Test Driven: Ferrari 612 Scaglietti (9/10)

Cornering hard in the Ferrari 612 at Exotic Rides Mexico. Photo by Arturo Sotelo

For a 22 year old, like me, driving a Ferrari is always going to be an incredible experience. I have been lucky enough to have experienced two F430s before this, but this was my first V12 Ferrari Gran Turismo. Ferrari GT cars have always been my favorite because they are known to perfectly blend all out performance with unparalleled style and a touch of luxury; far more performance focused than other GT cars, like the Bentley GT, though. For years I had heard all about it, and reveled in anticipation of the day I would get to experience this excellence firsthand. Well that day came during my trip to Cancun, Mexico at the end of 2011, where I went to Exotic Rides to drive some cars on their test track. The moment I laid eyes on the stunning yellow Scaglietti the reality set in, I was about to realize something I had dreamt about since I was a kid.   

Cars of the prancing horse all have their own unique flavor. Ferraris just have something very special about their presence, style, speed, passion, and of course exclusivity. With its sexy, bright yellow curves, the 612 looked exotic as hell as I approached it. The door was already open, showing off the beautifully crafted interior, and inviting me to take up the reins.

Upon taking my seat I can feel that familiar Ferrari hardness, but this time with a little bit of cushion. This hardness is something I have found difficult to describe, but it is very noticeable when getting into a supercar, especially a Ferrari, compared to a more normal car. The leather is tightly wrapped on the seat frames, the aroma of fine Italian cattle filling the cabin. There is a supported and comfortable feel, but the seat is far from a sofa cushion. The driving position is perfect, and the ergonomics are all well thought out. Then there is that moment where I look down to see the yellow and black prancing horse badge on the steering wheel. It gives me an awesome feeling, and an appreciation for what I am about to do, drive a Ferrari as hard as I can around a racetrack.

On the track I intend to start off slow and get a feel for the car, but even doing this I still hit over 100mph with medium throttle down the small straight. This car is built for speed plain and simple, and that fact becomes more and more evident as the drive continues. As I’m getting acquainted with the car I begin to sense just how much the 612 has to offer in various aspects of its performance. Sure it weighs 4200lbs, and has large proportions, but it just does not feel like it from behind the wheel. The car is eager and nimble as we move through the various turns, and is very easy to position through a corner. The steering is very light and quite sharp (not quite F430 Scuderia sharp though), and there is tons of information reaching me from the chassis as well. A driver’s gran turismo, this is for sure.

532hp unleashed. Photo by Arturo Sotelo

At the end of the first lap we hit the main straight and I give the 612 full throttle. It pulls harder and harder, the V12 roaring as the revs climb, and the speed rapidly increases as I keep my right foot planted at the floor. I hit 3rd gear and clock around 110mph on the first straight before taping the brake and carrying through the oncoming chicane at 80-90mph. Then back on the throttle hard for the second straight, getting up to around 125mph before having to brake hard for the approaching corner. This speed may not sound like much to some, but on this tight track it is quite a lot. The 612 is an immensely rapid car when its taps are opened, its V12 supplying a glorious symphony for all to enjoy, but it delivers its power in a smooth, albeit relentless fashion. It is a beautifully exhilarating to experience in every regard.

Hard Braking. Photo by Arturo Sotelo

Now acclimated, I start to really drive the hell out of the car, putting it on its tire squealing limit as much as I can. Ferrari’s traction control system is magnificent, and only rarely intruded in any of the fun (it will let the rear come a little loose before it interferes). I rarely felt the system engage though because the 612 was so easy to place in hard corners. The car rotates incredibly well for any car, but especially so considering its size. There is just a tad of understeer when reaching the limit, that lets me keep the car at its limit through corners. The tail will want to come out if I continue to push it, but the car really lets me know what is going on to a degree where I had to consciously decide to try and get some oversteer (what little the TC would allow). It is unbelievably composed on this track that has many tight corners, and that was the biggest surprise about the 612 for me. The brakes are also phenomenal, instantly taking big bites out of the car’s speed when called upon; a nice thing to have on a car that is both heavy and rapid.

Going into this drive, I knew the Ferrari 612 was a big GT car, the kind traditionally designed for long highway tours. I thought it would feel a bit out of its element on Exotic Ride’s tight road course, but it felt right at home. I am honestly blown away by how good it was to drive through tight corners with quick directional changes. Ferrari sure knows how to design one hell of a chassis. In fact the only tiny thing I could nit pick about the driving experience was that the gearbox definitely feels a bit last generation compared to newer cars. This is to say that shifts take just an instant longer than I had wanted them to. Remember though, that I say this having experienced the Scuderia’s 60ms shifts, and the modern DCT in the Mercedes SLS, so I may be a bit more discerning than the average person here. The gearbox did not pose any significant problem though, and responded very well overall to inputs.

From an objective standpoint the 612 is about as fast as the LSA Cadillac CTS-V in the rate that it gains speed, but the Ferrari has so much in the way it feels that is completely it’s own. That is what you pay for with a Ferrari is the refinement, the unparalleled quality, and the image. With a car like this, it is not what it does, but how it does it. Raw speed is easy to come by these days, especially when every Evo or Supra has a big turbo setup, but exotic cars are about the whole experience. They are about the sensual style, the exclusivity, the engineering that mixes the speed and handling so well together, and level of execution that can never really be matched by lesser cars with crude modifications. They are all fast cars, but exotics make speed sexy. That is the Ferrari 612, a total package GT car created by a firm with hundreds of millions of dollars in development funds, and a pedigree that stretches back to the 1940’s. The 612 Scaglietti is much more than a machine, it is an incredible experience, a perfect blend of style and speed; it is a Ferrari.

WoM Score: 

Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Practicality(2), Luxury(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 1

Final Score: 9/10

-Nick Walker

PS: If you are ever down in Cancun, Mexico definitely check out Exotic Rides Mexico. Their facilities and service are on par with the best I have experienced. Then you too can get behind the wheel of this glorious Ferrari 612 or something else from their fleet of exotics. Video of the 612 drive below:

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