Supercars are just so predictable.
Take a big, angry engine, mount it behind the driver, give it a complicated body shape and doors that open weird, then put a dizzyingly expensive price tag on the window.
Congratulations. You have a supercar.
Unless it's an F12berlinetta.
Ferrari has done something different with this supercar. Sure, the $447,000 price tag is as stratospheric as its peers'. But with a traditional coupe body wrapped around a front-engine/rear-wheel-drive layout, this is one of the few supercars that flies below the radar instead of screaming above it.
The F12, as it is known, is the successor to Ferrari's 599 GTB, and assumes the mantle of Ferrari's top grand-touring car. It is a sumptuous machine. The leather is supple, the seats are firm and shapely, and the visibility is excellent. The engine and exhaust noise are tasteful and discreet.
There's even real space behind the seats and in the trunk, enough to store real people's real luggage for a real trip. Getting in and out, via the standard-style doors, doesn't require any acrobatics. And the interior doesn't even overheat like so many other Italian exotics.
In short, as a daily driver, it's no Lamborghini Aventador or Lexus LFA.
But it can party just as hard.
Lurking beneath the F12's long, scalloped hood is a V-12 engine roughly the size of a dining room table. This naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter brute produces 730 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque, which powers the rear wheels via a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Driven hard, this engine transforms from discreet to a sultry screamer, redlining at 8,700 rpm. But the massive F12 thrust is available everywhere in the power band.
At 3,600 pounds, the F12 takes 3.1 seconds to do a zero-to-62-mph run. It'll get to 124 mph (200 kph) 5.4 seconds later. With enough tarmac, you could push the car to a top speed that is "at least" 211 mph, Ferrari says.
And it can handle curves just as well. Other than the light, extra-quick steering that takes some getting used to, the car is surprisingly easy to pilot, especially considering the amount of power the F12 is delivering to just two wheels. The sure feel is partly the result of the sophisticated electronics Ferrari built into the F12, which comes stocked with electronic limited slip differential, F1-derived stability and traction control, and continuously variable magnetic dampers.
None of that is new, or exclusive to this Ferrari. Your average used Kia probably has traction control. But here, like so many other facets of the F12's engineering, Ferrari draws on its vast experience in racing in search of speed.
The onboard computer programming makes the F12 both lively and forgiving, enabling feats of heroic speed and expertise, and tricking the driver into thinking he's ready for the race track.
The degree to which drivers can fool themselves depends on how much or how little they dial in the F12's five drive modes. Set in a steering wheel cluster of other controls is the "manettino" switch, which offers options of Wet, Sport, Race, CT Off and ESC Off.
Each mode progressively turns down the electronic driving assistance and cranks up the driver's pucker factor. CT Off — with CT Italian for controllo di trazione (traction control) — was our favorite mode for controlled bouts of tail-swinging fun, but it only broke loose when you wanted it to. Otherwise it seemed to create traction and grip from thin air.
There's also plenty of aerodynamic trickery keeping the rubber on the road. On the quarter panels behind the front wheels are what Ferrari calls the "aero bridge" — a gap that allows air to flow over the hood and then down the side for more down force.
This feature and others — such as the front and rear diffusers — add up to a coupe that Ferrari says can lap its Fiorano testing track faster than any other road car in its lineup, excluding the $1.4-million LaFerrari hypercar.
That makes the $447,000 F12 we tested seem like a bit of a bargain, $130,000 of options not withstanding.
If that's stupid money to you, fine. Ferrari doesn't care. In 2013, the automaker announced it was capping global production at around 7,000 cars a year, and would keep it there for the next five years.
Basic economics suggests this helps Ferrari maintain the brand's exclusivity and profitability. In 2013, Ferrari profit was up 5.4% to $337 million, and on Friday Ferrari announced profits for the first quarter of 2014 were up another 5%. The U.S. remains the company's largest market by a wide margin, accounting for 30% of global sales in 2013.
Which means you're more likely to see the F12berlinetta on our shores than anywhere else — as long as you keep your supercar sensors below the radar.
2014 Ferrari F12berlinetta at a glance
Times take: The sleeper supercar
Highs: High-revving, immensely powerful engine is worth every penny; very easy car to live with
Lows: Steering too light and quick, options get a little out of hand
Vehicle type: Two-door sports car
Base price: $317,000
Price as tested: $447,000
Powertrain: 6.3-liter, direct-injected V-12 engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual with paddle shifters
Torque: 509 pound-feet
0-62 mph time: 3.1 seconds, according to Ferrari
EPA fuel economy rating: 11 city, 16 highway