Fer­rari 488 is just per­fect

The Weekend Australian - Life - - MOTORING -

We Bri­tish like to think of our­selves as well man­nered and cul­tured, with a sense of hu­mour and a steely re­solve that man­i­fests it­self in the shape of a stiff up­per lip. But when you drive a Fer­rari through this green and pleas­ant land you re­alise quite quickly that, ac­tu­ally, we are mealy-mouthed, bit­ter and racked with envy and hate.

If I drive a nor­mal car to work, I pull up to the junc­tion at the end of my street and peo­ple let me into the slow-mov­ing crawl on the main road. But when I’m in a Fer­rari, they don’t. It’s the same story on a mo­tor­way. Peo­ple pull over to let a nor­mal car over­take. But when I’m in a Fer­rari, they just sit in the out­side lane.

In Bri­tain, Mr Nor­mal sees a Fer­rari as a re­minder that his life hasn’t worked out quite as well as he had hoped. And he sees its driver as a liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of the good-look­ing kid at school who got the girls, and the Year 12 kid who nicked his packed lunch on a field trip. He be­lieves that if he can in­con­ve­nience a Fer­rari driver, just for a mo­ment, it’s one in the eye for the rich and the priv­i­leged.

Then you have the cy­clists. They see all car driv­ers as an un­holy cross be­tween Mar­garet Thatcher and Hitler, so they spit and yell and they put footage of you on their bi­cy­cling web­sites.

But if you are in a Fer­rari they go berserk be­cause now you are an am­bas­sador for the devil. You used child labour to make your money. You were re­spon­si­ble for Bhopal. You may even be a Tory. It is their duty to bang on your roof and scream ob­scen­i­ties.

Even the mod­er­ately well-off can’t cope. It up­sets their in­ner ze­bra. Last week, in one of those towns out­side Lon­don that’s ex­actly the same as all the oth­ers, I en­coun­tered the owner of a hun­kered-down, souped-up BMW M3. This was his patch. He was the al­pha male in this manor. He prob­a­bly owned a wine bar. And he re­ally didn’t take kindly to some­one turn­ing up with what was very ob­vi­ously a big­ger mem­ber. So he came along­side and he roared his ex­hausts and he danced and skit­tered to make me go away. Which I did.

You do not get th­ese re­sponses in other coun­tries. A Fer­rari in Amer­ica is a spur, a re­minder that you need to get up ear­lier in the morn­ing and try harder. In Italy it’s a thing of beauty to be ad­mired. Else­where it’s a dream made real. But in Bri­tain it causes ev­ery­one to say: “It’s all right for some.” Which is the most de­press­ing phrase in the language.

And it means that for ev­ery minute of en­joy­ment you get from your Fer­rari, you have to en­dure 10 min­utes of abuse and hate. This means you need a thick skin to drive one. Un­less you en­counter me on your trav­els. Be­cause when I see some­one driv­ing a Fer­rari th­ese days, I want to run over and em­brace them and of­fer to have their ba­bies.

The prob­lem is cap­i­tal gains tax, be­cause there isn’t any on most cars. You buy some­thing rare, put it in a garage, in cot­ton wool, then sell it and trouser 100 per cent of the in­crease in value.

It’s your nest egg. It’s your pen­sion. And so, ob­vi­ously, you’re not go­ing to drive it any­where. The risk is too great.

That sad­dens me be­cause all of the world’s won­der­ful cars are now locked away in de­hu­mid­i­fied cel­lars, which means they aren’t on the road where they be­long. If I were chan­cel­lor of the ex­che­quer, I’d in­tro­duce cap­i­tal gains tax on cars to­mor­row. And I’d make it ret­ro­spec­tive. It would be a vote win­ner among the mealy-mouthed and the bit­ter. And be­cause rare cars are now chang­ing hands for mil­lions, it would net enough to pay for a kid­die’s iron lung or some­thing. And, best of all, it would get all of th­ese won­der­ful cars back into public view where we can en­joy them.

If I owned the Fer­rari I was driv­ing last week, I’d use it to go ev­ery­where. I would take it on un­nec­es­sary jour­neys. I would vol­un­teer to run er­rands for friends. And I would be happy when one of the chil­dren rang at 3am to say they had no money and couldn’t get home. Be­cause I could go and pick them up.

There are those who say a 488 is not a proper Fer­rari be­cause it’s tur­bocharged. And that tur­bocharg­ing has no place on such a thor­ough­bred. They ar­gue that it’s tur­bocharged only so that it can meet EU emis­sion reg­u­la­tions and that stick­ing to the let­ter of the law flies in the face of the Fer­rari ethos: free­dom and adrenalin and speed and pas­sion and beauty and soul, not carbon diox­ide and bu­reau­cracy.

Yes. I get that. But let’s not for­get Gilles Vil­leneuve’s Fer­rari race car was tur­bocharged or that the best Fer­rari of them all — the F40 — used forced in­duc­tion. And let’s not for­get that thanks to mod­ern en­gine man­age­ment sys­tems, you sim­ply don’t know that witch­craft is be­ing used to pump fuel and air into the V8. It doesn’t even sound tur­bocharged. It sounds like a Fer­rari. It sounds bale­ful. It sounds won­der­ful.

And, oh my god, it’s lovely to drive. You can pot­ter about with the gear­box in au­to­matic and it’s not un­com­fort­able or dif­fi­cult in any way. That is prob­a­bly Fer­rari’s great­est achieve­ment with the 488. To take some­thing so highly tuned and highly strung and pow­er­ful and make it feel like a pussy cat.

It’s so docile that you get the im­pres­sion it can’t pos­si­bly work when you put your foot down.

But it just does. I know of no mi­dengined car that feels so friendly. There’s no un­der­steer and no suddenness from the back end ei­ther. The old 458 was not as good as a McLaren 12C. But this new car puts the pranc­ing horse back on top. As a driv­ing ma­chine, it’s — there’s no other word — per­fect.

I still hate the dash­board. Putting all the con­trols for the lights and in­di­ca­tors and wipers on the steer­ing wheel is silly. And so is the sat nav and ra­dio, which can be op­er­ated only by the driver.

I sup­pose you’d get used to it if you used the car a lot. And that’s the best thing about the 488. The 488, be­cause it’s not a lim­ited-edi­tion spe­cial, will not make you any money. So you can, and you may as well, use it as a car.

Yes, it’ll cause ev­ery­one else on the road to be­come Arthur Scargill. But look at it this way. When you’re fill­ing it with fuel and you’re be­ing sneered at by the man at the next pump, give him a real rea­son to dis­like you. Saunter over and point out that if you didn’t have a Fer­rari, it would make no dif­fer­ence to his life.

He’d still be on his way to a use­less gar­den cen­tre, in his crummy Citroen with his ugly wife and his two gorm­less chil­dren. Jeremy Clark­son’s com­ments are ex­pressed in the con­text of the Bri­tish ve­hi­cle mar­ket.

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