Motoring | Test Drives

2012 Ferrari California - Week 3

Sportscars used to be just for the weekends because you couldn’t live with them seven days a week. The California has changed that, says Amit Benjamin

  • By Amit Benjamin, Editor, wheels magazine
  • Published: 14:46 January 3, 2013
  • Wheels

2012 Ferrari California
  • Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/ANM
  • It is lighter than rivals Mercedes-Benz SL and Bentley Continental GTC V8.

Dropped into the vortex of everyday bustle and grind, most supercars tend to be recalcitrant. Their gearboxes are grumpy in traffic, outward visibility is compromised and speed humps are best negotiated with extreme caution.

And from what I can tell so far, the California seems unaffected by any of these maladies. Grocery runs, shopping mall trips, fast food drive-thrus — the California despatches all of them with uncharacteristic ease.

But now, three weeks into our long-term test, it’s time I expounded another important aspect: performance. Our 2012 long-term Cali is the result of a mid-life update. It now tips the scales at about 1,700kg — it’s shed 30kg, while retaining the torsional rigidity of the original — and although not exactly a featherweight, it is lighter than rivals Mercedes-Benz SL and Bentley Continental GTC V8.

The loss of mass, coupled with extensive suspension, steering and engine updates have resulted in a bump in power and more eager handling characteristics. The nose tucks into corners with an alacrity that was hitherto lacking. It is notably faster, too, and hits 100kph in 3.8 seconds.

Then, there’s the optional Handling Speciale pack that transforms it into an even sharper driving tool. Although power and torque remain unchanged, the software for the magneto-rheological dampers is revised, the spring rates are stiffened and the steering gets a faster ratio.

As a result, steering reaction is improved by about 9 per cent while body roll is further quashed to aid cornering. And you can feel the difference even if you’re not the owner of a telemetrically-blessed bottom. Naturally, the pay off comes in the form of a slightly harsher ride, but it’s not unbearable around town in Comfort mode. 

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If you are a keen driver, I suggest you tick the box marked ‘Handling Speciale’, you won’t regret it. Problems? There are some. Driven enthusiastically, the 71-litre tank of Premium fuel empties itself in just over a 250kms. You could get that number up by driving sensibly and leaving the seven-speed auto to its devices, but not by much I reckon.

Another negative mark for practicality is in its cargo capacity. Ferrari created a decently-sized 340-litre boot for the California and then proceeded to fill all of it with a spare wheel — my trousers have more carrying capacity. Seriously though, the two extra seatlings (I refuse to call them seats) in the cabin mean you can still pack a weekend’s worth of belongings, no problem. More next week.

The progress

Week 2
Even a brief run to the supermarket is a treat in the baby Fezza. It’s perfectly capable of negotiating the most treacherous speed humps and the tightest car parks. It really is a car in which you can whizz to the shops and back without breaking into a nervous sweat. It’s even better if you find a tunnel along the way.
Highs: Looks and sounds fantastic
Lows: The back seats are tiny

Week 1
You can effortlessly pootle around town as the smooth-shifting seven-speed doublec lutch auto goes about its business serenely — it’s not as grumpy at low speeds as the single-clutch auto it replaces. You can drive it for hours without fatiguing your spine and it sounds just glorious.
Highs: Notably faster than before, but still comfy
Lows: Stylistically, not as striking as its siblings

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