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Ferrari 612 Scaglietti - The Royal Scag

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I advise you not to touch ze CST button on the Manettino,’ said the affable Italian test driver as he showed me around the car. That was the second time in a week I had got that advice, and that deja vu would strike twice so soon meant pinching myself hard enough to cause a heat boil on my arm. 

Driving a Ferrari is a sense of occasion, one that has no parallel in life, and doing it twice in a week means looking for ‘other’ obiettivi to attain in life.As we discussed about the finer nuances of Indian and Italian sense of timing, my attention was diverted towards the yellow dials, dialling in a feeling of submission, like they were inviting me to hit the redline. He spoke about pasta, but oblivious to him, I was more keen about the fiesta that awaited me at 7000 rpm. We were pottering around in auto-mode, the 575 Maranello-derived V12 playing the perfect companion. It still had the old 250 millisecond-per-shift paddle gearbox as the cars were prepared before the new ‘08 612 Scaglietti with the faster 100 millisecond shifter was launched. This, the other half of the pair that formed the Magic India Discovery Ferrari tour, had finished roughly 15,000 km on Indian roads but seemed fresh. They would be, because Ferrari had raised the suspension on this grand tourer – by about 30 mm.

The 612 is like the four-door saloon Ferrari never launched. It’s fairly comfortable, has all the bits you would expect on a Maserati Quattroporte and if you drove from London one morning, you would probably be shaking hands with the Georgians in the Baltics the following evening. The ability of the 612 to shrink continents with such rapidity is so phenomenal, it’s like it just looks at you, wipes its brow and says, ‘Okay, what next?’   That’s exactly the feeling I got once we re-started from the pits. It starts up with a mad bark of a V12, and just like the F430, settles into a thrum, but with a bit more treble. Switch off the auto mode and engage the paddles and watch as the trail of drool finds its way to your ear even before the first gear has finished its conversation with the revlimiter. Bang, slap, wait fractionally for the torque converter to respond before it engages into second. A hundred kays have become history in all those ‘blink-and-you-can-miss’ moments. Yes, the shifts are slower and clunkier than the F430, but the 540 bhp silences every little hesitation by the tranny.Lap-after-lap, gearshift-after-gearshift, 7000 rpm became a regularity you would love to see. The experience causes tummy rumbles yet is very, very humbling. You want to just stay at the redline only because you know you’ll be back to more vapid four-cylinder units in just minutes. We weren’t lucky enough to see 300 kph on the short stretch of road at any time, but at half that speed the car was already feeling like a Sheffield knife tearing through the scenery.

We were in Sport mode on the Manettino, and the gearbox was set on the sportiest mode of shifting and damping too. On one of the few corners, the car nearly lost its tail, did a wiggle and an opposite lock before the traction control cut in, but even in sport mode it doesn’t do it very sharply, allowing you to still ‘safely’ explore the limits. The rest of the time, it would understeer safely if you didn’t provoke the car into doing something stupid. Despite that raised suspension, the 612 rode extremely well, and surprise, surprise, had very effective air-conditioning. And the most exquisite piece of kit? The lever to engage reverse. It’s such an event when you lift it and place it into reverse that you just want to do it again and again for the heck of it.

Twenty cylinders from Maranello in a week has altered my sleep pattern, caused me to hunt for the Manettino switch on every new car I drive and even made me develop a rather fake Italian accent. If only I had engaged that CST mode...