Sizzling Italian affair with a Ferrari

The Ferrari F12 is fast, agile and everything one would expect of a front-engine V12 supercar

I am getting restless. My mind is buzzing and my palms are getting sweaty. Where is the guy? He was supposed to be here an hour ago.

I put my anxiety down to the third cup of coffee I just downed, but I know the real reason is the red car sitting in the parking lot outside, waiting for its driver for the day.

Except, this is not your regular parking lot. This is Maranello, Italy - home of the most evocative marque in motoring.

It is not often that the Ferrari F12 is regulated to third place on any list. But I have to choose a car from Ferrari's stable to drive for a day during a recent factory visit and the fiery F12 has to take a back seat to the LaFerrari and 458 Speciale.

Unfortunately, no Speciale is available and the LaFerrari - Ferrari's 950bhp hybrid supercar - is in the shop (yeah, right).

Just my luck. But my disappointment dissipates quickly when the punctuality-challenged public relations person finally arrives with the key to the F12.

I remember little of the pre-drive walk-through. All I could ask is: "What time do I need to return the car?"

"6pm," he says. I glance at my watch. It is 11am. This is going to be the best seven hours of my life.

I crawl gingerly out of the factory until I am out of earshot of the visibly nervous PR person and prod the throttle to awaken the F12's glorious V12 in front of me. Forget caffeine - a 6.3-litre V12 at full chat keeps one surprisingly sprightly.

Even with 740bhp under my foot, I am struck by how easy and comfortable the F12 is to drive at real- world speeds.

Press the "bumpy road" button and the active magnetic dampers make a mockery of the car's extreme status, soaking up tarmac imperfections with genuine comfort and class.

The extensive network of hills surrounding Maranello is where the F12 (and almost every other Ferrari) is tested and developed.

The car's navigation is programmed to take me there and, like a dog pulling at the leash, the car is eager to show me what it can do when reunited with the roads it grew up in.

The F12 is everything one would expect of a front-engine V12 supercar but, at the same time, it does not feel like one.

Ludicrously fast and boasting a magnificent soundtrack, the car is also accurate, agile and ridiculously manageable at speed.

It may say GT car on the brochure, but the F12's abilities suggest lightweight V8 mid-engine supercar.

Sadly, my run is interrupted unceremoniously by the police at the exit of a corner.

As I approach the road block, I can tell from the faces of the two policemen that they are expecting me.

Hardly surprising, seeing how the wail of the V12 reverberating off the mountain walls on my way up had probably given me away.

Thankfully, I am not, by Italian standards, speeding. But I forget my international driving licence, which is a serious offence in Europe.

After much gesturing and phone calls to Ferrari - to ensure the car is not a stolen one - I am slapped with a €400 (S$617) fine, which would be generously reduced to €350 if I pay up within five days.

A small price to pay for supercar "rental", I tell myself defiantly.

As I console myself with lunch, two things become apparent.

One, the pasta is more authentic and cheaper in the mountains.

Two, despite living in Ferrari country, the locals are still thrilled to see a Ferrari in the flesh. They poke the car and interrogate me as hospitably as overly passionate Italians know how.

The next few hours are spent enjoying what is possibly the greatest naturally aspirated supercar ever made.

It might not be as striking as its rivals, but it is faster, has better handling, sounds better, is more involved and, crucially, is not one bit intimidating.

It is, in a word, sensational. Throw in empty mountain roads and splendid spring sunshine and you have the recipe for motoring nirvana.

I pinch myself occasionally to make sure I am not dreaming. Other times, the spine-tingling roar of that V12 does that for me.

After seven mountain passes, two tanks of petrol and another police road block (this time uneventful), my time with the Italian supermodel comes to an end.

•The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Sizzling Italian affair with a Ferrari'. Print Edition | Subscribe