Saturday, June 07, 2008

An opinion nobody asked for

Ferrari 360 Spider
Despite rpg's efforts to distract me by asking me to post about muppet-ish behaviour at another place we both frequent, here is yet another post about cars. Because there hasn't been one for, oh, five posts or so.

Which cars? Jaguars? Faster-than-light prototypes? The now-available, oh-so-spiffy battery-operated Tesla Roadster?

Nope. This post is about, now hold your breath, it's a shocker, I'm telling you, you really won't believe it...


[cue sound effects of mass exodus of disgusted readers]

Ok, ok, it's my marque of choice I know, and I spend far too much time yakking about them, but I really couldn't hold this in. Because after a year or so of speculation, disinformation, and the occasional faked Photo-chop picture, the venerable Scuderia has finally announced its plan for the next Prancing Horse (or should that be, 460 horses?). In true Ferrari style, they've resurrected a hallowed nameplate: the California, reminiscent of the beautiful 250 GT California Spyder of old. Hey, it worked with the Testarossa and the Mondial, so why not?

So, quivering in anticipation, I read the exuberant press release, looked at the typical airbrushed-beyond-belief factory "photos" (of a car that has not yet, as far as I can tell from my limited attempts to find out, been built) and generally spent some time thinking about it instead of doing more useful things. And the result is that I find myself... unimpressed. Someone, somewhere else, opined that when Ferrari releases a new model, we expect to be blown away by its styling and looks. This one looks like a Honda S2000 spliced onto a BMW Z4 roadster, and given a glossy Rosso Corso paint job. Not that either of those cars are particularly bad, but they just aren't Ferraris.

The California is a front-engined (ok, "mid-" front-engined) V8 sportscar, with a folding hardtop roof. The location of the V8 engine is a first for Ferrari, which is not nearly as exciting as you might think since they've been making V8 cars since the early 70's, and front-engined autos since the company's earliest days. The folding roof is a first too, catching Ferrari up to such high-performance heavyweights as, oh, say Pontiac. All this hype is really just another way of saying that it's the first such vehicle to emanate from Maranello simply because they haven't bothered to build one before.

My main gripes, however, are these: first, it basically seems like a front-engined F430. Which I confess is not an original observation, as just about everyone who cares seems to have come to the same conclusion. What makes the F430 great is that it's an absolute demon, a Formula 1-inspired bottle rocket of a car, with Launch Control, paddle shifters, big cheerful air ducts and a gorgeous Pininfarina styling job. No matter that they stole the mirrors from the Testarossa, the tail-lights from the Enzo, the teardrop-shaped cheek vents from Phil Hill's race car, and the overall body plan from the 360 Modena - it's still a mean, lean, lovely machine. A latter-day Enzo for the quarter-million-dollar-a-vehicle set.

Why we need a front-engined version of this, which gains a trunk but almost certainly sacrifices a whole lot of handling, is anybody's guess. The earlier rumours hinted at a "baby Ferrari", a return to the Dino, which I think would have been much more fun. A cheap and cheery little Ferrari, almost in reach of someone who might otherwise buy, say, a Porsche Boxster. Instead, we get a high-tech Corvette that will doubtless cost as much as an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, which, truth be told, is probably its main competition.

Shame really. The world really doesn't need another Corvette, or any number of other front-engined V8 berlinettas I could name. What we need from Ferrari is another monster, something verging on the edge of ridiculous, without stepping over the line into Lamborghini or Pagani territory. Maybe not an Enzo, or the turbo-charged, crazed rocket ship that was the F40, but how about something really eye-popping, really fast, or really different from the rest of the pack? While I'm sure the California will contain excellent technology, a tremendous assortment of bells and whistles, and those trademark hand-stitched leather seats, I can't help but feel just a little, teeny bit let down.

Ah well. Ferrari doesn't exist to make people like me happy, and I imagine that they'll sell an absolute pile of these things. Coming soon, to a highway near you.


john.g. said...

Nice, but look at the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage!

The Wrath of Dawn said...

Cars... *her eyes glaze over*

But at least you post. That's more than SOME of us can claim.

The Wrath of Dawn said...


Now THIS is the WV this post should have for every comment


*sound of sports car

Ricardipus said...

John - saw an Aston V8 the other day. It is nice, but looks kind of small.

Bet it's a dream to drive though.

#Debi said...

We never see anything like that around here.

I bought a PT Cruiser this weekend, though... :)

Ricardipus said...

Debi - congratulations. As I noted in some previous post, the PT is surprisingly fun to drive.

What colour?

#Debi said...

It's dark blue with sparkles in the paint. :) I'll post pictures as soon as I get batteries for my camera...