First Impression: Ferrari California Turbo - Baby of the stable
topless freeway muncher by day, urban city cruiser by night.
Before we get on with it, there is a matter of bad news which needs to be said. Unfortunately there was abit of a mishap when it came to the photographs. They were all but corrupted. The whole lot of them! Seemed abit of a waste though to bin a perfectly good experience, so in place of it here are some of the companies own imagery. Lord give me strength.
Anyways, A sunny day had come around and in the dewy freshness of morning there was a sense of excitement in the air, the same air that was filled with the aroma of fresh Pirelli’s and high octane fuel. It was race day at the Sepang International Circuit but it wasn’t anything half as fancy as when the Formula One teams start rolling into town with the usual fanfare, parading and all that lot.
Rather the Ferrari Challenge contingent had rolled into town and hitched up with them was a fleet of Maranello’s finest track-munching variants of the forever endeared 458 Italia, be it in GT3 homogenization. Piloting these crafts of speed were chisel-jawed, battle hardened veterans that walked about with the biggest chip on their shoulder blade. While this was happening in and around the pit building, there was a quaint little spot behind Pit Garage 13 that held an amazing view but it was all but obstructed by the roller blinds, after all it was half past eight.
Realizing the hour, breakfast was very much in order. A pot of steaming Earl Grey later and the circuit sort of sprang into life and so did the cars that needed to be warmed up before the parade lap. As the party left the comfort of the Paddock and on for a pit walk, there we caught just the tiniest glimpse of the scarlet beauties that were hidden the whole morning, but for now there was 19,500 furious GT3-type horses that lined themselves up on the grid with field of pit girls clad in the companies signature dye.
Once the field had cleared and the green flag had dropped, the contingent that wasn’t by the pit wall keeping time adjourned swiftly back to the Hospitality Suite for a chilled Heineken and Hor d'oeuvres, but just as I was thinking such, I was pulled away by a demur lady that worked for The Company that asked me to hand over my driver’s license. “Whatever for?” I asked. “You’re driving the new Cali T”, she exclaimed. Joy !
As we walked out a further ten or fifteen feet, I clapped eyes with a shimmering gem that glistened under the roaring sun. She was dressed in the most energetic shade of blood red. To make matters worse, there were two fine examples – the other was Onyx Black with the Carbon Pack. We were then briefed by the engineers on the basics and what to do in the event we crashed – run! , obviously.
Briefing over, we headed out to our respective rides (the scarlet example) and filed straight out via the back road as we settled in and got to know our cars a little better. For starters this front-mounted V8 baby of the stable really lives up to its name. With a burly bloke from Ferrari nestled in the tiny ‘plus two’ seats behind and a fellow 5’8 journo squished up front it was hard to feel the appeal of such a tiny roadster if you wanted to drag your mates around with you or if you were abit fat. But as soon as we hit the open roads, it all became apparent.
There is a preconceived notion that Maranello’s finest is something of a handful to handle and something else completely to drive but the truth of the matter is that it couldn’t be any further from the truth. The California T has fairly short over hangs out back, save for the front and that leaves for a 'long' wheelbase and yet, it just doesn’t drive like it. It feels light and after all it tips the scales at just 1,730kg which is what you would expect from a mid-sized sedan. And yet it doesn’t feel like one to drive. How strange.
Even this baby of the stable makes the most mundane of trips to the shops an experience. It feels alive, it feels connected. And with those clichés out of the way, the California Turbo doesn’t try to be a poor man’s 458 Italia but rather it seems to have taken on a personality of its own. This reiteration however is endowed with a couple of things the modern supercar is much expected to have in its quiver.
For starters it gains a couple of blowers over the old 4.3-litre mill which undoubtedly also lends to the bit of the name that comes after ‘California’. And what a difference it makes. The twin scroll turbochargers add a little over a hundred ponies to the mix as opposed to the 453hp from the previous version and as any gleaming petrol head will undoubtedly tell you, torque figures are sharply on the rise. While the previous clocked in a respectable 485Nm this 3.9-litre affair chucks out the better part of 755 Nm! That huge gap of almost 250Nm will inevitably influence performance stats.
Don’t get me wrong, its predecessor was no slouch with a sprint time of a shade under 4 secs and top speed of a 193mph and made for a worthy adversary but the Italian's figured that it could be done better which is why this newest reiteration of the drop top, wind-in-your-hair twin-turbo roadster now hits the century mark in just 3.6 seconds and if you keep you right foot mashed to the carpet you’ll see 196Mph come up fast on the speedo.
All those facts and figures sounded jolly good, so I decided to put it up to the test and see what’s what. And immediately I find myself standing at a set of lights that has yet to turn. The engineer turns to the right and tells me that it would be good idea if I were to twist the Manettino over to ‘Sport’. And while we waited for the light to turn green, we thought it to be a good idea to make some room in the cabin and in a matter of seconds there was sunshine and all the head room one could ask for.
It sat at the lights for what seemed to be an eternity and while it sat there in first gear, with my right foot hovering over ready to stab away at the throttle, eyes on the lights and presto - it turned green. There was only one thing left to do. Equating it to a stabbed scolded rodent might be an understatement as it pinned us firmly to our seats as it launched itself off the line.
The seven ratios on tap that were ready to be summoned stood fast as their turn came up. Every pull of the lever was an immediate reaction without the slightest note of hesitation. The sensory overload that happens can only be detected when you realize the surroundings that pass you by start getting ever more blurry and its round bout this time, that very realization dawns upon you the need to start braking and as you glance quickly upon the instrument cluster and realize that its already clocked up 125mph.
And as you stand on the middle pedal to feel those calipers grind up against carbon-ceramic discs that’s up to the job of bringing you to an immediate halt, is something else completely. Suffice to say, the crackle and pop from the exhausts' over-run is yet another indicator that this beast was indeed alive and kicking.
The rapid acceleration and subsequent deacceleration is something that even my spleen couldn’t come to grips with as it was being put back in its place. Thereafter however, the tarmac got slightly bumpier and the only thing you want to do at this post-orgasmic juncture, was slip it back into ‘Comfort’ mode and therein it was, transformed from a raging barnstormer to a subdued and perfectly respectable Gran Tourer.
But how is it that I'm here to write this as opposed to trying to explain to the nice people that I've landed their 150,000 pound Ferrari into a ditch. Interestingly the people that make these things are well aware that Kimi Raikonnen and Sebastian Vettel aren’t the only buyers of these cars, and so there is a multitude of sensors and electronic wizardry onboard to keep me safe. For example, it will automatically reduce the boost on the turbochargers in first gear so that it wouldn't violently lit up the rear Pirelli’s and send you barreling toward a hedge.
It was at this point, when all the dust had settled, you start to notice the little things such as the fact that the Navigation instrument cluster is far from comprehensible and that rear visibility is nothing short of appalling. To make matters worse, as an audiophile I was truly disappointed to learn that the stereo system in our test chariot was out of working order so we couldn't hear those symphonic tweeters that lived somewhere about the cabin. Shame really.
As one would rightly expect from a Ferrari, the interior was anything but a wash of well appointed upholstery that are the pride of Maranello and that of the skilled craftsman that toiled countless hours stitching together the finest tanned hides that make up the immaculately detailed interior. From the hand-sewn dash board to the carbon-fibre wrapped Recaro-style bucket seats, it oozes quality and distinction by the bucket loads.
After returning the Turbo back to its port of call, and while enjoying a post-coital cigarette it dawned upon me how the subtle little differences made to this model really does echo the sentiment of it older sibling – the F12 Berlinetta. Details such as the active aero feature on the extremities of the lower bumper that open and shut according to how much cooling was needed for the brakes.
On the styling front, I would definitely have to succeed the point that the facelift regime has breathe new life into this topless cruiser and it is absolutely more entuned to the current design language that the company is geared toward especially with the charge led on by its bigger siblings.
As first impressions of this baby Prancing Horse goes, it certainly checks off all the right boxes when it comes a Gran Tourer of this magnitude, but we only wished we could have spent a little more time with this exquisite blown beast.