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Offline AshSimmonds

  • Geekitecht

  • Joined: Feb 2006

  • Drives: GF's shitbox :(
  • Location: Adelayed
  • Name: Humble Narrator
  • www: AshSimmonds.com
You can check it out any time you like... :D


Andrew Heasley, drive.com.au, June 24, 2009

With a potent 4.3-litre V8 and gorgeous open-top body, the exotic Ferrari California is the perfect way to enjoy a drive in the Victorian country.

The spectre of flaunting wealth in an area of Victoria recently ravaged by bushfire seems, well, unseemly.

As people gradually start piecing together their shattered lives from the ashes of Black Saturday, one wonders what they'd make of a shiny, black, mega-dollar Ferrari snaking along the bitumen between the burnt-out hillsides.

No, we weren't there in the Yarra Valley and districts for a gawk or to show off behind the wheel of Ferrari's latest model, the California.

As representatives of Ferrari-importer Ateco were quick to point out, they understood the sensitivities but the Yarra Valley and surrounding areas are relying, in no small part, on tourism returning and the economic benefits that flow from it for the communities trying to get back on their feet.

And it was their conscious decision to hold the launch of the California there. And so we went.

The California is a departure from the type of vehicle one would normally associate with the brand that's won more Formula One grands prix than any other.

Rather than some hard-core race-car-for-the-road, the California is entirely civilised, pampering even. Its brief was to be a Gran Turismo - a grand tourer - to swallow big distances comfortably and to be easy to drive.

For starters, it’s both a coupe and an open-air car: it adopts the latest in convertible technology with a push-button folding hard top. In an acrobatic action, the roof lifts, the boot lid unhinges and the roof disappears in a spritely 14 seconds.

The new California also debuts Ferrari’s latest seven-speed automatic, which uses a twin-clutch set-up for the first time on a Ferrari. It's a quantum leap of earlier robotised manuals in cog-swapping speed and finesse.

It also features a three-program Manettino switch that changes the car's dynamic traits at a rotation of a steering-wheel mounted switch, between comfort, sport and (race) track.

In comfort setting, the emphasis is on gentle throttle response, relaxed steering efforts, smooth gear changes, absorbent suspension and progressive braking.

In sport mode it sharpens the throttle, steering and braking response, quickens the gear shift and firms up the suspension.

In track mode, it switches off all electronic safety nets except the anti-lock function on the brakes and is designed for a circuit workout. It's also dubbed locally as the “find another job” button, such are the consequences for the importer's staff who fancy themselves as bit of a Schumacher.

The car we're to drive has the optional “Magneride Dual Mode Shock Absorber system” that offers electronically adjustable compliance settings.

Oh, and under the long bonnet is a mid-front-mounted, 90-degree, 4.3-litre V8 that pumps out 338kW and 485Nm. It's said to be good for a 0-100km/h sprint time of “less than four seconds” and a top speed of 310km/h.

Miraculously, Ferrari claims an average fuel consumption of 13.1 litres per 100km (helped no doubt by a very tall seventh gear), though carbon dioxide emissions are 305g/km.

But first things first, the cabin. In the test car, it’s a sea of caramel-coloured leather, with firm and supportive seats.

There are three buttons embedded in what looks like an alloy femur that rises from the centre dividing console: one says “Launch” (you know that it would be inappropriate - as the politically correct would say - to explore what that button does in valet parking), one for reverse and one for beginners, “auto”.

Close to the driver's elbow is the roof activation button, and behind it the two electric-window switches.

Confession time: the passenger window switch came off in my fingers the first moment I used it. Thankfully, it snapped back in place as easily - it's a chrome-plated plastic jigger - and stayed put thereafter. Oh well, it is an Italian car, after all, albeit a $472,000 one, before paying on-road costs that will likely take the price beyond $500,000.

To get the crackle-red engine of the Ferrari California fired up, there's the all important red starter button, something that looks more like a gimmick on lesser cars.

Nothing can prepare you for the metallic rasp that leaps from the four pipes stacked in two clusters when blipped at idle. It's shattering.

A flip of the California’s right paddle, the gear box slots into first, ease off the brakes and onto the accelerator and you're away in a half-million-dollar projectile.

Roof up, the Ferrari California enjoys good visibility out the front, sides and to the rear, even if the roof lining is in close proximity.

At low speeds, it sends an exhaust boom into the cabin, just in case you forget there’s some wicked engineering under foot.

In comfort mode, the Ferrari California threads its way along the freeways, absorbing suspension joints effortlessly and maintains a set speed without fuss. At 110km/h, there's more than 200km/h to go ... in theory at least.

Cantering along, it gives a moment to take in the cabin. The heater controls are so simple to understand they could come from a Japanese car.

The audio/sat-nav system is a big screen unit, that for all the world is identical to Chrysler's MyGig system with a hard drive for song storage, USB/iPod connectivity, voice activation and phone connection.

But it’s when you get off the freeway and onto the winding roads that the California really shows its brilliance. Time for the Manettino's Sport function.

As the road threads from corner to corner, left, right and doubles back in a hairpin, the California exhibits somewhat contradictory behaviour: it is simultaneously glued to the bitumen while feeling light on its feet.

It’s an unexpected sensation in a car that weighs more than 1.7 tonnes with huge gumball tyres (our test car, one of two registered in Australia, had optional, larger 20-inch alloys, replacing the standard 18s).

The Ferrari California simply steers exactly where it’s pointed, deep into corners, settles surefootedly and slingshots you to the next. Part of the secret is its aluminium chassis that allows it to be stiff and light.

The other is the brake system: Ferrari puts carbon-ceramic brakes on the car as standard, and you can choose to have the calipers enamelled in red, yellow (as per our test car), black or grey. They work without fuss, washing off speed as fast as you'd like.

For the uninitiated, the Ferrari California's driving dynamics build driver confidence, rather than stripping it way. It’s perhaps no wonder, then, that we're told the California is attracting buyers half of whom have never owned a Ferrari before.

Despite the chilly 12-degree temperature, we dropped the roof and cranked up the heating, to let in the Ferrari's signature exhaust song.

There's a throaty roar under acceleration and a delicious burble on over run when you lift off the pedal. There's not a trace of scuttle shake encountered from the open-top body.

But no one was ready for the stockwhip crack on fast gear changes approaching the 4.3-litre V8 engine’s 8000rpm redline when swapping between second and third gears.

Bouncing off the scarred hillsides, the crack echoed through the blackened trees.

Later, as we slowed to a stop for road works, the California roused the curiosity of road side workers who gave it more than a cursory glance as we waited behind their lollypop stop-go signs while they went about their vastly more important task of rebuilding communities.

It's a sign of life returning to the region, as are the green wisps sprouting from charred tree trunks and the new emerald green fronds unfurling from the tree ferns.

True, only the very privileged will get to own and enjoy such a car.

In Australia, Ferrari dealers already hold 200 orders for the California, even as the first are being delivered now.

Win Lotto and plonk your deposit down, and you'll still have an 18 month wait. Longer, if you want to customise your Ferrari California.

Ferrari Australia representative say they expect to be able to deliver almost 40 Californias for the remainder of 2009, and next year's allocation of cars from Italy has yet to be determined.

Standard California not fancy enough? Try these options for size:

‘Daytona’ style seat trim: $7000

‘Diamond’ style seat trim: $7000

LED Carbon Fibre steering wheel: $8200

Magneride dual mode shock absorber system: $7500

19-inch forged diamond alloys: $9500

20-inch diamond finish sport wheels: $8000

Offline dkabab

whens the Aussie Exotics review going to print?

Offline AshSimmonds

  • Geekitecht

  • Joined: Feb 2006

  • Drives: GF's shitbox :(
  • Location: Adelayed
  • Name: Humble Narrator
  • www: AshSimmonds.com
whens the Aussie Exotics review going to print?

Yeah they'll give me one of those over Enzo's dead body.

Oh, wait...

Offline dkabab

haha, well it would be more comfortable to sleep in than an exige

Offline 98octane

Pretty crap photos attached to that review.  I think they need a better photographer  :scratchchin:

Offline dkabab

Pretty crap photos attached to that review.  I think they need a better photographer  :scratchchin:

lol, first thing i looked at  :D

Offline super squalo

  • Joined: Aug 2008

  • Drives: anything you put petrol in
  • Location: outer space
saw it today in the flesh,
jury's out for me

The Maser Granturisimo still looks better :thumbsup:
try it you may like !!!

Back from the Dead

Offline flamestone

  • Geekographer

  • Joined: Jul 2007

  • Drives: to and from everywhere
  • Location: Central Coast
  • Name: Shane
  • www: Flamestone.com
Even after seeing it for real?  :eek:  That can't be a good sign. 

Offline super squalo

  • Joined: Aug 2008

  • Drives: anything you put petrol in
  • Location: outer space
Even after seeing it for real?  :eek:  That can't be a good sign. 

Not really personal taste, back end looks a little TVR iss! :thumbsup:

still prefer the Maser Grandturisimo and $150k cheaper, but dont quote me :D :D
try it you may like !!!

Back from the Dead

Offline AshSimmonds

  • Geekitecht

  • Joined: Feb 2006

  • Drives: GF's shitbox :(
  • Location: Adelayed
  • Name: Humble Narrator
  • www: AshSimmonds.com

A good tranny can make or break any party - Ferrari California: almost perfect but for the transmission.

    These days, transmissions are computer-controlled, and by and large, they'll do whatever you ask of them. From redline downshifts to full-load, low-RPM upshifts, they're all completed quickly and smoothly. We often underestimate the importance of a good transmission. It's easy to forget that an insubordinate gearbox that ignores your commands can downright ruin a car.

I have a term for transmissions that neuter the engine whose power they're supposed to be delivering: 850-syndrome. 850-syndrome is primarily characterized by an automatic transmission's outright refusal to downshift into a gear that would result in maximum acceleration. The term comes from the beautiful BMW 850i of twenty years ago. The 850i had a powerful V-12 engine, but its computer-controlled automatic transmission positively neutered the big GT's performance. Try to drive quickly through traffic in an 850i, and you'll be slamming the gas pedal against the firewall constantly, furious that this allegedly fast car can't seem to get out of its own way.

Contrast that with Volkswagen's DSG twin-clutch gearbox. Part of what makes the DSG so special is the willingness with which it gives you gears. Mat the throttle at slow speeds, and it downshift-instantly-all the way to first gear, even if that means there's only 1000 rpm left before it has to snap off a redline shift into second. It never seems to get lazy and think 'oh hell, I'll just stay in second-what's the point of downshifting, I'll just have to upshift again later?' The result is that you can use all of the VW's power all the time.

These days, most transmissions will obey your every command. So when one comes along that isn't nearly perfect, it stands out. I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the magnificent Ferrari California. Like all Ferraris, this V-8-engined superstar is a rolling celebrity. And like all Ferraris, it's obscenely fast. Unlike other Ferraris, though, the California is equipped with a twin-clutch transmission. This is Ferrari's first, and like many Version 1.0s of this world, it's not perfect. It-shock of all shocks-suffers from a bit of 850-syndrome.

If, for example, you're cruising along in the California in automatic mode at 60 mph, the transmission will be in seventh gear. Floor the throttle, and you'll get a smooth, instantaneous downshift straight into fourth gear, with the engine somewhere around 4200 rpm. The California starts accelerating, but nowhere near as quickly as it's capable of. Had the transmission shifted instead into second gear, the engine would have shot to 7000 rpm, and the California would have rocketed forward. Of course, you can override the transmission's programming by pulling the shift paddles for yourself, but you shouldn't have to. There's a reason it's called "automatic" mode.

I spoke with Roberto Fedeli, Ferrari's chief technical engineer, about what seemed to me like a glitch in the shift mapping. He defended Ferrari's decision, stating that the transmission would chose fourth gear as the best compromise between acceleration on one side and fuel economy and noise on the other.

That's admirably environmentally conscious, but I don't know of a single Ferrari driver who cares about his screaming monster's fuel consumption or keeping the beast quiet. And the first time a California owner gets dusted by a BMW 335i, Ferrari's going to have a PR nightmare on their hands. That infuriated driver will wind up in a dealership insisting that something's wrong with his car-when in reality, nothing's wrong at all.

Single-clutch automated manuals, like Ferrari's old F1 gearbox, have a long interruption in power delivery during shifts, and as such are inherently ill-suited to automatic-mode driving. Since the driver can't accurately predict when the shift will occur, and thus can't ease off the throttle to smooth out the shift, the F1 causes passengers' heads to bob forward during every shift. And that's despite the F1's near-perfect programming that almost completely smooths out low-load shifts (itself an engineering feat that should not be underestimated.) By far the most important reason for Ferrari to equip the California with a dual-clutch unit is so that the shifts can now be seamless-and the car can be driven smoothly in automatic mode. I'm really surprised that this automatic mode wasn't programmed to perfection.

A further problem with the California's transmission concerns the gearbox's hill-holder and creep functions. When at a stop, if you let your foot off the brake pedal, pressure is held on the brake calipers for two seconds to allow you to move your right foot to the accelerator pedal without rolling backward. Many other cars have this function, but there's one key difference: the Ferrari unit then freewheels, where other two-pedal systems immediately engage a "creep" mode to emulate a torque-converter automatic when you pull your foot off the brake pedal. The California will creep forward, but only after you've touched the gas pedal. As a result, several of us on the press drive rolled backward a few inches at traffic lights unintentionally-a mistake that could easily result in a scratched bumper. Ferrari should reprogram the system to either keep the hill-holder active until the driver hits the accelerator pedal (like the Lexus auto-hold system on the LS) or, ideally, program the transmission to begin creeping forward immediately when in gear with your foot off the brake pedal like every other twin-clutch setup.
Are either of these problems big enough to ruin the California? Of course not; they're fairly minor issues. But it shows that even the Gods of Ferrari aren't perfect. The great thing about computer-controlled transmissions is that they're easy to fix: Mr. Fedeli said he'd consider changing the shift mapping on future versions of the product-and in fact, a couple lines of code would fix both of these problems entirely.

After a recent drive in the new Z4, it's obvious that BMW, too, has fixed some of the teething problems we noticed in its first twin-clutch transmission, the M3's M-DCT. That transmission would occasionally dump the clutch off the line, resulting in a wheelspin-riddled, smoky launch when all you wanted to do was leave the line smoothly. (And one M3 convertible did this to me right in front of a police officer who did not seem amused.)

Ferrari did such an incredible job refining the single-clutch F1 transmission over the years that there's little doubt that the twin-clutch gearbox will eventually be just as good. Or better, given its  far more sophisticated two-clutch hardware. But for those of you who wondered what "programming issues" I was talking about in my review of the California, here's more information. And if you've ever been to a drag show, you'll know: it only takes one great tranny to turn a good party into a great one.

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