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Ferrari 612 Scaglietti driven

2006-08-25 07:33

The Ferrari Scaglietti - exotic in every way

Zigzag, Oregon, US - There could be no better name for a town than this one for Ferrari's four-seat grand touring car, which handles like a mountain lion in hot pursuit of lunch.

After a long, wonderful tour of the Columbia River Basin, we came away with the firm impression that this is the best darn four-seater car on the road in terms of performance and handling ... and smiles per km.

Potentially a minor source of controversy involves its styling. Some have termed it too bland to come from the land of the prancing stallion, but to our eyes it was stunning.

Ferrari says the scalloped sides were borrowed from the legendary 375 Mille Miglia bought by director Roberto Rossellini for Ingrid Bergman. (What a tragedy we didn't take up acting.)

Judging from the thumbs-up, applause, smiles and grins that the Scaglietti - named for Sergio Scaglietti, the coachbuilder and stylist who drew some of the most breathtaking Ferraris of the 1950s and 1960s - elicited from bystanders, many agree that it's a stunner.

And it was just innocuous enough to keep those fine folks with the flashing blue lights off our tail.

The performance figures on the 612 are staggering. Ferrari quotes zero to 100 km/h in a time of 4.2 seconds, and its top speed clocks in just below 320 km/h for the well-trained driver on an occasional track day.

Huge G-force

Many testers have recorded nearly a 1 G on skid pads. Look for doing a quarter of a mile in 12.5 seconds, or about 190 km/h.

So while this car may seat four, there's certainly no cutting back on performance.

Under the sweepingbonnet lies a 65-degree V-12 that turns out 403 kW at 7 250 r/min.

Hit the accelerator and it just breathes a little deeper while burying you back in your seat and turning whatever you were passing into nothing more than a distant memory.

If absolute power corrupts, this Ferrari corrupts absolutely.

Not noisy

And there's very little additional noise inside, unlike its F430 brethren.

Handling is flat; feedback is world class and the grip is simply outstanding when the road turns twisty.

Driving at anything close to sanity, you'll be hard pressed to hit this car's handling limits.

At every twist and turn the 612 simply hung in there like few cars we've ever driven before.

Car buffs really have to drive a set of wheels like this sometime in their lives to see what years of racing success can mean out there in the real world.

Inside, drivers and passengers are rewarded with glove-soft leather, superb ergonomics, and no I-drive or M-drive.

We found it amazing that in such a hot performance car, Ferrari's layout could be quickly mastered when it came to the basics such as audio, ventilation and so forth.

The Bose sound system in our test car, with nine speakers jammed inside the cockpit, was grand.

On the centre console is a tiny T-lever that you use to engage reverse.

Fast shifter

The rest of the shifting is done through excellent paddle shifters - there's no clutch pedal - located on the steering column.

They will shift the 612 faster than you ever could.

After all, there's a reason this system is used on F1 cars.

Add to that electronics that will keep an over-enthusiastic driver from exceeding the 7 500 r/min redline and ending up in a land where such an abundance of enthusiasm could get expensive.

There's an automatic setting for the transmission, but red-blooded drivers will never use it. It would be like, say, ordering pizza in Poland.

Ferrari says owners are able to customize the interior to their liking - the "Carrozzeria Scaglietti" programme.

As one official told us, "If they want it to match their wife's fingernail polish, we can do it. It will cost them, but we can do it."

Big instruments

The centre of the dash is taken up by an easy-to-read revcounter (to 10 000 r/min), and a big equally readable speedo marked to 340 km/h.

To the left, a data panel wasn't the quick read that gauges would be to check data at higher speeds.

The 612's head, elbow and leg room were all more than adequate, even for our co-driver measuring six feet, two inches.

Now, the bottom line. If Boz Scaggs ever sings about the Scaglietti, it would not be "Dirty Lowdown" or "Loan Me a Dime."

No, your weekly allowance has to be rather hefty to afford this miracle from Maranello: Our test car carried a price north of $270 000.

But for the money, drivers get a world-class performance car that will turn heads (at least it did in Oregon) and put a big smile, km after km, on the face of the lucky Powerball-winning owner.

What makes it worth the money is the total package - handling, power, fit and finish, and that familiar horse doing its thing on the grill.

The Scaglietti, flat out, ranks as one of the best cars we've ever had the pleasure of driving.

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