Ab­so­lutely Cal­i­for­nia dreamin’

CHRIS RI­LEY waxes lyri­cal about Fer­rari’s lat­est sports car.

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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