The car that scared the you know what out of tank-slap-happy Chris Harris is probably the car you most want to get your hands on … right?
Well, that car is the Ferrari F12tdf, and it’s waiting for you in the Ferrari Essentials Pack.
And yes, it’s also as fierce as you might imagine—one of the most thrilling road-going cars that Maranello has ever conceived. And also one of the quickest.
Chris Harris wasn’t the only man who was overly impressed by the F12tdf’s mix of brutal power and edgy handling either: Ferrari’s chief test-driver, Raffaele De Simone, was keen to make the point, when he spoke to Road & Track’s Travis Okulski, that, “You need skill to extract the maximum—it’s not easy to drive at the limit, you need to learn it.”
That’s quite a statement in this day and age of supercars tending to be controlled by more electronic nannies than you’d find in a fighter jet.
With the F12tdf, though, Ferrari decided to make things a little more extreme. The idea was simple enough; take the stock front-engined F12 Berlinetta and see if the engineers at Maranello could tune it to become the most agile and fastest front-engined car in Ferrari’s history.
As experiments go, this one was rather unique.
The Ferrari F12tdf is the second-fastest Ferrari road-car ever produced. Yes, you read that right, it’s faster than every other mid-engined car in Maranello’s road-going line-up around their test-track at Fiorano (also coming to the Ferrari Essentials Pack), with the exception of LaFerrari.
If you want to own one, you’re out of luck, because Maranello built 799 of these cars (all sold), and they were offered only to “special” Ferrari customers: Special meaning that, if you didn’t already own five or more Ferraris, you weren’t expected to wait for a call from Maranello.
Since then, the F12tdf has built a reputation for the kind of once-in-a-decade level of performance that pairs ruthless handling and power with state-of-the-art technology to create a road-car that delivers heart-stopping thrills for those skilled enough to bring it to its limits, and even more extreme heart-stopping thrills for those who can’t …
What’s in a name?
Why is it called the F12tdf?
The tdf part is short for tour de France. No, not the one with two wheels and pedal power, and not the one with a capital T in Tour (that has copyright): this is the other tour de France, the one that really matters, the legendary French 5,000-plus kilometre motor race that ran between 1899 and 1986 and which Ferrari owned for a decade with their 250 series of sportscars (the Ferrari 250 SWB is coming to the Ferrari Essentials Pack), enjoying wins from 1956 through 1964.
The F12td is, at heart, a tuned version of the 2012 F12 Berlinetta, Top Gear’s “Supercar of the Year 2012”, powered by a 6.3-litre V12 that won the International Engine of the Year award in 2013.
With that kind of power, it’s safe to say the F12 Berlinetta is quick: in the hands of American driver Brad Randall, it’s currently the fifth fastest road-going Ferrari ever around Fiorano.
It’s also almost two whole seconds slower than the F12tdf.
The F12tdf’s engine is that self-same 6.3-litre normally aspirated 65° V12—and if that sounds meaty, it’s sheer power makes it the fourth most powerful engine ever used in a Ferrari road car. So, of course, Ferrari decided to take that engine and wring it out for the F12tdf in order to make it the second most powerful engine ever used in a road-going Ferrari—only to the hybrid LaFerrari has more grunt.
What makes that engine so special, beyond the brutal power delivery, is its purity: no turbos, no hybrid power, no nothing aside from the most powerful normally-aspirated, high-revving V12 engine ever mounted on a road-going Ferrari, one capable of delivering 769 horses all the way to a redline of 8,900RPM. The last time anyone heard this sound was back in the ’80s with Ferrari’s F1 V12s. And that sound is epic.
Torque figures are, as you’d expect, ludicrous—520 lb-ft—and you get 80 percent of that all the way down at 2,000RPM.
What that translates to is wheelspin in pretty-much any gear you care to engage. You have seven to choose from, all coming through an F1 DCT that delivers 30 percent faster upshifts and 40 percent faster downshifts than the F12 Berlinetta.
So there’s that—a stonking engine, rapid gearshifts, tyre-shredding torque, and two seconds a lap faster at Fiorano than the F12 …
Which all leads to that whole power without control conversation …
Power without control …
Power without control is generally good fun, if by fun you mean power-sliding around like a hooligan. Sure, that’s everyone who has ever loved sportscars, but it’s also not really the quickest way around a track (though often it is the quickest way to the scene of a shunt).
And while the FG12tdf comes with a reputation for being quick to gather all your attention and focus, it also comes with a chassis and aero that, combined, create a car whose handling characteristics make it one of the crispest and most engaging supercars Ferrari has ever built.
The aero comes from the Ferrari 599XX (which itself was derived from Ferrari’s F1 car) and involved extensive time in the wind tunnel as well as CFD testing. One of the results of that was the F12tdf’s so-called “aero bridge” that sucks in air from the front, and then channels it down the side of the car to create downforce.
But as cool as the aero is, it pales somewhat with what Ferrari did with the mechanicals on the F12tdf.
Back when Ferrari were winning the tour de France, they were doing so with the Scaglietti-built 250 (both short and long wheel base variants), and for the F12tdf, Scaglietti was back, building the car’s all-aluminium space-frame chassis. For the F12tdf, however, the F12’s spring rates were stiffened by 20 percent, while weight from the F12 was reduced by over 100kgs. Inside and out, aluminium was replaced by carbon fibre, and even the leather was replaced by Alcantara.
All of that is a traditional way of converting a fast car into a blisteringly quick one, of course, but that’s really not the big secret that hides under that beautiful yellow body—the secret that makes the F12tdf a true one of a kind Ferrari (for now).
How to convert understeer to oversteer
Ferrari began the F12tdf’s evolution with an experiment: they took the rear wheels from the F12—315-section rear wheels, to be exact—and stuck them to the front of their test-mule F12. Then they sent out their test drivers and gauged the results, which were predictable enough: after all, the fastest way to induce instability in a front-engined car is to over-tyre the front-end.
Ferrari’s solution to the tail-happy beast they created, however, was very much not predictable.
They created an active rear steering system named—aptly, given the F12tdf’s name and link to the Ferrari 250 Passo Lungo and Passo Corto cars of the ’50s—“passo corto virtuale” or virtual short wheel base.
How does it work? The 5kg system sits at the rear of the car from whence it deploys electromechanical actuators that steers the rear wheels, adding up to a degree of toe-in or -out depending on what it’s needed for.
A car that confounds everything you have thought you knew about how front-engined cars handle, and a major reason why it takes time to “get” this car on the limit.
To understand how that works, it’s necessary to explain what happens when you add too-much front-end bite to a front-engined car. That front-mounting means there is always a certain amount of turn-in understeer induced by the very nature of the weight distribution. What you don’t want from a front-engined car is one that has too much front-end bite—the type you get with a mid-engined car. The reason for this is obvious; with the weight at the front, the lighter rear will always come chasing the front-end around turns, and the more bite, the more unstable the rear-end becomes.
And the one thing you don’t want in a car—unless you’re using your close to a half-a-million-dollar Ferrari for drifting—is a loose back-end both on both turn-in and mid-turn because when you commit to a turn, and the rear-end gets loose, you don’t want to spend the rest of the turn trying to stop the rear from overtaking the front.
Ferrari, however, clearly wanted that front-end bite to remain, to create the kind of handling you’d expect from a mid-engined car. And the only way to create a car that was manageable in that shape was to get the rear wheels to “steer” the rear-end around by countering the natural tendency to oversteer.
In other words, Ferrari have managed to shove a massive V12 into a front-engined car that doesn’t come with the usual disadvantages of a mid-engined car (tight cockpits, mid-turn understeer), but offers the same advantages in terms of turn-in handling.
This is the first Ferrari that has featured their innovative solution—and chances are it won’t be the last.
“We’re at the frontier of new automotive technology,” Raffaele de Simone told Top Gear. “It requires a clever driver to get the best out of it, not in terms of pure ‘feel’, but in being able to get the maximum out of the car. You cannot just jump in the F12tdf and go straight to the limit. You have to learn about what it can do. And you have to drive it in a very linear and precise way.”
Brutal, challenging, and fast. But how quick is it?
By the numbers fast
Shorter gear rations from the F12 means the F12tdf gets from 0 to 100kmh in 2.9 seconds, and 0-200kmh in under 8. Top speed (limited) is 340kmh.
Impressive, but nowadays those kinds of numbers are expected. The real numbers that matter are what kind of lap times it churns. At Ferrari’s test track Fiorano (that also comes with the Ferrari Essentials Pack), the F12tdf posted a time of 1:21.00, making it the second-fastest Ferrari road-car in history (the LaFerrari leads that with a 1:9.70). Not that it matters, but LaFerrari is a mid-engined car that pushes 949hp—200hp up on the F12tdf.
Ferrari’s F1 driver Sebastian Vettel is probably the best-placed person to sum up the F12tdf: “Its high-speed stability and balance are incredible,” he told Top Gear. “It’s incredibly fast, but it’s the way it feels through turn seven here [at Fiorano], that is so mind-blowing …”
Get this out at Fiorano, and who knows what times you’ll be turning. Just be sure to take the advice of the pros—spend some time learning its secrets because this car bites.
Lead Vehicle Artist on the Ferrari F12tdf in Project CARS 2: Sledgehammer of Power
The engine on the Ferrari F12tdf is another iteration of the LaFerrari 6.3L V12, here in “F140FG” spec’ giving slightly less power (still a whopping 769bhp) and ever-so-slightly more torque at a lower 6,250rpm.
Really there’s very little in it between the two in-game; both being buttery-smooth sledgehammers of power.
The 7-speed dual clutch gearbox is also very similar to the LaFerrari (and F12berlinetta) but with ratios shortened by 6 percent for sharper acceleration. We’ve again approximated Ferrari’s active e-diff with a combination of Salisbury, Torsen, and viscous effects as on the others. You can fiddle with this to tighten the handling with a stronger diff’ (and make power-oversteer breakaway sharper) but, while we’re approximating drive modes/aids, I’ve found adjusting the traction control strength does the best job at something like the different modes you get via Ferrari’s Manettino dial.
The default settings are pretty conservative, but take it up to 20-25 percent slip allowed and the car will comfortably hang out the rear-end through corners while you hold throttle to the floor. Fun stuff.
Suspension is in the same design family as the other modern Ferraris with the only real difference being spring rates to suit the front-mid engine layout. They push that big V12 as far back as possible so, despite the engine being up front, weight distribution is a solid 54 percent rear with the driver’s seating position pushing it back even a bit more; not all that different from the mid-engined models.
The big thing differentiating the F12tdf here is that they’ve given it more front tyre and less rear tyre, so it has no problems at all with turn-in or kicking the rear out on power.
Some very bold claims are made about the car’s aerodynamics, quoting 230kg downforce at 200km/h for a lift:drag efficiency of 1.6—that’s as high as your average GT3 car, to give it some perspective. The drag value this equates to makes perfect sense and puts top speed right around 340km/h as it should, but the downforce number kinda sends up a flag of being CFD numbers (they typically overestimate by about 20 percent) or picking an optimum, non-standard, very low ride height.
They have done amazing things with the air management on Ferrari F12tdf and have a very clean underbody plus diffuser: that said, I don’t see it doing GT3-plus levels of work at double the ride height in-game. It still gives you some strong downforce with useful balance even at typical ride heights seen during a fast lap; impressive stuff for a car with no ugly wings or spoilers bolted on.
I’ll admit I was a little worried this one would end up being too wild to be fun. Read/watch any road test and they make it sound like the F12tdf is this untamed beast that you must tiptoe around or you will Face the Consequences(®). And, yeah, it does work out to more of an aggressive, oversteer balance than something like the LaFerrari, but it’s still following that modern Ferrari architecture which is very nice and rewarding to control while being stupid fast around a lap.
Jussi and I were guessing which class it would fit into before hitting the track; best guesses being top of Road C or barely into Road B just because it would be too oversteer-biased to be fast. Turns out it is a strong Road A contender. The real Fiorano lap time of 1:21 on Corsa tyres totally jives, and putting Trofeos on it in-game put it comfortably below the 1:20 mark. Crazy fast.
Handling QA Lead Jussi Karjalainen’s Default Setup Notes on the Ferrari F12tdf in Project CARS 2
This thing turned out quite different from how I envisioned it. I was looking forward to an overpowered GT car, mostly capable of ripping its tyres apart with the insane power, heading somewhere in the Road B rankings. What I got was a very capable and fast sports car, with good grip and balance, and even the power isn’t that overwhelming when you have modern tyres capable of putting it down.
Casey and I were expecting it to land in either Road C or Road B initially, but after testing it out it drives so well (actually has decent downforce too!) and is powerful enough that it ended up clearly in the Road A category.
And it really does drive well for a front-engined car. It’s stiff but not overtly so, which suits me better. The car has poise and purpose in its driving and despite the power output, it’s actually not that hard to handle on the throttle, at least on Trofeo R tyres.
Corsas are a bit more of a challenge. The handling balance makes the car feel like it’s lighter than it actually is.
You definitely can ruin your tyres handily even with the Trofeo Rs, but the car has enough balance (and our modeling of the Ferrari diff’ is subtle enough) that it’s not terribly hard to avoid it if you can keep your right foot in check. With Corsas it does become more of an actual effort to keep the power under control.
The Project CARS 2 Season Pass offers all four DLCs plus the Motorsport Bonus Pack, all at a discounted price.
The Ferrari Essentials Pack is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and (PC Steam).
*The Pista di Fiorano is a Ferrari-only track, both in real-life and, of course, in Project CARS 2.