Back in the 1980s, wide-bodied conversions were all the rage. This was a time when the German tuners went to town, turning supercars and unsuspecting hot hatches alike into creations that mostly looked like cartoon caricatures of themselves.
Just when everyone thought this trend was dead and buried, the Novitec Rosso N-Largo, based on the Ferrari F12 popped out of the woodwork. Initially stunned by its appearance, and the very idea that Novitec Rosso, one of the most sober of the German tuners, could be behind this creation, was enough to get me on a plane heading for their HQ in deepest Bavaria.
“From day one the ethos of Novitec Rosso has been to offer our individualist clients subtle visual changes with accompanying alloy wheel, suspension, and engine upgrades to the same technical standard as the factory,” explained Dirk Moersdorf, the company’s effusive sales manager.
“This is the very first time we ever created a wide body conversion for a Ferrari,” he explained. “However, with the F12, we had specific requests from several of our overseas dealers and customers to do something distinctly different along these lines.”
“Now that we have done it, we have no doubts that the F12 is the perfect car to receive this treatment,” he continued. “To be frank, we never even considered a wide body conversion before on any of our cars, and it is certainly not something that will become the norm here.”
One look at the N-Largo makes it plain to see that Novitec Rosso’s first ever foray on the wild side is 100-proof, head turning, eyeball riveting visual theatre.
Call it a throwback to the 1980s if you like, but the N-Largo conversion has a 21st Century refinement to its lines and detailing that has clearly moved the game on from the Ferrari BB and Testarossa conversions that Koenig Specials showcased nearly three decades ago.
So where does the N-Largo tag come from? “It is a fantasy name that we created during a brainstorming session to discussing the final look of the car with automotive designer, Vittorio Strosek,” said Dirk. The mention of my old friend’s name raised an eyebrow here, as it was Vittorio who designed the original wide-bodied look for Willy Koenig back in 1983. You could say that in this respect, the wheel has come full circle.
The body extensions add 60mm and 110mm to the F12’s overall width front and rear respectively. As almost every modern car, including all current Ferrari road cars have bolt-on front wings, this is simply a matter of swapping out the stock wings for the new wider carbon-fibre ones that use the factory mounting points.
Things are a bit more complex at the rear however, as far from being an exercise in pure optics, the wider bodywork is accompanied by a wider track achieved through a combination of wheel offsets and spacers.
Where the normal Novitec Rosso F12 conversion uses their one-piece NF4 forged wheels in 9.5J x 21-inch and 12.0J x 22-inch sizes with 255/30ZR21 and 335/25ZR22 Pirelli PZero tyres, the N-Largo uses the bespoke NF5 three-piece wheels in the same sizes, but with the appropriate offsets to fill the wider arches and help the car achieve its broader, more purposeful stance.
The most basic suspension tweak is a set of sports springs that drop the ride height by 25mm. This is designed to also work on cars equipped with the factory lift system.
As the rear wheels would foul the factory bodywork, in time honoured German tuners fashion, the original wheel arches are cut away, the edges of the metal properly lipped and rust treated, and bespoke arch liners fitted to keep road muck at bay.
The new, wider carbon-fibre rear arch mouldings are bonded to the metal bodywork and many hours of meticulous blending work are carried out in preparation for priming and painting.
The N-Largo also receives a complete new and wider front section with a large air splitter, wider side sills, rear underbody diffusers, and a fixed rear wing. All these components are made from carbon fibre, as are the mirror covers, the only non-technical parts of this conversion.
Over the years I have seen many body styling conversions let down by inadequate preparation work, which is clearly visible under the paint. But after poring over the N-Largo’s new arches for some minutes, I was unable to spot any flaws in either the pre-paint preparation or the Rosso Corsa paintwork, so full marks here.
This level of perfection in the finish is why Novitec insists that they perform the bodywork and paint in Germany. Leaving it to a dealer on the other side of the world whose body shop will likely fall short of Novitec’s world-class standards would do their reputation no good if something went wrong and the client was unhappy.
Drive a standard F12 for any length of time and a major impression you will be left with is just how easy the most powerful road car in Ferrari’s arsenal is to drive. Compared to its mid-engined siblings, this classical front-engine, rear-driven supercar is relatively easy to see out of when manoeuvring, and easier to place on the road.
Its good ride, easy handling, light power steering, powerful and tractable engine and smooth gearbox make it a user-friendly proposition for someone coming to the marque from say an Aston Martin, Bentley or Mercedes.
As Dirk Moersdorf quite rightly says, “In the past, when standard Ferraris had 400 or 500hp, we offered twin supercharger conversions with up to 705 hp that took their performance to major league supercar levels. However, now that you can buy a standard Ferrari with between 600 and 700hp, we do not see the need for massive power increases anymore, especially as the cars are rear-wheel-drive only.”
“With the latest cars, we concentrate on sharpening the cars reflexes, with a modest power and torque increase, sharper throttle response, a more engaging exhaust soundtrack and an adjustable suspension for owners who want a more hard-core experience on road or track.”
As far as how the Novitec Rosso feels on a public road, these mods in no way fundamentally change the balance of the F12. The slightly larger rubber footprint gives it a shade more mechanical grip, while the adjustable sports suspension as set up on the day reduces roll and adds a slight edge to the way the car goes down the road that is not there on the stock F12.
This is no way compromises the comfort aspect of the cars abilities as a long distance cruiser, and it should not, given that the F12 is a Ferrari for munching the miles rather than chasing the curves on a Sunday morning as you would do in a 458 Italia.
The only flaw in the cars dynamic mix is actually a Ferrari one. The power steering, while being as smooth as silk and nicely geared for easy use around town, does not weigh up sufficiently on the open road for my liking.
Its feel and feedback are excellent, but as it remains fairly light at high speed, it does not offer sufficient fingertip resistance at the helm to instil real confidence when turning into a fast bend on a country road, or an autobahn sweeper at big speeds.
While you could say that an owner will get used to this, I would counter that by saying that it should be right from the word go. It is probably one concession too far made by Ferrari as a sop to new rich owners who may never explore their cars real potential on a twisty road or racetrack.
This is an issue that I picked up with the standard car, and I was hoping that the wider rubber on the Novitec version would ameliorate this to some extent, but in the event it does not.
That apart, even the basic Novitec F12 conversion is a wonderful way to sharpen the claws of a classically designed supercar best described as the grandson of, and spiritual successor to, the legendary 365GTB/4 Daytona.
With 740hp at 8,500rpm and 690Nm (509 ft lb) of torque at 6,000rpm out of the box, the F12 is the most powerful production Ferrari ever, and more than doubles the 352hp output of the Daytona.
However, there will always be a few for whom too much power is just enough, and so Novitec Rosso set about unlocking more of the big V12 engine’s built-in potential.
When it comes to engine conversion nomenclature, Novitec work the other way from other tuners. So where Stage 1 is normally the starting point, the Bavarian Ferrari tuner considers Stage 3 to be the first of their power enhancing steps, centred around a freer breathing sports exhaust and ECU remap.
First things first, however, and quite separate from these three stages of tune, the owner who wishes to keep the stock exhaust can opt for a basic ECU remap that optimises the fuel and ignition curves, and raises the rev limit to 8,900rpm. This electronic wizardry takes power to 763hp at 8,500rpm, with 703 Nm of torque at 6,300rpm, while the higher rev limit allows a 5.0 km/h increase in top speed.
The Stage 3 conversion uses this remapped ECU in combination with Novitec Rosso’s bespoke stainless steel sports exhaust, for a power boost to 767 hp at 8,450rpm with 708Nm of torque at 6,250rpm.
As well as lowering backpressure and providing a deeper chested soundtrack, this exhaust also weighs a significant 9.0 kg less than the factory one. In basic form, the Novitec exhaust comes without sound flap regulation, but if you tick the box for this option, you will be able to control it via the steering wheel Manettino.
Swapping the stock catalytic converters for less restrictive 100 cell metal cats and an X-pipe exhaust system for a total weight saving of 13.0 kg sees further gains in power, torque and throttle response with Stage 2. The big numbers are 774hp at 8,500rpm, and 716 Nm of torque at 6,300rpm. In this case, the total system is 13 kg lighter than stock.
Stage 1 is for countries with less strict emission and noise regulations such as the Middle East. Here, catalytic converter delete pipes liberate an additional 7.0 hp and 6.0 Nm, taking the count to 781 hp at 8,600rpm and 722 Nm at 6,400rpm. As with the other stages of tune, the exhaust flap regulation is an option, and deleting the catalytic converters saves a further 3.0 kg.
As they are German-spec cars, the Novitec Rosso F12 and N-Largo that I tested were modified to Stage 2 specifications. This conversion does not alter the fundamental character of the F12, merely sharpens its claws. Given the depth and breadth of the cars capabilities out of the box, this is a good thing, as it maintains the carefully judged overall balance of Maranello’s finest.
Such balance, incidentally, has always been a hallmark of Novitec Rosso cars, even when they gave the F360 and F430 massive power infusions via twin supercharger conversions.
It speaks of a philosophy that recognises and respects the excellence of the Ferrari models that form the basis of their conversions, seeking to tailor make greater individuality for their owners rather than claiming to improve them.
Thus, at the end of my fast and invigorating drives in the F12 and N-Largo, I was as much in awe of the basic cars capabilities as ever, and impressed with the subtle way in which the Novitec Rosso mechanical conversions further underpin the cars character.
It is hard to believe that such a large capacity motor can rev so high and so smoothly, but the V12 seems to defy the laws of physics every time you push the accelerator pedal to the floor. This engine is so torque rich that driving around town at 50km/h in fourth or even fifth gear is possible, with just a light push on the throttle delivering real forward thrust.
The stock F12, like all modern V12 Ferraris, is a bit too quiet for my liking. Blame the EU lawmakers for that one. The Novitec Rosso exhaust helps to recover some of the aural stimulation enjoyed by past generations of Ferrari. And if you go for the optional flap regulation system, you will never regret spending the extra money the first and then every time you open the throttle wide in a tunnel!
It is about time that someone gave a front-engined V12 Ferrari the head turning abilities of an Enzo or LaFerrari, but without bordering on the gauche look that some non-Ferrari specialist tuners have managed to achieve before.
If the bog standard F12 is Wall Street sober in a pin-stripe suit, then the Novitec Rosso version wears an Armani sports jacket. The N-Largo on the other hand is a party animal, and proud of it.
Featuring the same mechanical upgrades, but now with the show to match its extra go, the Novitec Rosso N-Largo is a car with immense visual gravitas. If you are looking for a V12 Ferrari to express your extrovert side, then this car fits the bill perfectly.