The affordable unaffordable car

Can any car be good value when it costs £300,000? When it’s as smart as the Ferrari F12, the answer is yes

The paint on this Ferrari costs £16,000 extra. It’s still red, like most Ferraris sold in the UK, but this one is a special red: Rosso Berlinetta. The colour is available only on the F12, the top Ferrari for mere mortals who don’t qualify to buy the £1m LaFerrari model, which will reach a select few by invitation only.

A much more affordable piece of Italian exotica, the F12, is listed at a mere £239,352. Even with the £69,000 worth of optional extras it still seems good value. Relatively speaking.

You’ve probably already seen one or two crawling menacingly around London. The city, though, is not its natural habitat, so I took it for a drive on open roads around East Anglia to get a more rounded experience.

It has a 6.3-litre V12 engine that produces 740 horsepower. That’s about twice the power of a Porsche 911 Carrera. Now, you might reasonably ask how a car this powerful can possibly be exploited safely or legally? How do you make use of that 211mph top speed? Not in Norfolk on a damp winter’s day, that’s for sure.

With the low road friction it was possible to spin the rear wheels in any gear. If you’re used to the reassurance of the quattro four-wheel-drive you get in fast Audis, for example, beware; there’s none of that Germanic nonsense here.

The F12 is however loaded with clever electronics to control its potentially wayward nature. The “manettino” switch on the steering wheel has a wet setting to prevent the rear tyres slithering around too much, and it works, sort of, without blunting the excitement too much.

I say “sort-of” because whatever you do, however you set the switches and suspension and traction control and all that stuff, there’s ultimately no safety net. It can lunge from standstill to 62 mph in 3.1 seconds, and if you press hard enough on the throttle, it always seems to oblige you. It’s hard to take in the first few times you drive it, and passengers are left speechless.

Thankfully there are other fun elements that don’t demand a continued eye out for the cameras.

It looks and sounds every inch like a £300,000 supercar. That V12 warbles charismatically then turns to a howl as the revs rise. The interior has fabulous features like the machined fresh air vents that could have come from a modern art museum. The control systems are undoubtedly complicated, and there’s much depth to be plumbed, but there’s also some satisfaction to be gained from learning its intricacies.

And then there is the options list. The F12 can be as subtle or as garish as you want. No one said wealth and good taste go hand in hand, so Ferrari offers a compendium of extras to personalise yours.

I mentioned the paint, but there is also £5,600 for electric “leaf” style seats (they are very nice). If you want all the plastic covers under the bonnet in carbon fibre instead, that’s £13,000 more. Crazy. My favourite has to be the LED steering wheel that lights up as the engine revs rise. For just £2,976 you morph into F1’s Fernando Alonso.

If you are on a budget – and who isn’t these days – then you could simply opt for the embroidered prancing horse on each headrest (£720) and those fancy yellow Ferrari shields on the front wings (£1,056).

Does this Ferrari make any sort of sense? In a way it does. It’s easy to live with, has comfortable suspension, and will probably bring you as much pleasure as the latest batch of million-pound hypercars – in that respect, £300,000 seems like a steal.

Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com.

THE FACTS: FERRARI F12 BERLINETTA
PRICE: £239,352
0-62MPH: 3.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 211mph
CO2 G/KM: 350g/km
MPG COMBINED: 18.8mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Five Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars