Tuning houses like Germany's Novitec don't have much to worry about. The solution is always a meaner stance and more power. The only question is how to do it. Some cars beg for additional inches on the hips and engines stuffed with more ponies. But things get more complicated when the car is already amazing.
Like the Ferrari F12, the cream of Italian grand tourers, a nigh-on perfect blend of impeccable style, purposeful presence, and unparalleled 730hp performance for around a third of a million bucks. One wrong move can disrupt the harmony that is the product of many years' work and expertise from one of the best car companies in the world.
A small workshop in the suburbs of Munich might not be able to add much to the mix. Unless it's called Novitec. Under the sub-brand Novitec Rosso, this tuning house has 25 years of experience perfecting Prancing Horses. This Novitec N-Largo Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is its latest wild build.
Acutely aware of the risk that comes with overstepping the mark in relation to bettering Ferrari's efforts, Novitec Rosso has become known for careful, discreet changes of the cars' looks, doing nothing more than underlining the exclusivity and performance of these highly advanced designs. It's under the hood where the engineers let themselves loose: tweaking ECUs, adding superchargers, and doing all kinds of stuff to achieve crazy levels of power with V-8s and V-12s-even showing a bit of German humor by giving the cars precisely 777, 808, or 888 PS (those crazy Euros and their metric systems).
The N-Largo is a new kind of challenge. With this machine, Novitec took the opposite approach, focusing on the outside rather than the inside. The name was created by joining the first letter of Novitec and the word largo, which is Italian for "wide." The car takes up 4.3 inches more lane than the standard model, its width now a massive 81 inches.
It must have been a tricky job. Compared with the Lamborghini Aventador and some other shouty exotics, the F12 is a finely balanced and mature GT of classic proportions. Slapping on wider fenders just wouldn't cut it, so Novitec Rosso enlisted a true virtuoso of visual enhancements, Vittorio Strosek. For the last 40 years, this Germany-based designer has been widening and lowering every car no one else deemed insufficiently wide or low, releasing special Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris in cooperation with Ruf, Abt, and Koenig, or under his own brand of Strosek Design.
With the F12, Strosek went for subtlety, blending seamlessly with the original Manzoni/Pininfarina-penned body. The outcome is anything but restrained, though. Taut lines and chiseled surfaces create a sinewy body with the muscles cut by contrasting details like the grille, big airscoops on the deeply carved hood, side mirrors, small roof spoiler, and a big airfoil (all made from carbon fiber).
Rear lamps are tinted black in typical Novitec Rosso manner, but still it's the massive five-piece diffuser that wins the title of Most Glorious Part, adding to the striking visuals of the rear. Novitec claims these wind tunnel-tested modifications also improve aerodynamic efficiency. The protruding splitter reduces negative lift at the front, wide rocker panels smooth out airflow between the axles, and big slots in the fenders direct air around each of the four carbon-ceramic brake discs to help them deal with the claimed top speed of 217 mph.
Amplifying the body's dramatic proportions is a bespoke set of deeply concave Novitec NF5 NL wheels. The massive 21x9.5 fronts and 22x12 rears (wearing Pirelli P Zero tires, 255/30 ZR21 and 335/25 ZR22, respectively) barely fit in the wells, but the effect is arresting. Novitec is better known for producing high-end wheels than body parts, so it's no surprise that these three-piece rims were made using highly advanced forging technology.
There aren't many changes to the original structure: Most of the factory parts could be retrofitted, since they are replaced with Novitec-manufactured carbon-fiber pieces bolted to existing mounting points. The real major mod is the significantly wider rear fenders (the front axle is 2.3 inches wider, while the rear adds a further couple of inches to that), where the original sections were cut away to make room for new fender liners (carbon fiber, naturally) to accommodate the bigger wheel/tire combo.
Considering an F12 puts 730 hp to the rear wheels, it's supposedly not far from its limits of traction. Extracting bigger numbers from this jewel of a 6.3L engine would be inefficient. Novitec still offers four stages of tune, but even the most advanced remains somewhat symbolic.
These upgrades vary from reprogramming the ECU and raising the rev limit from 8,500 to 8,900 rpm (good for 773 hp and 518 lb-ft) to a stiffer suspension, dropping the ride by 1.5 inches (no worries, a lift system helps tackle a speed hump or a ramp in a parking garage), and a new quad-pipe, stainless steel, competition-derived exhaust that cuts 20 pounds and frees up a few horses and decibels thanks to the active sound-flap function. Removing catalytic converters altogether is the final step for countries where emissions regulations are liberal and supercar drivers are happy-such as the Middle East, where most N-Largos are bound to end up.
Fitting all the above modifications produces a headline-grabbing 781 hp, but the car we're driving (thanks to German supercar broker Vision of Speed) has the penultimate stage of tune with less intrusive 100-cell catalytic converters, the best we can get in the United States and Europe. With 774 hp achieved at 8,500 rpm (a dizzying number for an engine of this size) and 528 lb-ft at 6,300 rpm, it can't be said it lacks power. Mix those numbers with a fierce exhaust note that can shame even the loudest track cars and the N-Largo becomes a masterpiece. This is the point where I should say how much better this car handles and accelerates than its stock counterpart. But to be honest, you'd have to be used to driving the standard F12 or have Fernando Alonso's skills to fully appreciate Novitec's efforts.
Frankly, all of us would be blown away by the sheer momentum, unshakable traction, and how the engine delivers throughout the rev range in either car. What's crucial, though, is how Novitec Rosso draws more engagement from similar performance. Subjectively or not, the N-Largo feels even more intimidating (in a positive way, if there is one) than the untouched F12, with even more brutal reactions to throttle pedal movements, less body roll, and fearsome sounds coming from all four exhaust pipes.
Thanks to the wizardry of Maranello, the N-Largo is a sublime-handling, precise, and stable car, even if each rear wheel has to deal with nearly 400 hp. Things might have been different if I had put the little red manettinoon the steering wheel to the CST OFF position, killing all the electronic driving aids. But knowing all too well what could happen even on a completely closed landing strip, I didn't dare touch it.
This is the first N-Largo ever made, serving as a testbed and show car for Novitec Rosso's R&D work, so it comes brimmed with all kinds of modifications to showcase the tuner's catalog as much as possible. A client can cherry-pick his favorite bits for a uniquely spec'd car. This one doesn't have any changes to its cabin, but the company will be happy to modify an F12 interior to your heart's desire.
Another appealing aspect of Novitec's work is the impressive quality of fit and finish. Obtaining components of comparable quality to the high level of premium carmakers is tough, even among popular tuners. However, Novitec is proof that a small tuner can live up to Ferrari standards. The N-Largo has preserved all the virtues of the F12 and made them even greater.