Ferrari California – Lighter, More Powerful and with the ‘Handling Speciale’ Package
Some time ago when I first tested the Ferrari California, I was left speechless and in awe of its performance and, of course, the sheer pleasure of being behind the wheel of this magnificent prancing horse.
This time round, I was told in no uncertain terms that what I had experienced then was but only half of what I would experience with the new model, which, with its changes, would, it was promised, ‘blow my mind’. As far as I was concerned, this was not possible, as it was then already excellent in every sense. Just to put you in the picture, however, the Ferrari California’s GDI V8 now delivers 490 horsepower with a maximum torque of 505 Nm at 5 000rpm, and this thanks to new exhaust manifolds and engine mapping. The torque curve has also been modified and is higher across the engine’s generous revs.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Carl Wepener
* Prices as at date of publishing
I took delivery of a red California and set off towards the southern Peninsula, having very specific ideas driving over Ou Kaapse Weg, which is replete with twists and turns and would, I believed, be right up the Ferrari’s alley. But, of course, not all well-laid plans pan out and I came up behind slow-moving traffic travelling at 20kph. Then there was a bit of a gap and I passed five cars and a truck before being stuck behind an old Toyota Venture doing an amazing 80kph along Ou Kaapse Weg. Waiting for my chance and for the solid white line to end, I proceeded to take the last two turns – instead of the whole of Ou Kaapse Weg – at speed. Then came a robot and, as I drove through the crossing, the Venture appeared in my rear-view mirror with siren blaring and blue lights flashing. I was commanded to pull over in no uncertain terms. Well, being in a Ferrari, I thought speed must be the problem, but, instead, the long arm of the law was very unhappy that my Ferrari did not have a front number plate – all of R500 unhappy. Just picture the scene: there I was standing alongside a Red Ferrari having been pulled over by an old Venture!
Well, off I went, making sure that I enjoyed the rest of my drive until the afternoon, when I met my cousin who was celebrating his 68th birthday. As a present from me, he was afforded a ride in the passenger seat of the Ferrari. I cruised along making him listen to the lovely sound emanating from the four barrels and to the burble when changing gears or slowing down; then just a little acceleration to show him that the California is a breed of its own. Then we proceeded to the Twelve Apostles and Hout Bay. As the road was clear, I opened ‘the taps’ as it were, but, all of a sudden, there were some very tight-looking corners and my cousin uttered some sounds of alarm, and then just held on for dear life. Now this was where I really experienced the difference between the previous version and the new, lighter ‘Handling Speciale’ package of the new California. It stuck like glue to the road, went through corners as if it were on rails, and the only body roll was that of our heads going from side to side. The California accelerated out of there like a ‘bat out of hell’ and was nothing short of true enjoyment and exhilaration for the two boys in the cabin of this magnificent beast. Of course, my cousin will never be the same, but this will teach him not to tell me beforehand that it was his first time in a Ferrari and that, up to then, he could never fathom what all the fuss was about. Well, not only does he now worship Ferrari, but he knows exactly what this engineering masterpiece is capable of. I think in about two days’ time his shaking hands will be back to normal and so will the rapid breathing in his chest – except that he does not know as yet that we will be saddling an even meaner beast, being the all-wheel drive Ferrari FF!
Well that was us putting the California through its paces without any high-speed driving, which I didn’t feel was necessary, as we knew that it delivered 360kW at 7 750rpm and was capable of reaching 0 to 100kph in just 3.8 seconds, with a true top speed of a criminal 312kph.
Like most of its stablemates, the Ferrari California is, for me, a modern classic and a true sports car in all respects. For those who don’t agree, all I can say is that sour grapes are unfortunately a part of life.
The Ferrari FF
As for the meaning of ‘FF’, ‘Fast and Furious’ initially came to mind, but this is not even close to what this V12 turned out to be. So, now, it’s more like ‘Fast and Fiendish’. Actually, it means ‘Four’, as in four-wheel drive, and ‘Four’ as in the four comfortable seats that cocoon driver and occupants alike.
When Arno the dealer principal of Ferrari Cape Town informed me that, if I thought the California was fast and agile, I had not seen anything yet and that the Ferrari FF would most certainly ‘blow my mind’.
Blow my mind it did. This magnificent machine with its new mid front-mounted 6 262cc GDI V12 delivers unprecedented performance and responsiveness at all engine speeds and 486kW at 8 000rpm. The torque is also blistering, namely 683 Nm at 6 000rpm. To top it all, the FF has a top speed of 335kph and sprints from 0 to 100kph in just 3.7 seconds while gliding through its seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox.
With its four-wheel drive, the FF is not scared of any road surface, whether straight or with turns, or of any weather conditions. Arno took me over De Waal Drive to warm up the beast, and, already, going through corners at speeds near to locking status was like breezing through lovely curved bends on a meek mountain pass.
Getting behind the controls of the FF, which differ slightly from those of the California, gives you an idea that this, too, is a true thoroughbred Ferrari, which, with its V12 engine, will not stand back for any other car when it comes to power, speed or roadholding. De Waal Drive again proved to be a test of my cousin’s nerves, as he could not grasp that, with the FF, you can drive even faster through tighter turns than with the California. Nor did he believe that the acceleration could be so much more dramatic when all four wheels grip and pull you forward. I do remember hearing a very faint voice mumbling something like, “On no, not again”.
All in all, the V12 is a super machine with its own quality sound. Fortunately, the 91-litre fuel tank makes sure that you can reach some far-off destinations.
It was with a sense of sadness that we had to return the white Ferrari FF to its owners, but it was also with hearts filled with joy that we could talk about this great experience.
Ferrari also invited us to a track day at Kyalami, where we were entertained by two of Ferrari’s racing drivers, Marco and Fredrico. Now picture this: three Ferraris, being the California, the FF, and the 458 Italia V8 producing 419kW at 9 000rpm and reaching 100kph within 3.4 seconds, all waiting to be driven around the track with real racing drivers first taking you through bends at 212kph and drifting through corners with speeds never going below 97kph – now you know the thrill of the threesome. That in itself was a great experience, but then I also got the chance to drive all three derivatives around the track while being instructed by the racing drivers – and that was priceless and was entertainment second to none. Which car did I enjoy the most? Well it depends – for a great ride with fast speeds, it was the California; for brute power with fast acceleration and grip on the road, it was the V12 FF. But, for sheer racing pleasure with no holds barred, there is nothing to beat the 458 Italia.
Prices range from R2 950 000 for the Ferrari California V8, to R4 050 000 for the Ferrari FF V12, and to R3 950 000 for the Ferrari 458 Spider.
Not many people are privileged to experience the Ferraris like we did and our thanks go to Viglietti Motors and its staff for making this possible.
Just a note to our readers: please do visit their showrooms and meet the people and the cars. Both are great and the passionate team at Viglietti is eager to share the Ferrari phenomenon with you. I can now see why there are those who have three or more Ferraris in their garages. Each model has its own personality and characteristics which make it unique and special.