THE FERRARI CALIFORNIA
TOPS OFF AS WE BELT A PRANCING HORSE ALONG THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL STRETCH OF BITUMEN, HIGHWAY ONE.
In California. Who’d have thought?
Every year, car companies give truly frightening amounts of money to marketing geniuses to come up with exciting locations and enticing ways to launch their vehicles to a snobbishly disinterested media. But it’s hard to imagine too much overtime or mental elbow grease went into the decision to unveil Ferrari’s California T by driving it in... California. To be fair, Los Angeles, the city that time forgot and gravity ignores (the people there do not age, nor sag) is very much the natural home for this thrusting and showy brand to play. America is where most of the world’s Ferraris are purchased (a global-marketleading 34 per cent of them), and the California is the company’s highest-selling model, so it stands to reason that a lot of them end up here, and that this might’ve been the company’s goal all along. Unlike the Ferraris that young men lust after, the California is not small, sleek, slight or supercar swift, nor is it mid-engined. What it is – between that big, bulging bonnet and a rear end that’s almost as top heavy as a clichéd California girl – is comfortable, spacious, easy to enter and unintimidating to drive. In the past, beard-stroking enthusiasts have scoffed at the ease with which this Faux-rrari attracts those who want the branding iron without the fire. But this is the T for Turbo model, bearing an engine upgrade and various other tweaks that demand we take it more seriously. Our visit starts with a day of time-zone adaptation in LA’S fast and funky Koreatown – where Ferraris are about as thin on the ground as any kind of foliage in this concrete jungle. The supremely cool Line Hotel is an oasis of proper, on-brand luxury among the proliferation of vape shops and dive bars (we can’t recommend the nearby R Bar highly enough – Kiefer Sutherland drinks there, ’nuff said). Our hosts decide jet lag is best beaten by walking around naked among some illogically groin-proud local Korean men in a spa that offers superheated rooms full of lava rocks that you’re encouraged to lie on. It’s one way of staying awake. Fortunately, what lies ahead is a top-down drive along a road that has reasonable claims, rather than just chest-thumping American ones, to be the most jaw-achingly beautiful in the world. Indeed, a ‘Truth in Nomenclature’ Commission would probably force us to drop the first word off our Great Ocean Road if it were to be compared to California’s Highway One. The whole staggering stretch of 740km from Malibu to San Francisco is impressive, but it’s the section from the stupidly large, road-hugging Redwoods of Big Sur to the cliffs near Carmel-by-the-sea, where it looks like the jagged coastline and foaming Pacific Ocean are attempting to bite lumps out of the vertiginous and verdant slopes above. The road itself looks simply unfeasible, like a Game of Thrones opening credits graphic made real – huge and quite beautiful bridges spanning deep blue chasms and sections where it feels like you’re almost driving on the sea, rather than over it. Here, it’s not uncommon to swear, loudly and involuntarily, on rounding corners and being confronted by yet another vista. When the regular sea fogs roll in, it can feel like you’re flying, thanks to the clouds rolling away beneath you. And the Ferrari’s cabin is very much a first-class seat on this flight, with leather on luxe and a tasteful smattering of carbon fibre. With the roof down and ‘Comfort’ mode selected on the steering wheel dial, life is easy breezy. No other Ferrari is so effortless to drive, nor rides so smoothly, but the massive 755Nm of torque on offer from the new, twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 (big capacities are so last season) is always just a toe-poke away – handy for when you need to whiz past a Winnebago crammed with middle-class Austrians. Or were they Germans? Switch to ‘Sport’, however, and the California T changes character in a way its previous iterations could not manage. A jump of 46kw, up to a very serious 412kw, helps, so too a zero to 100km/h time of 3.6 seconds (which is fast, until you consider that a more vicious version of this same engine pushes the Ferrari 488 GTB to that speed in three seconds flat). A flick of the switch changes everything, firming up the suspension, muscling up the
steering, speeding up the shifts from the seven-speed flappy-paddle gearbox and imbuing each gear change with a rasping, percussive bang from the exhausts. In this mode, driven with appropriate vigour, the California T feels and sounds like a proper Ferrari, even if doing so is an optional feature that many owners may never fully explore. To drive it properly, you’ll have to get off Highway One, of course, because as filled as it is with brilliant sweeping corners, it’s even more packed with people driving very slowly while holding their phones out the window. A detour inland along Carmel Valley Road, which winds through canyons, vineyards and forests, is highly recommended. Given its ability to become a luxurious cruiser for when you want to just drink in the views, or to switch to a barking, aggressive sports car when you want to loosen the leash a bit, the Ferrari California T might just be the best car to tackle the world’s greatest road, or at least the best Ferrari – convertible Ford Mustangs seem to be a more popular, and cheaper, choice. In Australia, this doubly good Ferrari will set you back $409,888, in theory. Good luck leaving the showroom without the ‘Handling Speciale’ pack ($15,750), sports exhaust ($1400), 20-inch wheels ($1330), and your choice of paint for the brakes and fabric for the seat stitching ($2700 and $1230 respectively). Oh, and a more realistic price tag of about $435,000. Hey, Ferrari has to make the money to pay its brilliant marketeers somehow. ferrari.com
CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY ONE LOOKS SIMPLY UNFEASIBLE, LIKE A GAME OF THRONES SET PIECE MADE REAL.