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Click for more pictures“Blistering performance,
  comfort for four
  and a Prancing Horse
  on the grille.
  Could you really wish
  for anything more?”

IMAGINE YOU HAVE 180,000 burning a hole in your pocket. You also have an abiding penchant for pedigree automotive machinery, and you're hooked on the adrenaline rush that only very serious horsepower can satisfy. Oh, and you've got to have a car that will take three adult passengers in comfort — even if they can't always be female and blonde. Could there possibly be anything that solves your problem? The answer may surprise you — it's made by Ferrari, and it's the 612 Scaglietti.

12-cylinder Grand Tourers like the avant-garde 612 are a long-established tradition for Ferrari. With a lineage stretching back to 1948 and the 166, the models have evolved through the 250GT, 330GT and 365GT in the Sixties right up to the 456M of the Nineties.

The latest in this tradition is the 612 Scaglietti, which is the first 12-cylinder Ferrari to be built entirely out of lightweight aluminium — the spaceframe and the entire body including the bonnet, boot lid and doors. Sergio Scaglietti, a Modenese coachbuilder who worked closely with Enzo Ferrari in the early years, excelled in the art of sculpting aluminium bodies and created some of the most magnificent road and racing cars ever made. And it is in his honour that the 612 bears the Scaglietti name.

Ferrari's decision to go for an all-aluminium chassis and body was based on a desire for the type of construction able to provide three critical qualities in one — namely a light, rigid structure guaranteeing low weight, great dynamic handling and passenger safety.

The two-door body was designed by Pininfarina to skin a cabin capable of accommodating four occupants while clothing the heart, sinews and automotive architecture of an excitingly nimble, sporting, front-engined rear-wheel drive berlinetta. In case you're wondering, the '6' of the '612' indicates the Scaglietti's engine displacement (5,748cc, rounded up), while the '12' is the number of cylinders configured in a classic 65-degree 'V'. And, as we're talking figures, let's throw in a few more. Such as 199, the 612's top speed in miles per hour. And 532, the brake horsepower at 7,250 revs. There's also 433.8, the Scaglietti's torque in lb ft, and 4.2, the number of seconds it takes to hit 62mph from standstill.

As you study the 612, you can see that the result is a look that's both imperious and elegant. It is a look that trumpets the 612's long wheelbase, 'cab-rear' layout and nominal overhangs. The initial most striking feature is perhaps the long, aerodynamic bonnet, boldly defined by the sharp-edged metal creases that delineate the aggressively-gaping grille. Continuing through the transparent covers of the Xenon projector headlights, the lines flow along the crown of the front wings and continue into the swept back screen pillars. Even then Pininfarina is not finished. Your eye and your attention are still drawn enticingly over the shapely roof to the Scaglietti's pleasing flanks. Everyone stares at the 612. We soon got used to people snapping the Scaglietti with their cameras and mobiles.

Nose-to-tail, the 612 measures one inch over sixteen feet and takes up a six-foot-five-inch-wide swathe of road. Gallantly evoking the celebrated 375 MM built for the film director Roberto Rossellini as a gift for his wife Ingrid Bergman, the scalloped sides endow the Scaglietti with aerodynamic elegance. The 'Bergman' treatment works particularly well when viewed from the rear three-quarters, balanced by the two classic Ferrari circular rear lights and twin tail pipes.

If there's the slightest drop of red blood in your veins, you'll be itching to wrap your fingers around the slim-rimmed, perforated leather-clad steering wheel. So — hook your fingertip under the shell-shaped release latch, swing open the door and drop into the snug comfort of the hand-stitched leather seat. Both front seats adjust in every direction at the touch of a switch. Both also have three memory settings, the driver's incorporating personalised mirror and electrically-controlled reach-and-rake for the steering. And there's three-level seat heating that warms your back in all the right places.

Behind are two more individual body-hugging seats, easily reached thanks to an 'easy entry-exit' switch which lowers the front seat and its headrest and slides it forward. All four seats are beautifully formed and contoured — and every bit as comfortable as they look. For even greater convenience the seatbelts are 'on board' — appended to the seat structure beside the integral headrest. An example of the attention to detail, it also makes access easier for back seat passengers.

Whether you're crossing continents at high speed or simply getting from A to B in an urban area, the back seats most certainly do not have a 'second class passenger' feel. On several longish journeys — one trip with two six-footers travelling in the rear — there was not one sniff of criticism.

With a Prancing Horse emblem gracing the boss, the steering wheel feels totally right in your hands. It's classy and functional in equal measure and contains buttons that operate the Sport mode, the stability and traction control system and the digital display.

Not surprisingly, the 612's sporty and sophisticated interior takes some beating. The cabin's aluminium detailing — on the dashboard, eyeball air vents, knurled climate control knobs, seat and door handles, the large brake and accelerator pedals and even the milled tip of the wiper stalk — smartly complements the swathes of rich, tan-coloured hide. Even the seat belt arms are sheathed in matching soft leather. Black hide clothes the whole width of the dash top and hooded instrument cowl. More — perforated and comfortably non-slip — is wrapped around the steering wheel and the handbrake grip.

A delightful touch is the small Prancing Horse emblem stamped into the black metal centre boss of the eye-ball air vents, the outer aluminium rims of which are rotated clockwise or anti-clockwise to turn on or shut off the air flow. Dual-zone automatic climate control regulates in-car temperature, humidity and ventilation levels, so the front passenger and driver can each enjoy their own individual temperature and air flow preferences.

A cutting-edge, six-channel digital sound system, developed especially for the 612 by Bose, offers the kind of quality found in a top-flight home entertainment centre. Audiophiles will be pleased to know that the system boasts three tweeters on the dash, two woofers and two tweeters on the sides of the rear seats, one amplified 100-watt bass box in the front and one 100-watt 250mm-diameter amplified subwoofer at head level. A microphone in the roof controls the Audio Pilot, which automatically equalises the sound if it senses other background noise or disturbance. A compartment on the centre stack holds four CDs, with six more in the auto-stacker in the boot. Other handy features include drive-off locking, fold-back door mirrors, auto-switched lights and rain-sensing wipers.

Cabin practicality is addressed by various storage areas throughout the interior, while the 240-litre (8.75 cu ft) boot is supplemented by an additional underfloor storage well where the spare would normally be housed. However, given that the 612 runs 18-inch rims at the front and 19-inch at the back, a special repair and wheel inflation kit comes as standard. There's also a lovely Ferrari tool kit and spare bulbs and fuses in a bespoke leather satchel. Should you wish to maximise storage, you can specify the optional and exclusive six-piece luggage set designed by Pininfarina especially for the 612's boot.

Red-lined at 7,400, the bold black-on-yellow rev-counter dominates the instrumentation — this is a Ferrari, after all! — and is flanked by a smaller diameter, 220mph speedometer and a five-inch, multi-function TFT screen that shows everything from days/miles to the next service, coolant temperature, oil temperature/pressure, fuel level, outside temperature and trip and mileage data to the current road speed figure. The analogue dials have red needles and large numerals; the digital screen's black-on-pale blue display is equally clear. A dedicated digital 'window' in the lower right quadrant of the rev-counter displays the selected gear and drive mode.

A small T-bar for selecting reverse gear — along with buttons to engage a 'winter' program for slippery conditions and the Auto mode — is housed on the central tunnel where you'd find the standard six-speed gear lever if your 612 isn't fitted with the Formula 1-derived F1A gearbox. Reverse gear is engaged by lifting and moving the T-bar an inch towards the rear of the car. Alternatively, pushing it forwards will give you 1st or Auto mode D. At night, the T-bar panel is lit by non-distracting diffused light from downlighters sited above the rearview mirror.

Cover the chunky, drilled-aluminium footbrake, twist the key and the normally-aspirated V12 comes alive with a throaty, hard-edged crackle. It is in that moment that you're vividly reminded that each 612 engine is lovingly hand-assembled by one man. Select first gear by briefly pulling back on the right gear shift paddle immediately behind the steering wheel — it requires only light pressure — and feed in the power. Step off is uncannily smooth, acceleration to the next up-shift point breathtakingly linear.

With genuine supercar power, searing acceleration and a 199mph top speed achievable on demand from the 5.7-litre V12 you might expect the 612 to be something of a brute, laying in wait to catch you out when least expected. Absolutely not. In Auto mode the Scaglietti will trickle along nonchalantly in city traffic, the electronic wizardry taking care of the clutch work and gear-changing, even adding a polished double-declutch throttle blip on the downshifts. And, such is the V12's mountainous tractability, walking-pace to warp speed acceleration is always there for the taking.

This would be as good a place as any to mention fuel consumption. Actually, all things being equal, it's pretty good. We averaged 13.4 overall, with 20mpg on runs. Ferrari's official figures are 8.8mpg urban, 13.6 combined and 20.2mpg extra urban. The 612's tank holds 23.75 gallons, and if you can afford the car you can certainly afford the fuel. Judged on a smile-per-gallon basis, the Scaglietti has to be one of the most rewarding cars to tank up that you can buy!

Pushing the Auto button again will return you to manual mode, where perfect up and down gear changes are performed on command with a light pull-back on the cool aluminium paddles — right side for changing up; left for changing down. Full-bore upshifts are agreeably muscular; downshifts perfectly rev-matched. In manual mode, shifts up are made automatically when the engine reaches the rev limit. The FIA gearbox will also downshift automatically — if you haven't already — when it senses a gear is too high for the engine speed, such as at junctions and crawling along in traffic. Come to a halt and it selects first gear. Whichever mode you choose, the 612's ride is connected and composed. The actively-damped double wishbone suspension at all four corners filters out the myriad intrusions of far-from-perfect roads with aplomb.

Point the 612's nose at serious twists and turns and it responds fluidly, unhindered by its five-metre length as it scythes through the bends. The front mid-engine layout delivers pliant handling, and power is laid down through the rear wheels cleanly and without fuss. Impressively so. Push the steering wheel-mounted Sport button and the Scaglietti sexes up: the electronically-damped suspension feels more resolute, the V12 responds quicker to the accelerator, the paddle-shifted gear changes become even faster — taking just 150 milliseconds — and the CST 'backs off', the threshold at which it will intervene markedly reduced. The first time you feel this 'urgency' you begin to truly appreciate the calibre of the thoroughbred machine you're fortunate enough to be driving.

Light, direct and well-connected, the 612's speed-sensitive steering is confidence-inspiring, reacting best to calm, measured inputs from the driver. Like a well-schooled horse, the 612 responds to a firm but sensitive guiding hand. And is as equally rewarding. Ferrari's CST stability and traction control system, fitted for the first time in a car bearing the Prancing Horse, is a welcome power behind the throne. Indulgently reticent about tempering your enjoyment, it nevertheless intercedes with expertise when it's time to lend a hand, adding a reassuring layer of security that's certainly not unwelcome in a car capable of such rocket-ship performance.

Mechanical traction is immense, as is the sheer physical grip from the substantial Pirelli P Zero tyres (245/45 18-inch up front and 285/40 19s at the back, all mounted on graceful, five-spoke forged aluminium rims) — the result of a great deal of hard work both on the road and on the Fiorano circuit. Even more commendable is the degree of comfort the P Zeros afford even in sporty driving conditions.

With a low centre of gravity and a 46 per cent front to 54 per cent rear weight distribution — made possible by mounting the engine behind the front axle and locating the gearbox in unit with the differential at the rear and fitting the petrol tank over the rear axle — the 612 has been engineered to handle neutrally. So much so you could be forgiven for thinking that the stability control system is unnecessary. Drive it confidently without ego and the Scaglietti is quick, tidy and safe and rock steady at three-figure speeds. A word to the inexperienced: 532bhp — that's more than any other road-going Ferrari, bar the Enzo — demands more than a token respect, whoever you are.

Unleash all of the 612's firepower and the V12 yowls in a manner that you can actually feel resonate physically through your body as clearly as the engine's mechanical soundtrack playing through the quad tail pipes. It takes a few days behind the wheel of a 612 before you begin to grasp just how awesomely capable it is, possessing levels of all-round performance that make other four-seater GTs seem tame.

Fortunately, the Scaglietti's ABS brakes have more than enough 'stop' in them to counter the torrents of 'go' generated by the fiery V12. Discs are drilled and ventilated, 345mm at the front and 330mm at the rear. Initial take-up is relatively light but when they bite the four-pot Brembo brakes are tenacious, delivering unwavering fade-free stopping power — of the seatbelt biting into your shoulder kind — whenever you need it.

The 612 is not the kind of car that gets you thinking about accidents but it's nice to know that, right from its conception, safety was an integral part of the Scaglietti's development process. Thanks to its state-of-the-art, all-aluminium construction, its chassis and bodywork significantly exceed current international standards and cover many collision configurations which have yet to be applied.

While Ferrari's own frontal impact crash tests were performed in line with the new offset standard with a deformable barrier at 64km/h, they were done at 8km/h faster than the current requirement. Even then, deformation of the cabin and steering wheel intrusion were very slight. The rear impact tests were performed at 80km/h (that's 30km/h faster than the norm) with equally positive results. In fact, the standards Ferrari has applied will not even come into force in the United States for at least another four years.

Particular attention was also paid to side impacts. The specially dimensioned structure of the 612's doors and A- and C-posts are 50 per cent more resistant to cabin intrusion. Overall, the 612 Scaglietti has the added bonus of offering exceptionally-high occupant protection even without the use of side air bags — although, naturally, occupant protection is completed by the adoption of highly innovative restraint systems that include two-stage front airbags.

These automatically adapt their inflation rate to the severity of any collision and are designed to provide optimal protection even when the occupants are not in the correct position. Special sensors in the engine compartment can recognise a violent deceleration signalling that a collision may be about to happen and thus 'alert' the airbag system. The Scaglietti also offers highly adaptable seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters as well as Isofix on the rear seats so that child seats can be used with full confidence and in perfect safety.

Stating the obvious, the 612 also offers an exceptionally high standard of active safety courtesy of its exceptional chassis characteristics, architecture, sophisticated Skyhook suspension and stability, traction control and braking systems.

Okay, so you've spent exactly 177,500 on a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Sounds good, but exactly what have you got to show for it?

Obviously, with very limited numbers coming to the UK, your money has bought you both exclusivity and automotive A-list cachet. More to the point, it has bought you a fabulous driving machine that manages to be a thrilling and staggeringly rapid sports car while providing the genuine comfort and accommodation of a four-seater Grand Tourer.

Even more extraordinary, it's an accessible everyday supercar that can be driven and enjoyed with simple pleasure at eight-tenths of its vast potential. And even those awesome final two-tenths require nothing more taxing than cosy familiarity.

Whoever it was who said money couldn't buy you happiness clearly didn't have quite enough to buy a 612 Scaglietti! — MotorBar
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Ferrari 612 Scaglietti F1A | 177,500
Maximum speed: 199+mph | 0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 13.4mpg | Power: 532bhp | Torque: 434lb ft

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------------------------------------------------------------- Ferrari 612 Scaglietti