Absolutely California dreamin’
CHRIS RILEY waxes lyrical about Ferrari’s latest sports car.
BEFORE talking about the Ferrari I drove I need to first to tell you a little about my wife. Mrs Riley is my rock, a stabilising influence at the centre of my crazy existence, a life that can see me hanging out the washing in the morning and jetting off to far away places like Iceland a few hours later.
She’s a very down-to-earth person, focused on those things that are most important in life such as family and friends, not to mention the kids.
Yours truly on the other hand has a tendency to get carried away by things such as cars and especially those of the Ferrari variety.
It doesn`t matter how good a car is or how I excited I become, however, her response is always the same. “It`s just a car,” she’s fond of saying. And, when you get right down to it, she’s absolutely right. The Ferrari California is just a car, but mother of god, oh, what a car!
So, rather than telling you-know-who about this one, I thought I’d share my excitement with you instead.
Ferrari has been building its special breed of high performance sports cars for a long while now, but for probably the last 10 years they have been targeted mainly at the Americans, none more so than the aptly named California.
That’s no coincidence, because North America is where the company sells the majority of its cars.
Rather than a road going version of a Formula One race car, the California is cast in a very different mold, that of a GT or grand tourismo car with the engine up the front and the hint of a back seat.
Although located in the front, Ferrari is quick to point out the engine actually sits aft of the front axle with a 47/53 weight distribution, making it a front mid-engined car to be correct.
The roof, aluminium like the chassis and a good part of the body work, can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button, changing it from a coupe into a convertible.
California is designed to be less intimidating and easier to drive than your average Ferrari and, on both counts, it succeeds admirably.
But don’t get the wrong idea because it’s still wickedly fast, ripping through the gears with a snap, crackle and pop from the exhaust like automatic weapons fire and able to put away the dash from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds and has a top speed of 310km/h.
Don`t let anyone tell you it`s not a “real” Ferrari.
We`ve driven plenty of fast and expensive cars in the past, but nothing with quite the aura of this one.
Park it and passersby just seem to gravitate towards it like bees to honey, which I guess is a bit of a worry if you own one.
Slipping behind the wheel for the first time it takes a couple of minutes to get your bearings because Ferrari does things a little differently.
Blasting down a back road a few minutes later, I could imagine exactly how Ferris Bueller felt when he talked his way into the classic 1961 250 California in the movie.
The 4.3-litre direct injection V8 pumps out 338kW and revs to almost 8000rpm and the vertically stacked quad tailpipes is just sensational.
The V8 is hooked up to a seven-speed double clutch style auto with paddle shifts that is arguably the fastest and smoothest tranny of its type that we have driven, blipping in quick succession up and down the gear range with hardly a murmur of complaint, even on forced, rapid downchanges to second gear coming into corners.
A small flipper switch on the steering wheel changes between normal, sport and super sport modes, the latter turns stability control fully off for track work.
Even in sport mode we were surprised how compliant the ride remains.
Apart from that I can’t say I remember much else about the car, but then that gives me an excuse to drive it again.
Ferrari Australia is holding orders for some 200 cars and interestingly 15 per cent of them are from females.
This compares with the the usual split of 95 per cent male, five per cent female drivers.
The price? $472,000.