Another method is to reduce weight, so the F12tdf is 110kg lighter than the F12, thanks to the removal of much of the interior (Alcantara and carbonfibre replaces leather and aluminium), and the replacement of much of the aluminium bits on the outside with carbonfibre, with Ferrari claim a sporty yet spartan feel.
But the easiest way to introduce agility to a car is simply to fit it with massive front tyres. At the start of the development process, Ferrari did just that - fitting 315-section F12 rear wheels to the front, and then even slick tyres to the front, to see what the result was like.
Hilarious but perilously unstable is the short of it, which meant Ferrari couldn’t just leave it like that. And here its marketing men rather like to use an aerospace analogy: in the same way that a modern fighter jet is designed to be inherently unstable so that it’s incredibly agile, so too was the F12tdf.
And where a modern fighter uses electronic control systems to make it flyable, Ferrari uses active rear steering to make the F12tdf driveable again. They call the system a ‘virtual short wheelbase’, or ‘passo corto virtuale’ to be precise, although it’s not strictly accurate in either language; it’s the wider front tyres, 285 section rather than 255s, that increase the agility and make the car feel like it’s shorter.
The ZF rear steer system, which weighs around 5kg, can add up to a degree of toe in or out thanks to electromechanical actuators acting on a toe link, and almost always turns in the same direction as the fronts (except at manoeuvring speeds), is used to put stability back in.
In effect, that lengthens rather than shortens the wheelbase again, but semantics aside, the aerospace analogy isn’t unfounded. Either way, Ferrari likes the system so much it’ll use it again in future. So significant are these things that beyond them the changes are mere details.
The aerodynamics are improved – the car’s a little longer as a result, while the rear track is wider because of the active toe changes. Gear ratios are 5-6 percent shorter, enough to reduce the 0-62mph time to 2.9sec, and spring rates are stiffer, by 20 percent – a difference you’ll feel ‘within a metre’.
The price, if you’ve been invited to buy an F12tdf – and you’ll own at least five other Ferraris and be known by the company ‘very well’ if you have – £339,000.
The F12tdf is certainly intriguing. And if that isn’t the word as immediately positive as you’d expect about a car from a manufacturer that can do scarcely little wrong at the moment, we share your surprise.
Ferrari admits that its special V12 models aren’t simple to jump into and drive quickly – they’re not like the standard mid-engined V8s – and the F12tdf takes some learning before you feel completely comfortable with it on a circuit.
Because on the road, of course, dynamic extremes aren’t such a bother. Yes, you do notice the firmness of the ride and the fact that if you flick the dampers to ‘bumpy road’ mode there’s seemingly less of a difference than in a standard Ferrari. It’s always firm: not crashy, but you know what’s beneath you.
The F12tdf retains the F12’s two-turn lock-to-lock steering rack, but because of the wider front tyres and stiffer suspension, it feels more connected and responsive than a regular F12. So in many ways it’s easier to drive; out in the hillside roads around Maranello the F12tdf steers with ease and precision; it’s a big car but one that’s easy to place.