The dream of owning a supercar remains exactly that for most of us: a dream. If it's not the new car cost that keeps us out, it's the horror stories surrounding older models that scare us away, such as service charges, insurance, dodgy spares and repairs. But Ferrari was listening and has responded with a first for the supercar sector in the form of its Approved certification programme. It claims the initiative will get you into an older model Ferrari but with all the new car warranty benefits for the price of a mid-spec Porsche.
Ferrari says its covered all bases regarding unknown costs, depreciation and unexpected bills when buying a used car, which suddenly makes the thought of owning an Italian supercar for the same money as a new German or Japanese sports coupe an attractive proposition. Approved is only available through Ferrari dealers and the cars are easy to spot in the classifieds, as they are more expensive compared to those listed privately or from independent dealers. That said, the price premium still gets you into a Prancing Horse for a fraction of the cost of a new car – with full dealer support, including a two-year warranty on top of any outstanding new car warranty.
The first task for the dealer when inspecting a potential car is to verify its origin and maintenance history to ensure it has been taken care of, preferably by authorised Ferrari dealers, and has not suffered any major damage. A detailed technical inspection is carried out on 190 areas, covering electricals, suspension, brakes, cooling and steering underneath, while the interior and bodywork is also inspected before it receives its 24-month guarantee.
To test the waters, I borrowed an Approved car from Al Tayer Motors, the exclusive Ferrari distributor in Dubai. It was a white Bianco Avus 100 2010 Ferrari 599 GTB that had covered a little more than 23,700 kilometres. In its day this car was Ferrari's grand touring flagship with a six-litre V12 engine mounted out front and the transmission in the rear for perfect weight distribution. At its 2008 launch, the 599 GTB sold for Dh810,000 and in 2010 this car had a sticker price closer to Dh1.3 million. At the time of writing, it was offered as an Approved example for Dh420,000. A quick Google search of similar cars offered privately in the UAE shows them listed for between Dh300,000 and Dh350,000. Al Tayer says the extra they ask for is insurance against unexpected surprises.
While sitting inside, it felt like a new car in terms of quality of finish. Immediately noticeable was the lack of a big navigation TFT display screen we take for granted now and while it had a start button on the steering wheel – like all contemporary Ferraris – this one still needed an old-fashioned metal key placed in the ignition. I twisted the key, pressed the button and that glorious V12 burst into life.
The stereo took me back, with its monotone LCD format. This was one of the first Ferraris to have an automated manual transmission, with only six gears compared to seven on today’s equivalent model, the 812 Superfast. You select first by pulling the right lever behind the wheel and click to release the old-style hand brake ratchet in the centre console. Electric park brakes were still some years off after the 599.
The steering was tight and the brakes sure-footed; both felt almost as good as any new Ferrari. After giving it some time to warm up and get the oil temperature and pressure up to spec, I exited on to Sheikh Zayed Road and gave it a boot. The performance was crisp and did not disappoint. With 603 brake horsepower under my foot, it was amazingly responsive, making me wonder whether this car really was about a decade old.
Its curves and long bonnet housed a thirsty but luscious engine that was built in a time before we got serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It was a nostalgic trip. Its red on red interior, however, was perhaps a bridge too far – but I'm sure someone will love it.
My rhetorical question was soon answered when it came time to change up a gear, as the development in transmissions since then has been phenomenal. Compared to the double-clutch, seven-speed box in the 812 Superfast that seamlessly shifts up almost as fast as a Formula One car, the 599 GTB's single-plate clutch clunked through the gears about as quickly as you would with a traditional H-pattern and clutch pedal – and with about the same finesse. By today's standards it was agricultural but effective and yet had its own charm that's missing on the latest computer-controlled shifters. You simply need to let the engine take a quick breath between changes before powering on in the taller gear. Downshifts were also noticeable, sounding more like a Fast & Furious soundtrack rather than the sleek, super-quick blips we're now used to
One thing is certain, for the price of a new BMW, Lexus or Jaguar that can get lost in a crowd of corporate car parks, this 10-year-old 599 GTB is a wild child of Italian exotica. Plus, aware that older models carry sometimes-fickle reliability, Ferrari will also cover virtually every eventuality for up to 20 years.
The 24-month, unlimited mileage guarantee for these cars is in addition to Ferrari's existing three-year/unlimited-km factory warranty that includes seven years of free maintenance from the date of purchase. This can be extended for a further two years, while from the car's sixth to 15th year, owners can extend this even more to cover all major components such as the engine, gearbox, electronics, suspension and steering.
It makes buying a used Ferrari as attractive and secure as buying a midsized Mercedes.