Ferrari California HS
buying a Ferrari? We’ll see about that.’’ Yet the California is easy to live with and a car you can drive every day. So birthday boy can rationalise his decision to buy the machine of his dreams to she who must be successfully rationalised.
I haven’t driven the original 2009 California but its performance and handling have also been criticised, again by the purists. Perhaps they think it drives like a girl’s car. Better ask Joanne about that.
Ferrari is obviously touchy about this so the 2012 California, due here in November, has had a credibility tweak. A new aluminium spaceframe and tub have produced a lighter, more rigid body, though at 1630kg the Cali is still a heavyweight by Ferrari standards. The 4.3-litre V8 gets an extra 22kW, now producing 360kW.
Real men will spend an extra $12,500 (or so— the price will be confirmed in November) for the California HS.— Handling Speziale— which adds stiffer adjustable suspension settings and a sharper steering rack.
The 4.3 is no polite, polished, jet-like German turbo but a raw, guttural, manic thing that demands to be thrashed. The seven-speed F1-derived automated manual gearbox shifts so quickly you can run each gear to the 8000rpm redline, where the V8 makes pure petrolhead porn noises, especially with the roof down.
When you’ve got a full deck of flashing F1-style shift indicator lights at the top of the steering wheel rim, you flick the wheel-mounted paddle (there’s no lever), and the next gear is engaged in a nanosecond, accompanied by a hearty chortle and a loud Crack! from the pipes. On downshifts, it’s just as fast. Engine and road speed revs are perfectly matched and the exhaust signals you’re in gear with a sound like a rifle shot.
It’s true that the California, even in HS specification, isn’t the sharpest handling tool in Enzo’s shed. You can feel a slight imbalance between the instantly responsive front end and the heavier, slightly tardy rear when you hook it into a tight corner. However you have to be a driver of heroic skill to find this car’s limits.
Its steering is surprisingly light and supremely accurate. The test car’s carbon ceramic brakes had been given a hard time, which isn’t entirely unexpected on a Ferrari press car. The ride is hardly supple but it’s tolerable and much less punishing than your average pukka supercar.
Seven years’ worth of scheduled servicing is now included in the price.
Today’s Ferrari cabin is far removed from the Spartan man cave so beloved by the cognoscenti. The California is beautiful, luxurious, equipped with all the connectivity/audio/ navigation mod-cons, wrapped in gorgeous Italian leather and indecently comfortable. You get a rear seat that can fit a couple of small kids and a boot that, even with the roof stowed, can take the weekly shopping.
So if you’re a woman of means, go right ahead and buy yourself a Ferrari California. Along with every other bloke in Australia, I will be insanely jealous. And I’ll be sure to send Joanne your regards.