Ice T

Far from the con­vert­ible’s usual en­vi­ron­ment, Fer­rari’s trac­tion con­trol keeps Mal­colm Flynn point­ing in the right di­rec­tion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FEATURE -

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.

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