California sweet but no film star
The latest Ferrari really flies, writes STUART MARTIN
DAVID Lee Roth wished all the girls came from there and Big Arnie rules the roost, but it’s Ferrari’s latest model using the name of the most important electoral state in the US to best effect.
The Ferrari California rolling off production lines this year has a distinguished line of forebears, including the recently auctioned 1960s model owned by the late James Coburn, which sold for $11 million.
Calling Coburn’s old car attractive is like calling Angelina Jolie homely — the badge has adorned some of the most beautiful machinery ever to turn a wheel on a road.
The latest incarnation doesn’t necessarily have the same optical appeal.
Stunning, yes; muscular, certainly; imposing, no question; but the looks are . . . well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder who has $472,000 — plus on-roads — to spend.
The first folding metal hardtop convertible from Ferrari also has the first front-mid-mounted engine, a V8 with 90 degrees between banks of cylinders and 4.3 litres in capacity.
The direct-injection variable-valve timing alloy powerplant generates 338kW at 7750 revs, with peak torque of 485Nm having arrived 2750 revs earlier.
The folding metal hard-top — part of the all-weather design aimed at US customers, its biggest potential market — drops into the boot in 14 seconds.
In the same amount of time a sprint to 100km/h has been achieved and the car has returned to a standstill with more than a few seconds to spare — 100km/h is reached in four seconds and the claimed top speed is 310km/h.
Not bad for a car the Italian marque slots into the ‘‘cruiser’’ side of its range alongside the 612 Scaglietti, leaving the F430 and 599 GTB Fiorano models as the ‘‘sports cars’’.
The California will be offered only with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which has a full automatic mode as well as launch control.
Ferrari Australia general manager Kevin Wall says about 200 orders have been placed and believes its friendlier nature will see it bought by existing Ferrari owners as a car that is easier to drive.
Wall says 50 per cent of the orders are from customers coming from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
The California’s safety features list includes an automatic rollbar behind the backrests of the rear seats, which pops up in less than 190 milliseconds, plus dual front and side airbags for the front seats.
It also has electrically adjustable heated leather seats, a tyre pressure and temperature monitoring system, a good quality touchscreen and an iPodfriendly and hard drive-equipped satnav/sound system, which looks similar to the Chrysler head unit.
The test car was optioned up with the Magneride Dual Mode Shock Absorber system for an extra $7500 and its wheels had been upgraded to 20-inch diamond-finish Sport alloys, which add an extra $8000.
The California might weigh 1735kg, but it drives like a much lighter machine, providing ample entertainment in and out of bends, if not supplying masses of feedback.
Ride quality from the optional suspension is good, though the difference between Comfort and Sport mode — dialled up using the ‘‘manettino’’ wheel-mounted switch that changes steering, braking and throttle settings as well — was not huge.
With the roof down, wind buffeting was minimal and even highway speeds didn’t make the open cabin an unpleasant place to be.
It is a little snug for headroom but the leather-clad seats are comfortable and firm.