Interesting article on Ferrari, discussing not only the 612, but also the future of our venerable marque. Especially like the reasons why the 612 will succeed. From Forbes magazine. -------------------------------------------------- Traffic freezes on the bridge that overlooks Ferrari's Fiorano test track in Maranello, Italy, when the company's Formula One team is practicing. Motorists will park their cars in the middle of the public road and stand on the bridge watching over the grounds, where Enzo Ferrari's house with the red shutters still stands in the middle of the track. Ferrari maintains the house of the company's founder, who died in 1988, and still stocks his office with the purple pens he preferred to use. For Ferrari fans, visiting the grounds is exciting, but not as exciting as roaring through Fiorano's hairpin turns in the new 612 Scaglietti 2+2. The 612 Scaglietti is not only much more comfortable, powerful and expensive than the average 2+2 (like Porsche's 911, a 2+2-seater is a coupe with a tiny backseat that is in some cases uninhabitable), it is the newest flagship--not counting the limited-edition, $652,000 Enzo Ferrari supercar, which is sold out--from the company that has an extraordinarily emotional relationship with automobiles. Maranello, Ferrari's headquarters, is steeped in pride and enthusiasm for the company. A father held his little girl's hand on the public side of Fiorano's gates so that both could watch journalists leaving the grounds in a parade of 612s. The 612 Scaglietti, the replacement for Ferrari's 456M, will go on sale this September at an estimated price of $250,000. Ferrari will send 120 to 130 612s to the United States in the first year, but 200 orders have already been placed; the first 18 months' supply is sold. While this should be no surprise to people who are waiting two or three years for Ferrari's "entry-level" 360 Modena or six to 12 months for its 12-cylinder 575M Maranello coupe, the wait cannot be avoided because Ferrari limits its production so that its inventory will run out. In other words, if Michael Jordan walked into a Ferrari dealership and asked for a new car for that afternoon, he might not be able to get it. Which is not to say that Ferrari doesn't have competition. Bentley, which is now owned by Volkswagen, is planning to introduce its own 2+2, the $150,000 Continental GT, which will go on sale in April or May. The Continental GT will cost $100,000 less than the 612, and will beat it both in horsepower (552 vs. 540) and torque (479 lb.-ft. vs. 434). The Continental GT scares Ferrari. When the Italians heard that it would have a top speed of 198 mph, they increased the 612's top speed to 199 mph. Hardly a trouncing, but if they couldn't beat Bentley in horsepower, they could at least win top speed by a hair. Despite Bentley, the 612 Scaglietti is still a surefire moneymaker for Ferrari for the following reasons: (1) It's the new Ferrari. (2) Ferrari sells every vehicle it makes, and makes a profit on every vehicle it sells. (3) The company skipped the cost of developing a new engine by adapting the 575M Maranello's V-12 to power the 612. (4) Ferrari is on a mission to rethink its expenses. The company does not want to increase its volume or raise the prices of its cars. Instead, "There is a big fight inside Ferrari to reduce the cost of building and distributing the cars," according to Amedeo Felisa, director of Ferrari's GT cars department. (5) By keeping volume fixed at 4,000 to 4,400 cars per year (about 30% of Ferrari production is for the U.S., its biggest market), Ferrari can perpetuate its own prestige. Those waiting lists indicate that Ferrari is undersupplying demand, and that people are willing to forgive its exorbitant pricing for the joy of owning one of the world's finest automobiles. Indeed, the 612 Scaglietti is maybe the best car we've ever tested. Should you have the good fortune to drive it on the Fiorano track, you will not be disappointed (but don't wear big shoes, particularly if they're square-toed. If you need to brake hard in an instant, the pedals are placed such that a nonracing shoe might stick a bit to the gas when you need it to be completely on the brake). Since most of us who have the chance to drive a Ferrari do not get to do it at Ferrari headquarters, you will also be delighted to know that the 612 Scaglietti is just as fun in public. It will make you want to control its raw power from its supple leather bucket seats all day long. One of the main reasons why the 612 works as well in the countryside as on the track is its inviting F1 gearbox--a pair of paddle shifters on either side of the wheel (a six-speed stick-shift is also available; there is no optional automatic transmission). The forthcoming Ferrari-owned Maserati Quattroporte sedan uses a similar gearbox and is another example of the rare Italian exotic that features a backseat. The paddle shifters on both the Ferrari and the Maserati--transmission types known as sequential manual gearboxes--have automatic modes that can change the gears for you; these are not automatic transmissions, but clutchless manual transmissions that shift automatically. Of the two cars, the Maserati was intended to be the more polite, family-oriented vehicle--but its gearbox is woefully less smooth than the Ferrari's. While shifting the gears manually in either car is a delight, the automatic mode of the 612 Scaglietti is seamless, whereas the feature in the Maserati is incredibly clunky. The Maserati's gearbox has a power lag between shifts in automatic mode, which causes the vehicle's weight to lurch forward. Ferrari will work out the kinks in Maserati, the Modena-based manufacturer it took over in 1997. (Fiat (nyse: FIA - news - people ) owns both carmakers.) It's worth it, because sharing components with Maserati will be a great help in Ferrari's quest to reduce costs. When the replacement for the 360 Modena coupe goes on sale at the end of 2005 (its name will probably change), Ferrari is likely to import the 4.2-liter V-8 used on all Maseratis into its overhauled two-door. This would be the first engine shared between the companies; they have yet to share any platforms, the sets of hardware that underpin cars. A replacement for the 360 Modena Spider convertible will appear approximately 1.5 years after the new coupe, but Ferrari will not offer a second generation of its 360 Challenge Stradale, a street-legal race car. Ferrari will replace the coupe that bridges the 360 and 612, the mid-level 575M Maranello, in 2007 or 2008. The overhauled car is under development (temporarily named "F141") and will use an adaptation of the Enzo Ferrari supercar's V-12. Look for the 575M replacement at an auto show in 2007. The company will wait five or six years before building another Enzo-like supercar. With the 612 coming on board, Ferrari feels like its lineup fills all of its needs. One 2+2-seater is enough, the company says, as is one convertible. The news about Ferrari's future products is all about revisions to its existing roster. When Ferrari overhauls a car, it ordinarily changes its name, as it will for the 360 and 575 replacements. The names describe the engines: 612 = roughly 6 liters and 12 cylinders; 575 = a 5.75-liter engine; and 360 = a 3.6-liter engine. The cost-cutting efforts and Ferrari's plans to maintain its current size mean that no entirely new vehicle lines are on the horizon, but also that Ferrari will not make major changes to its preferred characteristics. The company has no plans to use all-wheel drive, automatic transmission, turbo-charging or supercharging on any of its cars. If anything could change, it is Ferrari's philosophy about engines. The company offers only V-8s and V-12s. Don't expect to see a V-16 Ferrari, but the company builds V-10s for Formula One and could transfer one into a production car, according to an executive at Ferrari Maserati North America who insisted on anonymity. Ferrari likes to stick with what works. The vehicle range is in place, and it will be capped by a most impressive new coupe. Learn more about the 612 Scaglietti in our slide show; it is really, really hard not to love it. We would stand on a bridge just to watch it drive--but you have the chance to take a look inside.