Ferrari California: driven

* Looks great, sounds superb * Long waiting list, though * Order now for £164,910...

Ferrari California: driven

You know times are hard when the prices of Ferraris start falling through the floor. As recently as May 2008, a Ferrari California sold for £5,000,000. Today, you can buy one for just £164,910.

Granted, the California in question was a rare 1961 250 GT, so its not an exact comparison, but Ferrari does claim the inspiration behind its modern California drop-head owes much to the spirit of the original.

Undoubtedly, both cars represent a more genteel side of Ferrari, where elegance and cruising grace roof up or roof down take precedence over race-inspired performance.

Not just a snarling supercar

A compliant ride, delicate low-speed steering and smooth settings for the seven-speed, paddle-shift gearbox all contribute to the Californias relaxed character.

Seek out the sun and the roof cantilevers into the boot in just 14 seconds. Youll want to leave the standard wind deflector in place, though. It does a great job of keeping the outside world outside; without it, you get a little too much of the wind-in-the-hair experience for comfort.

The California is practical, too. Theres no sill to overcome, so you can slide plenty of luggage into the boot, even when the roof is down. You can even the first time in a Ferrari fold the rear seats to make the boot longer. Just as well really, because theres not much space for rear passengers its best to keep the seats for occasional use rather than for regular grand touring.

Still a thoroughbred Ferrari

Cruising civility aside, the California is nothing less than a thoroughbred Ferrari when you ask it to be. The 4.3-litre V8 uses high-pressure direct injection to deliver extremely precise fuel metering, which minimises fuel consumption and reduces CO2 emissions. Most of all, though, it means throttle response is virtually instantaneous.

No, the acceleration isnt as savage as a V12 599s, but the California is still quick enough to challenge the stomachs of most passengers. Either that, or you can thrill them with the loud crack from the exhaust pipes under full-throttle gearshifts.

An all-aluminium structure, with that V8 pushed as far back behind the front wheels as possible and the gearbox sitting above the rear axle, helps deliver beautifully balanced handling. Lowering the roof, even though it does induce a little more body flex, has little impact on the Californias equilibrium, either.

The precise loading of the steering as the speed builds, the immense grip and brick-wall stopping power ensure the California is nothing short of fantastic fun whatever the prevailing financial or meteorological climate. PT

Our verdict

Comfortable and easy to drive and its a proper Ferrari