Cal­i­for­nia sweet but no film star

The lat­est Fer­rari re­ally flies, writes STU­ART MARTIN

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

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