Ferrari has just pulled the wraps off a revised version of the California at the 2010 Paris motor show, but CAR has already been to Italy to test this new model.
What’s new about the new Ferrari California? It's the first Ferrari to have stop/start tech, and the new fuel saving system – along with a host of other green tech – was unveiled at the Paris show under the HELE (High Emotion, Low Emissions) name. The new Stop&Start system will be a £820.15 option when UK sales start in November, but it’s expected to become standard factory fit on every California from early 2011.
So just what are the Ferrari California Stop&Start’s new headline figures, just how have they been achieved and why is Ferrari bothering?
Let’s start with the last point, and although the average Ferrari customer probably won’t care about their car’s CO2 output, improved MPG and emissions figures prove to both the wider public and the bureaucrats in Brussels that the company is serious about going green. Anyway, the figures, and all the changes cut the California’s CO2 figure from 299g/km to 270g/km. There aren’t any MPG numbers available yet.
Presumably the stop/start system on the Ferrari California works like the stop/start system on any other car?
There’s the usual beefed-up alternator and extra battery capacity to cope with the demands of extra starts and running the A/C and other electric systems while the engine is off. Come to a halt, keep your foot on the brake, and the car shuts down.
When you want to get going again you have three options. The first is the conventional method of taking your foot off the brake, but Ferrari has two other options: you can either tug the right-hand gearshift paddle, or if you’re the sort who likes to left foot brake then a tap of the throttle pedal will see the engine bark into life.
Ferrari has specifically tailored the restart system to use less fuel than normal. Press the start button on a California and the engine will fire up in 700-milliseconds and briefly rev to around 1700rpm; when the stop/start system kicks the engine back into life it does it in just 230ms, and only allows for 1200rpm.
Does it work? Yes, and you can add Ferrari to BMW, Porsche and Mini as one of the few manufacturers which has a stop/start system that consistently works. Of course it doesn’t always work, but when it doesn’t it’s only because you’ve eventually drained battery, or because Ferrari’s parameters mean you need to travel for five seconds and hit 8mph between each stop so the system doesn’t interfere if you’re constantly creeping minutely forward.
And, of course, you only really notice the stop/start system when it doesn’t cut the 4.3-litre V8. When it works, suddenly the vibrations stop and you sit in silence. Well, as silent as rush hour in Bologna can get anyway. The only bad thing about the system is that it means you can’t sit in traffic revving the engine for the amusement of the commuting locals.
The other tweaks include new continuous management of the two radiator fans, which now consume 25% less power and help cut drag at high speed by 5%. New brushless motors for the fans cut 2.1kg, too. Continuous management of the fuel power sees the system use 25% less power too, and the A/C compressor is now electric as well. Finally, sensors measure the throttle pedal position and the California’s longitudinal and lateral acceleration, and adapt the gearshift patterns to suit. You need to be in auto mode, but apparently it adapts in 10-15 seconds, and Ferrari reckons you’ll use 8% fewer revs in urban driving, and make savings elsewhere too.
The result? The aforementioned figures, but Ferrari is also keen to point out that its customers drive very differently (i.e. a lot faster) than the EU test, so on its own cycle the new California is 23% cleaner during the urban driving, 4% better on the motorway and 14.5% better on the extra urban cycle.
Expect the system on the 458 Italia in the next 18 months, and it’ll bring that car’s CO2 emissions below 300g/km. But there are no plans to mate the tech to the Cali’s manual transmissions as the numbers are minute – we hear there’s just one such car in the UK.
Okay, enough with the numbers – what about the rest of the Ferrari California?
The steering is initially disconcertingly light, and it feels strange to finger twirl a £145k Ferrari out of the Maranello factory gates with ease. And with the dual-clutch ‘box taking care of the gearshifts, it’s far from the nerve-wracking experience you might expect with tourists and factory workers alike watching you. But this Ferrari is aimed at a different market from 458 buyers, and the claim is that 60% of customers are new to the brand, chopping in cars like Merc SLs and drop-top Bentleys and Astons.
It’ll do the consummate cruiser thing too. The Manettino dial’s Comfort setting adjust the dampers so just enough of the road’s lumps and bumps are filtered out, and the metal roof means better refinement than rival’s fabric roofs. Just be sensible and use the rear seats for your luggage, or better yet stick with the standard bench and don’t spec the +2 option.
But although you can pootle around or cruise in comfort – and that’s what many owners will do – it’s much better to lower the roof and get on with enjoying the engine. The 4.3-litre V8 might be 109bhp down on the 458, but you just won’t care. It doesn’t sound that special when you blip the throttle in neutral, but on the move the slightest tickle of the right pedal emits a glorious hard-edged bark from the quad exhausts.
You get the most out of the California in two places. One is posing in towns, but the other is on motorways and sweeping A-roads, where there’s a real chance to extend the car. Twist the Manettino to Sport and it seems to steady the car and bring the weight under better control. Of course there are limitations though, and tight hairpins and rough roads aren’t the car’s forte, where the extra weight of the metal roof can be felt.
Some still scoff at the idea of a Ferrari aimed at SL buyers, but the California fits the mould of a comfortable cruiser perfectly. And the stop/start system works well, whether the prospective customers care (or even know) about CO2 or not.
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