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Why Was Motor Trend's Ferrari F12berlinetta So Slow And Heavy?

We think the answer may involve the U.S. government and a whole bunch of water weight.

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The Ferrari-loving parts of the Internet exploded into a minor tizzy last week, when a Motor Trend review of the Ferrari F12berlinetta hit the web, and it turned out to be…less than glowing. The MT test crew didn’t seem quite as wowed with the car as the Ferraristae expected, but to a certain extent, that’s a matter of opinion, and so it’s understandable. But what really startled people were some of the figures MT squeezed out of the F12.

It seemed kind of slow.

Now, “slow” in this context correlates to a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 11.3 seconds at 131.7 mph, and a skidpad grip of 0.99g. But insanely enough, that’s not quite so ludicrous in 2013—not when a stock Shelby GT500 does 0-60 in 3.5, runs the quarter in 11.8 at 125, and pulls 1.0g on the skidpad for $300,000 less. (Well, in the case of MT‘s ridiculously optioned F12berlinetta, $400,000 less.)

More to the point, these numbers are a good bit off of Ferrari’s official estimates for the F12berlinetta—0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds, for example—but they’re also well off from what other independent tests have shown. When Italy’s Quattroruote magazine tested an F12 earlier this year, their Ferrari cracked off a 0-62 time of 3.0 seconds flat and a quarter-mile time of 10.6 seconds at 136.6 mph. That’s more than a rounding error off of Motor Trend‘s numbers, or a difference in testing procedures. That’s an entirely different car.

So what made Motor Trend‘s F12berlinetta a comparative slowpoke? Well, there’s a chance it may have had something to do with weight. MT‘s Ferrari, according to their scales, weighed in at 4,003 pounds—about 150 more than the aforementioned Shelby GT500, for the record. Which is a lot—especially considering Ferrari quoted a dry weight of 3,355 pounds for the car when it debuted. That’s a 648 pound difference—or an increase of 20 percent over Ferrari’s quoted weight. Where’s all the mass coming from?

Well, a lot of it is water weight—or, more accurately, fluid weight. Ferrari’s quote was the F12berlinetta’s dry weight, whereas Motor Trend‘s weight is the curb weight. Dry weight doesn’t include any of the fluids that go into the car—gasoline, coolant, engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, washer fluid, you name it—whereas curb weight includes all of them.

But even all those fluids don’t seem like they should add up to 650 pounds. So perhaps some of the additional difference lies in U.S. market safety additions? The Alfa Romeo 4C, for example, has a claimed curb weight of around 2100 pounds in Europe (it’s probably closer to 2,500, but more on that in a sec), but U.S.-bound versions are expected to weigh around 100-plus pounds more, thanks to U.S.-required add-ons like side airbags, sliding power seats, etc. It’s possible the Ferrari F12berlinetta was forced to tack on mass in order to cross the Pond. Quattroruote‘s F12berlinetta—the one that did 0-62 in 3.0 seconds—had a curb weight of 3,738 pounds; with instruments and driver (i.e. the way it was for the test), it weighed 3,958 pounds. Depending on whether or not Motor Trend weighs cars with or without instruments and driver, that’s a difference of either 265 or 45 pounds. Either of those figures could probably be explained away by the $111,506 in options loaded onto MT‘s press fleet Ferrari. (In general, Europeans tend to option their cars more frugally than Americans, and U.S. manufacturers love to throw the option book at their press test cars.)

But even a difference of 265 pounds shouldn’t lead to a 0.6-second differential between QR and MT‘s numbers. Motor Trend‘s test mentioned the ridiculous amount of power generated by the 6.3 liter V12 on several occasions, so it doesn’t seem like their example was down on output—a fact which the high trap speed in the quarter bears out. So we’re left thinking the problem, as MT suggests, was a lack of tire adhesion—but an accidental one. “The moral is grip. The F12 doesn’t have it,” they write. Perhaps the Michelin Pilot Super Sports on their car weren’t in the best shape; perhaps the Pirelli PZeros strapped to Quattroruote‘s tester were even grippier. Maybe QR‘s track has a great surface; maybe Motor Trend tested the F12 on Teflon.

Far as we’re concerned, though, there’s only one way to settle this. Ferrari of North America needs to give us an F12berlinetta press car for a day, then we’ll weigh it and drive it at our undisclosed location on both PZeros and Pilot Super Sports and see how it performs. You know. For science.

  • James William says:
    October 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    The motor trend test seems to conflict every other review and test of the F12 all over the internet. One thing it has gained praise for from multiple reviews was its traction, especially exiting a corner. I just find it hard to believe that the F12 is not only slower than the 599 it replaces, but also over a half second slower than the 458 and even a tenth slower than the california according MT's own test results. I'm anxious to see the test results from the other magazines and publications for comparison.

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