The Ferrari 456. Don’t remember it? You aren’t the only one. The 456 was produced from 1992 - 2003 and sold a little over 3000 units. Until 96’ it was their premier grand touring car and even after that offered a great option for those wanting a little less flash and a bit more comfort than the 550 Maranello. Today the 456 has been widely relegated to the history books and forgotten despite classic simple styling and a powerful V12. That V12 is regarded as reliable these days for a Ferrari and propelled the car to 60 in 5 seconds and then onto a top speed of over 170mph.
In searching for one you’ll note that the least expensive examples are trading around the 50-thousand mile range. Most of them will have over 35,000 miles typically. They’re not all bad though because often times the more miles you put on a Ferrari the more reliable it can be. Keep in mind the old adage is that the cheapest Ferrari is never really the cheapest Ferrari so you’ll want to avoid the really rough stuff. To find a well sorted and maintained car we’re now working our way into the 70-thousand dollar range. That’s not a terrible deal if you’re in the market for a 2+2 and a prancing horse is the only marquee you’ll have, however what if I told you that you could get most everything we’ve described above for $10,000 or less.
In 2004 just as the 456 was leaving production Chrysler and Mercedes made maybe their most underappreciated baby. The Crossfire SRT-6 is an AMG powered SLK32 in Chrysler clothing. The M112 motor under the hood is supercharged and produces 330 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to propel the SRT-6 to 60 in the same 5 seconds it takes the Ferrari. In addition the SRT models can reach a top speed of 174 when the top speed limiter is removed.
The goodness doesn’t stop there either. The Crossfire SRT only sold just over 3700 in it’s 2 year run and less than 1500 of them are the hardtop version. This would mean that you’re driving a car more rare than the 456 regardless of if you have the convertable or the coupe because it takes both combined to reach that 3700 number. Additionally that supercharged mill is well known for its reliability. This was the last vehicle that used the M112 and so it had been well refined by this time.
The interior is actually well appointed with leather and alcantara. The plastic bits that do exist aren’t off-putting the same way they are in a Mercedes of the same time period. The center console is well laid out and flows from in front of you to the armrest. The only available transmission is an automatic mill from Mercedes that is adaptive so as you drive it, it will learn your style and adjust it’s behavior to better suit you. This is of course something you can reset whenever you like if you’d prefer a more aggressive shift pattern from time to time after babying the car.
This thing was in a weird place when it came out. It cost more than the inexpensive little roadsters running around but was more powerful. It cost less than the real power house coupes of the day but wasn’t as capable. Today though it’s come into its own. It’s easy to find one right around $10,000 in great condition. Better yet, when you do need to maintain it, it’s just not nearly as rough as the Ferrari. So there you have it. Ferrari 456 performance and rarity. Unique and memorable styling. Reliable power and the flexibility to tune it for more. It really is an exceptional deal for those who value these things more than being in debt to have a prancing horse on the bonnet.
This is the first of a group of articles about comparing very fast and hard to obtain performance vehicles to great value options in the market today. How did you like it? What should I call the series? I’m a bit stumped on that.