With a car as highly-strung as a Ferrari, peace of mind is hard to put a price on. If you are in the market for a nearly new model you are not, let's face it, going to head straight for the cheapest example you can find. The car's provenance, and the reputation of the place you buy from, is going to be crucial.
'Approved' 2005 575M looks and feels as good as new
In fact the details of the Ferrari scheme turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. Potential candidates must be no more than nine years old to be considered, but that's just the start. The inspection process really is breathtaking - a 190-point inspection that covers everything from bodywork to interior to engine to wheels and tyres. We're taken through to Graypaul's workshop, where an apparently clean red F430 is put through its paces, revealing poorly repaired crash damage, a resprayed roof, quite a heavily worn driver's seat and ceramic brakes that are well past their best. (Riggers - have you found the first Ferrari SOTW? Ed.)
Lecture over, we get on a bus to Rockingham, where there is a selection of used Ferraris waiting for us to drive back up to Nottingham. There is also a 430 Scuderia available for a quick (instructor-accompanied) whizz around the Rockingham circuit. But we only get two slowish laps of the National circuit as (professional fellow that I am) I'm also keen to get a few moving shots of the 575M I've been allocated for the drive back to Nottingham. So I'll leave the more detailed musings on the hardest 430 to RacingPete, who drove a similar Scuderia late last year.
the 599GTB HGTE that editor Chris-R took to Scotland recently, but there's an elegance and grace to its proportions that I thought it seemed to lack when it was new.
Inside, things are a little more dated. Acres of beautifully stitched cream hide and thick carpet set a suitably luxurious GT tone, but some of the dash plastics feel decidedly Fiat, especially the row of plasticky toggle switches that operate some of the ancillary electrics such as the windows. At least the steering wheel and gearshift paddles (this was the first V12 Ferrari to get the F1 sequential gearbox) feel thoroughly and expensively engineered.
Combine the 12-month warranty and 12-month roadside assistance with that new-car feel and it really is like a new Ferrari, only for £69,850 instead of the £200k-plus that a 599GTB will set you back.
On the road, the 575M feels great. For a 202mph GT with a 5748cc V12 beneath the bonnet it's actually quite compact and wieldy. But the slight nature of the 575M does not extend to the car's performance - that is a far more meaty experience.
Eventually, in the time-honoured tradition of IT support's advice to 'turn it off, then back on again', I managed to return the 575M back to a gearbox setting closer to that which Maranello intended. It was a good opportunity to test the flexibility of the big V12, however, and I can report with some assurance that a 575M effectively stuck in sixth gear feels as quick as a 2.0-litre turbodiesel Ford Focus at everyday speeds.
The 575M doesn't feel outdated in the corners, either. When it was first launched, the 575M was accused of being too soft, but the car I tested had the Fiorano handling pack fitted, which transforms the car into a sharper, more agile tool.
Which leaves me with one question to ponder: this or a brand new 911? It's a tough call, but the approved used scheme - and that extra bit of reassurance that goes with it - just helps to tip the balance in favour of the Ferrari. My heart would always say go for the Ferrari anyway, but now my head might just be tempted to agree.