Hasn’t the 612 Scaglietti been around for a while?
Yes it has. It was launched in 2004, but Ferrari has just revealed a special HGT-S pack for it. It costs a steep £7420, but that’s fairly insignificant given that the standard car already costs £175,725. And when you appreciate what the extra money buys it starts to make more sense. Cosmetically, the changes are limited to 19-inch wheels at the front and yellow brake callipers, which stood out a treat against the deep blue of CAR Online's test car. Under the skin, you get sports exhausts with valves that open at 3000rpm to make the noise even better, a revised control system for the adaptive suspension and shorter gearshift times.
Tell me more…
The V12 already makes a pretty sensational sound in the standard car but more recently the two-seat 599 has set a new standard for aural excellence. This new exhaust for the 612 really redresses that balance. You get the full range of noises from the burble at idle through a purposeful gruffness in the lower rev range to an ever more high-pitched scream as you reach the 8000rpm redline. It’s helped by the gearbox. The HGT-S gets the F1A electro-hydraulic ’box with new software for a faster 150 millisecond shift time. It makes the semi-auto systems on most other cars look a little limp, frankly. Pull the right paddle and you get gearchanges that are nearly seamless. Back off the accelerator and you can make them silken smooth, too. On downshifts it even blips the throttle for you.
Sounds great, but it’s still not exactly a looker is it?
No, the wheelbase is too long for that and the space between the wheelarch and door also looks a bit clumsy. But when you drive it, the mechanical layout that is behind such unusual styling begins to make sense. To ensure it handles as you’d expect a Ferrari to they’ve located that V12 as far back in the engine bay as possible. And the gearbox is behind the rear seats, ensuring the weight is more evenly spread between the wheels. The Scaglietti might not be conventionally good-looking, but the more you drive it the more you realise that, as granny used to say, handsome is as handsome does.
What does that mean?
In counterpoint to its looks, this car is an incredibly rounded performer - you begin to fall in love with it, despite its dodgy aesthetics. You can pop the gearbox in automatic and potter round town to your heart’s content. Or press the same button on the transmission tunnel again and have a manual car that you can hold in gear until you get bored of hearing the V12 sing. The engine feels as though it’ll rev forever and if you really go for it, you’re in full-on engine-bellowing licence-losing territory before you know it. The handling feels surprisingly benign when you begin to push on, too.
Well, Ferrari has made this car out of aluminium so although it’s as long as a Mercedes R-Class, it’s the same weight as the much smaller CLK coupe. The net result is a motor that feels much more nimble than it looks. There’s not a hint of understeer and if you get lively with the accelerator on the exit of corners the tail will swing wide, but at no time does it feel as if it’s going to pitch you into the scenery. That's the long wheelbase and even weight distribution at work. It also features active damping which has been tuned to read the road surface and respond accordingly. It makes for a firm but compliant ride with only bigger lumps and bumps sending tremors through the seats. The steering seems a bit rubbery at very low speeds but the faster you go, the more the speed-sensitive system feeds back to you. And all this is set off by a superb driving position.
Okay, so what's it like inside?
Every bit as cool as the cabin of one of those toggle-festooned Daytonas you lusted after as a kid. The seat adjusts up and down as well as back and forth, while the steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as rake; even tall drivers with long legs can get a good low position with the wheel close to them. There’s even room in the back. One six-footer can’t quite sit behind another, but only because of a lack of legroom. There’s plenty of headroom and the sculpted seats are super-comfortable, unlike those in the back of an Aston Martin or Porsche 911. The swathes of tan leather in our test car won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but largely it’s decently built. Just beware that some of the plastics were fitted a bit sloppily in our test example.
How do you describe a supercar that’s been made even better? The 612 Scaglietti is a phenomenal machine in standard guise and the HGT-S pack makes it even better. The performance is blistering (as you’d expect), but the car’s most impressive technical accomplishments are its nimbleness and the amazingly swift gearshift. But perhaps the improvement that leaves the most indelible impression is the most superficial. The exhaust is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of owners who want a car that sounds as good as its handling.