely nothing other than the lack of understanding of the OP. The average buyer of a TDF wouldn't even think twice about spending double the cost of the focus RS on options for a single car so they won't be the slightest bit concerned about how much they could save by buying one car over the other. The people invited to buy the cars at this level could not only buy the TDF but the RS and both of your DB11's (quite why they would think that having two of exactly the same GT car would be the perfect alternative to a balls out street racer only you would know??) at the same time and not bat an eyelid so the fact that one is cheaper than the other is completely irrelevant. It is a bit ugly in my opinion though which a surprise if nothing else as in general Ferrari are pretty good at getting balance between aggression and beauty spot on.

ROB1Y 11 November 2016


I got mine 3 weeks ago & have taken one blast up the A1.
Everything Andrew described is spot on.
It really is scary - even in the dry but at the same time it's incredibly exciting & visceral.
Can't wait for more dry roads & sunny weather.