Our long-term California’s final week at wheels towers has been a fittingly adventurous one. To give it the send-off that it deserves, we lined up two other stunning grand tourers for one last blast around magnificent dune-lined roads on the fringes of Dubai. Enter the new Aston Martin DB9 and the Maserati Gran Turismo Sport.
With a complement of two snorting V8s and a V12, our noisy cavalcade headed out of town and deep into the UAE desert. While I shall not delve into the finer points of the other cars for the fear of giving away too much about this upcoming story, the California proved every bit a stunning mile-muncher.
It shrugged off the 300km round trip and everything from the suspension to the gearbox is finely tuned for long-haul travels. Greeted with corners, the Cali does tend to lean a bit more than you’d expect, but never alarmingly so.
Although its awkwardly high stance would suggest otherwise, the Ferrari was clearly the quickest of all the cars congregated for our feature. The high ride height also meant it was less likely to scrape its belly while passing over speed bumps than the other two.
When we tested the previous California on the track years ago, the brakes felt spongy. It’s a problem that’s been resolved with the new carbon ceramic discs on our tester: even after hours of hard workout, they remained resolutely fade free. The best thing, by far, though is the 4.3-litre V8 revving to over 8,000rpm — it makes a glorious noise.
There are some minor problems, however. The back seats are not designed to accommodate humans, the boot space is appalling, it’s thirsty when driven hard, and the infotainment system is straight out of a Jeep and looks completely out of place in the Poltrona Frau-dressed cabin.
However, having spent nearly six weeks with the California, I can say it with utter conviction that it’s a car you can easily live with every day. It’s feisty when you want it to be, but settles down when you’re not in the mood. Most of all, it’s not the temperamental Italian exotic of automotive folklore — it’s a thoroughly dependable GT.
I know there’s the question of the price. A well-specced car, similar to our long-termer is hardly a snip at over Dh800,000. Furthermore, there are some serious rivals in the class — such as the aforementioned Aston, which is better looking, although the Fezza looks pretty good in darker shades (avoid the garish yellows and reds; they only look good on the Italia) — but the California strikes a great balance between sportiness and comfort.
If you’re in the market for, say, something like an M6 or an SL 65, I implore you to raid the back of your designer sofa, find the extra dirhams, and give the California a serious look. You won’t be disappointed.
Driven: by Amit
Start mileage: 8,150km
Recent cost: Fuel
Average fuel economy: 20 litres-per-100km
Highs: Superb grand tourer, engine, easy to use around town
Lows: Tiny back seats, lack of boot space, some ergonomics issues
Volkswagen Passat update
Everyone’s in on the brand-name sound systems in cars these days — you’ve got Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Bang & Olufsen, Bowers & Wilkins, you name it. Well, Volkswagen went with Fender (available exclusively in the new Beetle, Jetta and our Passat), maybe because it ran out of options or maybe because the system is actually really good. But VW’s bit, the software hiding behind the 6.5in screen, messes up the presets of my radio stations.
If I’m on the last preset and I pause to listen and then realise it’s Bieber playing, I scroll to the next station only to find that the thing starts again from the back and selects the last preset again and then, yes, it’s too late and I’ve got the Bieber stuck in my head all day.