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Do it now I'll do it later...
Wednesday 9th December 2009


FERRARI 575M REVISITED

Riggers is tempted by an 'approved used' Ferrari. Sadly he's skint...

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
'Approved' 2005 575M looks and feels as good as new

190-point inspection process is rigorous...
190-point inspection process is rigorous...
Most car manufacturers run their own 'approved' used schemes, of course, and Ferrari is no exception. Such schemes must be increasingly relevant in recessionary times, which is presumably why PH got a recent invite to Graypaul Ferrari in Nottingham for a brief 'education' from some of the folks who work on it. The offer of an afternoon behind the wheel of a 2005 model 575M seemed a suitable sweetener, so up the M1 we sallied.

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.)

...It covers everything from bodywork...
...It covers everything from bodywork...
It's like forensic science for cars. By the end of the 15-minute tour of the car I realise I will never look over a secondhand car with such a cursory glance again. All the problems the Ferrari technician has highlighted will be fixed. If the car makes it into the approved scheme, that is - something that requires this much work might be more trouble than it's worth.

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.

...right down to the brake discs
...right down to the brake discs
Time has been kind to this car. For me, it was never an incredible looker when it was new, but it has aged gracefully, and looks improbably glamorous in Nero Daytona black, even on a grey day in the grey surroundings of the Rockingham paddock. It's not as stunning as 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.

Any car you want, as long as it's an F430...
Any car you want, as long as it's an F430...
Still, aside from the number plate and dated interior, this 575M could genuinely pass for a new car; the paintwork is all but immaculate and the cabin shows barely a sign of the 14,000 miles that have passed beneath it wheels during its four-year life. It really is a testament to the stringent standards of the Ferrari approved scheme.

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.

575M sits there looking great
575M sits there looking great
A slight confession at this point, though. I wasn't actually able to test the 575's performance properly for the first 15 miles or so of my journey, as the car was stuck in what must have been some sort of valet mode. It would automatically change up a gear at 3500rpm no matter what you did.

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.

Enough photography, we want to get going...
Enough photography, we want to get going...
Once the gearbox had re-set itself, the sheer effortless surge of the big V12 became immediately apparent. This is a car that can simply lunge past chunks of slower traffic without even having to pause for breath. Keep your foot in as the revs rise towards the peak power point of 7250rpm, where the full 507bhp is available, and the old girl can seem almost scary-fast. In fact, the only aspect of the 575M's straight-line performance that belies its age is the semi-auto 'box, which does lag behind the latest twin-clutch systems for speed and smoothness.

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.

..Oh go on, just a couple more...
..Oh go on, just a couple more...
It certainly feels good over bumpy B-roads and sweeping A-roads. It's sharp, agile and always eager to turn in to a corner, yet on big sweepers rarely feels anything other than solid and surefooted. Most impressive, though, is a surprisingly quiet and supple ride. It's a fine line to balance the often opposing disciplines of sportiness and comfort, but the 575M absolutely nails it.

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.



Author: Riggers