Wednesday 19 August 2009

Driving the Ferrari California

2010 Ferrari California  picture, mods, upgrades

As we pulled up to the historical gates of that famous red brick building in downtown Maranello, I felt the excitement begin to ravish through my body. But this was no ordinary excitement, mind you. It started in my toes and found its way through my extremities like warm cognac being gently poured through my veins, until it gathered enough momentum and intensity, eventually filling my chest and finding its way up my neck before exploding inside my head. I never knew you could feel like that with your clothes on. I almost lit up a cigarette right after. And I don’t even smoke.

It is one thing to come to such hallowed grounds to drive a Ferrari – we’ve done this more than a couple of times before and believe me, so long as your body temperature is above twelve degrees, it doesn’t get any less exciting – but this? This is no ordinary Ferrari. It is arguably the company’s most ground breaking model, if not their most controversial one, and it has the loyalists hopping mad.

Aside from being the very first Ferrari with an electronic retractable roof, they demand to know why the engine is in the front, especially that it is “only” a V8. They also want someone to explain how it can have the power of a third world dictator, but the manners of Kofi Annan. And they want to know who’s idea it was to give it some decent luggage room.

They call it the California; but is it a Ferrari?

First up, before even tackling that question, we need to agree on what a Ferrari is. It needs to be fast. Check. It needs style. Check. It must handle like woman scorned. Ummm, we’re going to have problems here... You see, first impressions of the California is that it is incredibly easy to drive. Too easy, in fact. And there lies the problem. Most Ferrari owners want to feel like a member of some exclusive little club that not everyone is qualified to join, and having a Ferrari that is as civilized to drive in traffic as a Fiat Punto doesn’t sit well them – its almost as if Ferrari has broken the sacred rule and allowed a girl into their little boys club.

Having said that, there were those who were opposed to sliced bread, too. Several decades later, I think we can all agree that it is the way to go. Gnawing off bits of your finger just to make a sandwich doesn’t make the experience any purer. Same goes with the California. Being easier to drive only means you can now drive it harder, and I have to say that the all-new double clutch, seven speed sequential gearbox is insane. It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you, this is awesome. If you hear any negative reactions about it, I guarantee you it is coming from those who haven’t figured out how to build one yet, and will hide behind the “purity” curtain.

It is so good in fact that the gearbox alone can probably take full credit for the California being able to match the acceleration of the 430 despite being 628 pounds heavier and 30 PS less powerful than its mid-engined sibling. To call it perfect would only dilute the word. Then there’s the all-new direct injection petrol engine; aside from being the greenest Ferrari ever built, the engineers have managed to bring the fuel consumption down and the power curve up, making 75% of its torque available as early as 2,500rpm, and delivering the outstanding balance by 5,000rpm.

Ferrari California


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