Time Machine: Back to the 1950s...At More Than 211 mph
As my flight was landing in Bologna, I realized, true to form, that I had not looked into transportation from there to Maranello. Working my way through baggage claim and into the reception area, I felt a glimmer of hope when I saw a few handheld signs with names, sheepishly looking for mine. I should know better after all these years, but we ADD types rarely think ahead. Mr. Spontaneous Combustion, a dear friend calls me. As I shuffled around the reception area, something black and yellow caught my eye, and I read it aloud: “Ferrari.” A distinguished gentleman in a black suit glanced up and asked, “Rrrandy?” I nodded, relieved, and said it again: “Ferrari.”
The Ferrari F12tdf actualizes its birthright as the ultimate front-engine Ferrari masterpiece.
After a 30-year career in racing and cars, I still get a thrill when I see the word and know it’s directed at me. Enzo Ferrari was a powerful, intimidating force in race and exotic cars early in my career, and now I was about to step into this most sacred of automotive holy lands to learn of and experience the latest of his offspring, the F12tdf.
Do not call it a Tour de France—the cycling guys have the copyright—but before pedalers pre-empted the phrase, there was an epic automotive competition on circuits and streets. And Ferrari won it seven times. The tdf is a tribute to Ferrari’s success in those historic events, an era when road and race cars were often one and the same with such epic classics as the 250 GT Berlinetta and the SWB version. Hallowed names. Auction prices as high as the Stelvio Pass. The tdf is not a new model; it is a whole new concept. It is not a track car; rather, it was constructed in the spirit of a competition car for the street, as in the ’50s. The CEO of Ferrari himself, Amedeo Felisa, explained this to me. At the helm since 2008, he is not to be confused with the recently departed chairman Sergio Marchionne, who was more of a figurehead, the executives said.
The heart, soul, and throbbing essence of the F12tdf is its 6.3-liter masterpiece of mechanical engineering, the Ferrari V-12. It pours out 770 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of twist with a surging mechanical F1-conjuring symphony all the way to 8,900 rpm. It is the clear No. 1 favorite powerplant I have ever experienced in a factory street machine. Rising linearly, the onslaught of torque just grows and grows, making me feel as if I could rule the world. The exhaust is a high-pitched wail, accompanied at wider throttle openings by a muscular, resonant intake counterpoint. The sound alone is worth the $490,000 USD price tag. Ferrari says it’s their highest specific output V-12 ever.
Delivering that surge is an upgraded rear-mounted F1 dual-clutch transmission with 6 percent shorter ratios and 30 to 40 percent faster shifts, and it complements the fabulous V-12 perfectly. Zero to 120 mph (193 km/h) could be easily confused with 0 to 60 at 7.9 seconds. Think about that for a moment. And a claimed top speed of more than 211(340 km/h). Supercar, indeed.
We listened intently to the chassis engineer’s description of the suspension makeover, incorporating lessons learned in the XX client racing programs (FXX and 599XX). The specifically chosen target was more agility without a loss of stability, invoking images of jet fighters that can only fly with computer systems involved, to suit the needs of the gentleman driver. Wise, given the awesome power potential. A stronger front was created with larger tires and wheels, along with increased spring and damper rates all around, using advanced and continuously adjusting magnetorheological technology. The aim was to deliver the best of both worlds, front- and mid-engine, by moderating the 22 percent quicker turning response with in-phase rear-steer, called Virtual Short Wheelbase, echoing the higher-performance SWB of 1959. Brakes are straight off the LaFerrari—giant CCM carbon-fiber platters.
Effective and fanciful aero tricks were added end to end, as well, from tiny floor wings in the lower nose, a first for a road car, to vents that expel radiator air out the sides. The tdf also features sill flicks on the rear windows, underbody vortex generators, a higher rear spoiler, and a diffuser with active flaps that can tune in real time for less drag or more grip, depending on conditions. The result is almost 300 pounds (136 kg) of slippery downforce at 125 mph (201 km/h) with no garish wing. I am a big fan of the long-nose sweeping-tail school of automotive architecture, and I find the interior a very pleasing modern take on the classic Ferrari, highlighted by the striking circular vent designs.
On the track at Fiorano, the sounds were intoxicating. Driving this car is like making love with physics. This Ferrari requires a light, gentle touch at the wheel because the steering response is very quick and accurate, yet it demands a strong shove of the brake pedal for max decel. On the first lap or two, both require conscious effort to extract the most from the chassis. The grippy Pirelli Corsas are strained to their max by the cascades of power, though they’re helped by a commendable 54 percent rear weight bias. I consider the front mid-engine placement paired with the rear gearbox to be an ideal distribution of mass for street and enthusiast purposes. The longer moment of inertia increases control during direction change. The suspension felt firm yet was utterly undisturbed by bumps and curbs, a benefit of the lightning-fast adaptations of the shock system. A weakness was exposed when the ultra-smooth traction controls were deactivated. At lower road speeds, throttle tip-in must be applied very gently to minimize a strong tendency to snap power-oversteer. When more power is rolled gradually in, the weight transfers to the rear, and the prancing horse digs in with glorious thrust. This thoroughbred prefers higher speeds—no surprise there. Braking is eminently stable and seems to improve rather than fade with heat. The aggressive sport seats are supportive given the forces generated.
On the roads around Modena, the tdf proved frighteningly capable. It achieved escape-velocity speeds on tortured back twisties with the greatest of ease. It feels very firm, even in “bumpy road” mode, clearly biased toward constraint over comfort, with no secondary oscillations. Grip is so high that the ever-more-refined stability controls are rarely activated or intrusive, a testament to the damping control. The car feels balanced and responds quickly. The traction control quells wheelspin so well I almost don’t hate it, especially on the street. The overall package is exceptionally well-suited to high performance on the road, as targeted by the Ferrari team.
Admittedly, this jaded warhorse found awe in the presence of Enzo’s very office, near the storied town of Maranello, and amid the soaring wail of the V-12s. I confess my seduction by the mystery and richness of all the Ferrari name entails and the feel behind the wheel. Intended for collectors, the F12tdf better actualizes the ultimate version of the definitive, soulful, front-engine V-12 Ferrari. It’s a masterpiece worthy of its birthright.
|2016 Ferrari F12tdf|
|BASE PRICE||$490,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatch|
|ENGINE||6.3L/770-hp/520-lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|TRASMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,600 lb (est)|
|L x W x H||183.3 x 77.2 x 50.1 in|
|0-62 MPH||2.9 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||12/16/13 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||281/211 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.43 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S||Currently|