Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
BALANCE OF POWER
Ferrari’s four seater 612 Scaglietti marks a first for the Maranello company. Andy Enright explains why
Delve into the rich and convoluted history of Ferrari and you’ll discover that all their finest Grand Touring coupes had something in common – an engine at the front driving the rear wheels. Even in the late Seventies when mid-engined coupes were almost de rigeur, Ferrari persisted with the 400GT, a four-seat front engined smoothie. The 400 developed into the 412 and that in turn was replaced by the delicious 456. The 612 Scaglietti that has taken its turn in that lineage offers something of a departure. Ferrari claim it’s front-mid engined.
This sounds something of a contradiction in terms but the engineering behind the claim is sound. Hang a heavy engine out at either the front or the back of a vehicle and you’re asking for all sorts of negative handling aspects. It took Porsche years to tame the handling of the 911 due to this pendulum effect. Bring the engine’s weight inside the line of either axle and you’ve got a car that’s a good deal lighter on its feet. That’s exactly what Ferrari hope to have achieved with the 612 Scaglietti. Prices start at £182,593.
The name refers to the Ferrari-owned coachbuilder who fashions the car’s all-aluminium body, and harks back to the days that Sergio Scaglietti himself hammered out body parts for prototype Ferrari models. The man responsible for the shape is Japanese stylist Ken Okuyama at Pininfarina with the assistance of Ferrari design guru Frank Stephenson. Although striking, it lacks the feline elegance of the 456 it replaces. The front overhangs are minimal and the need to house the huge 5.7-litre V12 engine means that the cabin is set well back. If you’re at all sensitive to what some people reckon of those who drive cars with long bonnets, the Scaglietti may not appeal. The most distinctive aspect to the design are the scalloped flanks which are reminiscent of early Corvettes. This feature gave rise to the car being referred to as ‘Ingrid’ at Pininfarina because this feature was shared with the one-off 1954 Ferrari 375MM ‘Berlinetta Aerodinamica Sergio Scaglietti’, commissioned by legendary Italian film director Roberto Rossellini as a surprise present for his missus, one Ingrid Bergman.
"Any car with 540bhp under the bonnet and 1835kg too haul up the road is going to be extremely rapid "
Otherwise much of the exterior design is unmistakably contemporary Ferrari, including the metallic grille at the front and a rear end that many will struggle to distinguish from the 575 Maranello two-seater. Of course, the major difference between the cars is the fact that the 612 Scaglietti will seat four. The rear seats are a good deal more spacious than the rather token affairs in the 456 although they’re still not a place you’d opt to spend any great time. The boot is also bigger – a good 25 per cent up on the 456 – and well up to the task of swallowing a couple of golf bags. Access to the rear is helped by the fact that the front seat belts are built into the seats themselves and fold forward, but you’ll still need to make a rather committed move for the deeply scooped back seats. These seats are divided by a centre console with a rather weedy looking storage space that would appear to be capable of launching pound coins with extreme prejudice at the windscreen during fierce braking manoeuvres.
The cabin is beautifully finished in a way that makes most rivals look very mass market. The dashboard is a little different to the standard Ferrari model, with an LCD instrument display occupying the left hand side of the instrument binnacle next to the rev counter. This is marshalled by the controls on a multi function steering wheel, giving the 612’s dash a more high-tech look than the usual retro black and chrome look of many recent Ferraris. The wheel itself looks like the racy item used by the Ferrari Enzo hypercar and within the boss reside buttons that control the stability control system, damper settings and gearshift.
The quality of the 612 Scaglietti’s rivals is far better than the cars the 456 found itself lined up against. Even with a 540bhp engine under the bonnet, the Ferrari is outgunned by powerhouses such as the Bentley Continental GT and the Mercedes CL65 AMG, both cars that hold a significant price advantage over the Italian. Revised intake and exhaust manifolds provide a 35bhp gain over what is essentially a similar engine in the 575 Maranello. Power is transmitted either by a six-speed manual gearbox with the classic open metal gate or alternatively by the F1A gearbox, essentially a version of the F1 sequential manual with the automatic shifting program optimised for the more relaxed mien of the Scaglietti.
The aluminium body of the 612 ensures that it tips the scales some 60kg lighter than the old 456GTA and Ferrari also claim an increase in torsional rigidity of some 60 per cent. Ally this to a lower centre of gravity and, for the first time in a Ferrari, a CST electronic stability control system and you have a recipe for a very neat handler. Factor in sophisticated underbody aerodynamics that include a rear diffuser and this Ferrari should remain resolutely glued to the tarmac.
Any car with 540bhp under the bonnet and 1835kg to haul up the road is going to be extremely rapid and the 612 Scaglietti doesn’t disappoint. It’ll hammer to 60mph in 4.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 196mph where conditions allow, making it marginally quicker than its Bentley and Mercedes rivals. If you want more focused handling, there’s a GTC-H model for around £17,000 more that adds bigger brakes, new alloys, grippier tyres, snappier gearchanges and a revised suspension set-up.
The biggest threat to Scaglietti sales is likely to come from the Aston Martin Vanquish, a car which offers a very similar blend of talents and a broadly comparable asking price. Whether the Ferrari can match the Vanquish’s awesome soundtrack and road manners is open to debate but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Ferrari could well have a little extra tucked up its sleeve.