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Ferrari F12 tdf (2015) review

Published:11 November 2015

Ferrari F12 tdf
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

 799 to be built, all are sold
 769bhp V12, rear-steer tech
 £100k more than a regular F12

Not Ferrari’s first diesel, the F12 tdf is the fastest road car from Maranello this side of a LaFerrari. But is it a case of tech over taste?

Okay, let’s deal with that name. TDF? WTF?

It stands for Tour de France, and was the name of a famous motor race in the days when there was more grease in a driver’s hair than his car’s axle. The car’s called tdf because the people who run the famous bike race won’t let Ferrari call it the Tour de France. And besides, saving nine letters saves precious grams – or it would if this F12 wore any identifying badges.

It hardly needs them. No one’s going to confuse this for any other F12. Unless it’s been attacked by Mansory…

We’ll leave it to you to make up your mind about how near to (or far over) the limit of taste Ferrari has gone with the tdf, but you have to admire the amount of work that’s gone into it. The side profile is completely unique, thanks to a shorter rear quarter window and different rear screen rake. Throw in the iconic three GTO vents and you’ve got a fascinating mix of iconic styling references and modern supercar technology. 

And what’s the tech angle this time?

About 1 degree, since you ask. That’s the change in toe angle at the rear wheels the new four-wheel steering system can provide. Ferrari calls it the Virtual Short Wheelbase system, but actually the four-wheel steering only ever turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts beyond parking speeds, because the aim is to promote stability, which seems more like virtual long wheelbase to us.

And it feels…

Pretty strange for a while. The standard F12 is a lairy beast, huge fun, but definitely partial to a bit of oversteer. The tdf has far more front-end bite so the VSW tech is meant to keep the rear from chucking the towel in. It doesn’t eliminate the oversteer – that’s still there if you push – but it’s much more tied down than the regular car.

Unlike something like the 488 with its Side-Slip Control technology, or even the regular F12, it takes some mental recalibration to work out how to get the best from the tdf. With the traction control switched out at Fiorano and driving the tdf as I would a normal F12 I found myself clumsily overcorrecting small oversteer slides on the quicker corners for my first couple of laps.

The trick seems to be to relax and reduce your inputs, and I’m sure, just as we’re now accustomed to the hyper-quick Ferrari steering racks that felt so alien when the 458 was launched, owners will tune in to the tdf’s different character with some miles under their belts. And if you’re still struggling on track, stick to Race mode, which subtly kills any slip, totally avoiding the issue, and letting you concentrate on nailing the quickest lap possible.

What else do I need to know?

That unleashing full power in second or third gear is enough to make even the most curmudgeonly car hater let out an involuntary whoop! of delight. Or possibly terror. A combination of 115kg less kerb weight (for around 1520kg at the kerb), shorter gear ratios and a V12 pumped up from 730bhp to an absurd 769bhp help the tdf to 62mph in 2.9sec (3.2sec std F12) and 124mph in 7.9sec (8.5sec). It sounds outrageously good, simultaneously sweet but sharp edged, and the twin talents of instant (occasionally too insant) throttle response and an 8900rpm redline remind that, impressive as the 488 GTB’s new turbo engine is, Ferrari’s V12 is the far more satisfying, soulful motor.

Verdict

You can’t because all 799 are sold, but hypothetically, would you pay £100k over an F12 Berlinetta for the tdf? That’s an awful lot of money and the answer depends largely on whether you prefer the more demure styling of the stock machine or prefer keeping it precise on track for the best possible lap time. Dynamically, for us, there’s a perfect car somewhere between the two F12s. We love the tdf’s monster straightline performance and incredible front-end response and bite, but would happily sacrifice the odd tenth at Fiorano for the F12 Berlinetta’s more intuitive on-and-beyond-limit behaviour.

My money would buy the brilliant and comparatively bargain-priced Berlinetta, but away from the Ferrari test track and the make-believe magazine world of £340k supercars oversteering everywhere, I think that the peope who have actually made a choice between the two and splurged for the tdf are going to be very, very happy indeed.

Specs

Price when new: £339,000
On sale in the UK: Now (all 799 sold)
Engine: 6262cc 48v V12, 769bhp @ 8500rpm, 520lb ft @ 6750rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 2.9sec 0-62mph, 211+mph, 18.3mpg, 360g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1520kg (est; 1415kg dry)/aluminium, some carbon panels
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4656/1961/1273mm

Rivals

Other Models

Photo Gallery

  • tdf stands for Tour de France, an epic road race for sports racing cars in decades past
  • Bodywork is dramatically altered from that of a plain old F12
  • Triptych of vents riff on the 250 GTO
  • Power? A scarcely believable 769bhp
  • F12 tdf on track at Fiorano, where it feels less at home than you might expect
  • V12 revs to a dizzying 8900rpm
  • Despite costing £100k (!) more than a regular F12, all 799 tdf's are sold

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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