21 October 2003

A 196mph top speed makes the 612 Scaglietti the fastest four-seater Ferrari has ever produced, and with 540bhp from its 5748cc engine, the most powerful too.

The new car, which goes on sale in the UK next summer, is also Ferrari’s first front mid-engined car, this layout placing 54 per cent of the 612’s 1840 kilos over the rear wheels, the intention being to improve both traction and handling balance.

It is this mechanical layout that is responsible for the car’s unusual proportions, the V12’s location behind the front axle creating an unusually long bonnet, and cabin placed well to the rear of the car. An exceptionally long wheelbase – there’s another foot in it compared to the outgoing 456’s – is another distinctive feature. The 5.7-litre V12 is a development of the engine found in the 575 Maranello, its 25bhp gain over the older car largely down to reworked intake and exhaust manifolds. Torque generation remains the same, at 434lb ft produced at 5250rpm, while peak power emerges at a doubtless electrifying 7250rm. Apart from that 196mph top speed, that’s enough to have the 612 sprinting to 62mph in 4.2 seconds.

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The powerplant drives a six-speed gearbox mounted in unit with the back axle, and it can be had with either a traditional gated manual gearchange or a sequential shift, called F1A, the A to emphasise the fact that the system can self-shift, around half the old 456s being sold with conventional automatic transmissions. The 612’s suspension is likely to be coil sprung, double wishbone all round - though Ferrari has yet to confirm this – with electronically controlled active damping, a development of the system found in the 575. The appearance of electronic stability control, dubbed CST, is another first for Ferrari.

The 612 Scaglietti gets its name from the generous rounding up of its cubic capacity (5748cc for the 6) and the number of cylinders, while Scaglietti is a tribute to Sergio, who designed many historic Ferraris, including the one-off 375MM commissioned by film director Roberto Rossellini as a gift for his film star wife Ingrid Bergman. Both 375MM and 612 share the same distinctive scallops aft of the front wheels. The 612’s aluminium body structure is also fabricated at the Scaglietti Technologies bodyshop outside Modena, which Ferrari owns.

The 612 will get its international debut at the Detroit motor show in January, before going on sale on the continent in spring, and the UK next summer.

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