Far from the convertible’s usual environment, Ferrari’s traction control keeps Malcolm Flynn pointing in the right direction
CONVERTIBLES conjure up visions of top-down cruising through sunny postcardperfect scenery. Now invert that idea and you have roofless, roaring circuit work on an iced-over car park. What could go wrong?
Combine traction control and the brilliant twin-turbo V8 in the Ferrari California T and the answer is ... not a lot.
The California T, at the modest $400K end of the price list, is arguably the most versatile model to wear the prancing horse badge.
Its folding metal roof takes just 14 seconds to operate, it tears through the 0-100km/h sprint in a quarter of that time (topping out at 316km/h) yet it’s as weatherproof and tractable as a Camry.
The revised styling also makes for a grand entrance.
Ferrari’s traction control is usually mentioned in the context of F1 racing, with the California T’s three-position steering wheel-mounted “manettino” switch hinting at taking you one step closer to Schumacher with each click to the right.
To emphasise the versatility of its F1 Trac setup, Ferrari brings us to Andermatt in Switzerland, another postcard-perfect winter escape generally prowled by Range Rovers and Porsche SUVs. James Bond visited here once in his Aston, in summer, pursuing Goldfinger.
There is so much snow during our visit that the ploughs merely clear the fresh powder from the compacted snow on the main street.
Putting the surface to the pedestrian test, this correspondent falls over twice just crossing the road.
How could a 412kW/755Nm two-wheel drive Ferrari cope?
We find out on giant carpark where cones mark a course of alarming complexity.
With just the snow tyres the sole deviation from the California T’s factory spec, we select full-assistance Comfort mode on the manettino and set off very gingerly.
The car impressively obeys steering inputs, avoids the surrounding snow banks and, even with increased throttle inputs, makes the same confident progress.
Click to Sport mode and the assistance slackens to enable a degree of wheel spin and lateral sliding.
Ferrari boasts the Sport mode is the quickest way around its Fiorano test track — on snow, the ensuing sideways fun actually means progress is slower but we stay pointed in the right direction, again avoiding snow banks.
Step up to fully liberated ESC Off mode and moving off the mark is the first challenge. It could equally be labelled “shoot rooster tails of snow mode” for keeping Bond baddies at bay.
ESC Off is all about understeer, oversteer and spinning within the T’s own length. It’s like slow-mo figure skating without the elegance, and a hell of a lot of fun.
Intense concentration and throttle and steering discipline get us to completing the course in a constant drift — one of the most satisfying feats on four wheels.
Returning to base takes us via the main street, the scene of my earlier pedestrian embarrassment.
Putting a unique spin on the Australian way of doing mainies, blockies or chap laps, the California T swaggers up the main drag in Comfort mode as if it owns the place. Potential Range Rover buyers, take note.