Saturday 1 August 2009

2009 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Ferrari's oldest current model, the 612 Scaglietti, is also its least desirable, if marketplace demand is any measure. While the F430 and the 599GTB Fiorano enjoy lengthy waiting lists, Ferrari's flagship can occasionally be bought right off the showroom floor. Does that make it a bad car? Of course not - the least desirable Ferrari is, after all, still a Ferrari.
The problem is that the 612's elegant, reserved demeanor is decidedly at odds with the outrageousness that we've come to expect from Maranello. The entry-level F430's adolescent break-dance handling and ghetto-blaster V-8 encourage 8500-rpm upshifts and tire-smoke-drenched hole-shots. That kind of bad behavior seems juvenile in the polished Scaglietti, which feels best when it's cruising gently around town. Its V-12 is quiet inside the cabin, the ride is plush, and the steering is light, offering far less feedback than you'd expect. The interior is flawlessly finished, with beautiful leather on every surface.

But then you accidentally turn the manettino to Sport mode, and the 612's automated-manual transmission cracks off a neck-snapping, 100-millisecond, full-throttle shift. Maybe that's why the Ferrari key fob, which seems totally out of place in this understated coupe, remains arrest-me red. The 612 may be polished, smooth, and refined, but it can still dance the Ferrari dance when the road turns curvy.

Ferrari has made some subtle changes to the Scaglietti for its fifth model year, and one not-so-subtle change to the price. The cheapest 612 you can now buy retails for an almost incomprehensible $318,538. Last year, you could drive out of a dealership in a 612 for roughly $55,000 less. So what do you get for your extra money?

First of all, an updated SuperFast version of Ferrari's F1 automated-manual gearbox is now standard, complete with the aforementioned manettino. A manual transmission is no longer available. If you force it to, the updated 612 will haul its 4100-pound self to 62 mph 0.2 second sooner than before, in four seconds flat. The big coupe keeps accelerating to 199 mph, and it's that figure that is likely more impressive to potential 612 customers.

The updated Scaglietti also receives a Bose infotainment and navigation system and a glass panoramic roof. A center-console-mounted, three-position switch commands electrochromatic elements in the glass to help block the sun's rays and keep the interior cooler on warm days.

And if the sticker price still isn't steep enough, you can make use of Ferrari's new One-to-One program, which allows you to customize your car to your own tastes. Here's how I'd personalize my fleet: I'd buy an F430 for when I needed only two seats, a Maserati Quattroporte for when I needed four, and a diesel VW Jetta wagon for everyday use. And my three cars would still cost the same as one 612 Scaglietti.


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