Monday, August 6, 2012

Ferrari F12: Tech That Makes Drivers Into Gods



WE'VE COME TO Ferrari's Fiorano test circuit, near the factory in Maranello, to drive the F12 Berlinetta, the company's new two-seat, front-engine, 12-cylinder GT. At the moment I'm reorganizing my own viscera with some high-energy cornering and braking so hard at the famous hairpin I'm making myself sneeze. A suction-mounted GoPro camera I had stuck to the driver's door has been spun off into Albania.


Ferrari says the F12 is its quickest, most powerful and most dynamic street car to date: 740 horsepower, a top speed of 212 miles per hour, and zero to 124 mph in 8.5 seconds, which is about as quick as an all-wheel-drive Bugatti Veyron. With its carbon-ceramic brakes glowing like the hinges of hell, the F12 will decelerate from 124 mph to zero in 426 feet. Gesundheit.

It certainly sounds fast. Maranello's engineers, having identified the ardent resonance of a Ferrari V12 engine as a critical customer demand, have played the noise up something grand. The 6.3-liter's red, crinkle-finish intake plenums have these strange hollow projections at the front—passive resonators that help evenly pressurize cylinder filling even as they thrum with glorious induction harmonics. Likewise, the equal-length exhaust headers have been carefully tuned to evoke the third and sixth harmonics that are the aural signature of V12 engines (because a V12 comprises two banks of six cylinders, and 2 times 3 equals 6 and 2 times 6 equals 12). In any event, the sound—the braying, bawling, soaring, roaring, bonfire-of-currency sound—will bring a tear to your eye.

Still, don't let the noise, or the test-track venue, fool you. This is very much a road car, with a suavely modern, leather-to-the-hilt interior design; splendid seats; big stereo; and optional fitted Poltrona luggage the likes of which would make Louis Vuitton plotz right there on the Champs-Élysées.

It drives like a road car. The hydraulic steering is quite quick, yes—2.0 turns lock-to-lock, 11.5 degrees/degree of steering angle—but the steering effort is surprisingly light and the car doesn't have that snap at the wheel, that commitment to direction that race cars have. Ferrari's engineers confirmed that even with all the electronics switched off, the F12 chassis (front wishbone, rear multilink, with new dual-coil magnetic dampers) has a modest degree of understeer dialed in, to help keep clients out of the weeds. Good idea, I reckon.

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