A tantalising match-up, this one. It’s rare that Maranello and Munich face off on equal terms, but here we have it: a pair of 2+2, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive super-coupés from BMW and Ferrari costing around £60,000 apiece.
The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti (2004-2011) cost more than £210,000 by the end of its tenure, but this left-hand-drive, HGTS Pack-equipped 2006 example is for sale by VVS UK in Cranbrook Common, Kent, for £62,990.
After only 18,000 miles, it has shed £125,000, but that’s for someone else to worry about, because their loss gives us a full complement of 12 glorious, V-mounted, naturally aspirated cylinders to pitch against the M4’s mere six.
But the M4 makes the most of those six cylinders, eking out 425bhp from its twin-turbocharged 3.0 litres. Indeed, it’s a proper tech-fest under the M4’s skin, with switchable modes for the dampers, engine, optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox and electric power steering, as well as a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic driveshaft. The car charges to 60mph in 4.1sec yet returns a remarkable 34.0mpg combined.
By comparison, the 612 is old hat. It does have dual-mode adaptive dampers, but the optional self-shifter is the single-clutch automated manual ‘F1’ transmission, which now seems awfully long in the tooth. The steering is old-school hydraulic, too, but that’ll draw more cheers for feel than jeers for the slight economy penalty.
Ah yes, economy. Although, at 4.4sec, the 612 is almost as quick as the M4 to 60mph, its combined economy figure is 13.6mpg, dipping to 8.8mpg in town. Cringe. And the 612’s CO2 emissions mean annual road tax of £505 (or £290 if registered before March 2006). These numbers didn’t matter to its first owner but probably will to its next.
You’ll pay £1300 for a minor service on the 612 at official dealer Maranello Sales in Surrey, or £1600 for a major service, and a change of timing belt (due every five years) costs £2900. Independent specialist Foskers in Kent quotes £900 for a minor service, £1500 for a major one and £954 for a belt change. For the M4, it’s around £320 for a minor service and £1130 for a major at Berry Heathrow BMW, but a timing chain means no expense there.
Ferrari Approved cars up to 10 years old get a two-year warranty as standard, but any example – subject to qualifying criteria of mileage, condition and history – is eligible for a Ferrari-backed warranty up to 12 years after registration. Cover costs £3120 per year on our 612, with discounts for loyalty and claim-free years. And indications are that tidy examples such as this may gently increase in value, whereas we expect the M4 to have shed around £30,000 after three years.
Originally berated for awkward styling, the 612’s voluptuous looks have softened with time, contrasting with the aggressively styled M4’s origami ducts, bulging bonnet and naked carbonfibre roof. The 612 has the classier cabin, too. Neither skimps on hide, but the BMW can’t disguise its workaday roots and still places operability over opulence. With fewer controls to accommodate, the Ferrari manages both.
There are firm, supportive, bewinged seats in both cars, but you sit lower in the Ferrari, peeping over a long bonnet flanked by pointed wings that look like Batman’s ears. Sitting behind someone of my own height in the M4, my knees are clear but my head is not. It’s the opposite in the 612, but I’d rather splay my knees than have a bent neck. At 445 litres, the BMW’s boot is the larger by 205 litres.
Both manage the quarter mile in less than 13 seconds but do so very differently. With engine and gearbox in Sport+, the M4 dispatches an indifferent first 2750rpm before torpedoing you forward, repeatedly slamming into the 7500rpm redline between blink-quick upshifts. Moderate turbo lag is exacerbated by the violence of the acceleration that follows, accompanied by an increasingly agitated induction grumble that’s amplified through the speakers. It’s not the most inspiring sound, but it is bellicose.
The 612 has a throaty burble at idle thanks to the HGTS Pack’s sports exhaust. It pulls comfortably from 1400rpm and builds with slick linearity all the way to the 7400rpm limiter, the V12’s hearty bellow gaining volume along the way. But even full-bore upshifts are painfully slow compared with the M4’s.
Laying off the throttle makes for smoother progress, otherwise you rock in your seat as cogs are swapped, but in auto mode you’re required to second-guess the upshift points, something that’s even trickier during relaxed driving.
Better to use the huge metal paddles – attached to the steering column and longer in throw and more mechanical feeling than the M4’s little wheel-mounted switches. Our M4’s razor-sharp £6250 carbon-ceramic discs beat the 612’s steel rotors for purchase, but the Scaglietti’s brakes are effective nonetheless.
Both of the Ferrari’s damper modes round off the lumps and bumps of our battered roads better than any of the M4’s three settings, yet, remarkably for a car weighing 1870kg, dive and roll are very well contained, aided by the HGTS-specific rear anti-roll bar.
The BMW has 300kg less to stabilise but does so with such aggression that rapid B-road progress has the traction control lamp flickering as the tyres struggle to retain contact.
Although the 612 is a big car for such roads, its suppler set-up makes it both more engaging and more comfortable. On a track, however, the BMW would slaughter the Ferrari. It’s a matter of priorities.
The BMW turns in more sharply, but its steering feels detached next to the Ferrari’s fluid, intuitive and feelsome helm. The M4’s mass is front-biased, but the 612’s is the opposite, and 85% of the Scaglietti’s weight lies between its axles. This pays dividends through bends, the car pivoting about sweetly. Again, the BMW will carry more speed, but the Ferrari is more rewarding.
The 612 is restrained by its gearbox, but there are a handful of manual examples out there. Find one of them and the car offers a wonderfully analogue alternative to the extremely impressive yet categorically digital-feeling M4. It’s what we’d do.
BMW M4 DCT
Price today £59,550; Price when new £59,550; Engine 6 cyls in line, 2987cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 425bhp at 5500-7300rpm; Torque 406b ft at 1850-5500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1572kg; 0-60mph 4.1sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 34.0mpg; CO2/tax band 194g/km / 33%
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti HGTS (2006)
Price today £62,990; Price when new £187,745; Engine V12, 5748cc, petrol; Power 540bhp at 7200rpm; Torque 434b ft at 5250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1870kg; 0-60mph 4.4sec; Top speed 196mph-plus; Economy 13.6mpg; CO2/tax band 475g/km / 37%
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