California here I come: what it's like when a Ferrari does 0-100kmh in 3.8 seconds
I'm a long time writing about cars but I've never driven a Ferrari. There, I've said it. So I set about rectifying that and, in the process, managed to get in a nice few 'dream' drives.
I hope to tell you about them over the next few weeks.
I'll be honest. The drives weren't day-long, over the hills and faraway adventures. Maybe that day will come. When it does, you will be the first to know.
No, these were drives on a decent circuit in the Belfast area. I have to thank the people at the Charles Hurst Group headquarters for affording me the courtesy and opportunity.
They tell me there is plenty of interest and activity in their prestige and exotic cars from people down here.
They have a huge site on Boucher Road on the southern fringes of Belfast. It's an hour and 45 mins or so from Dublin. Sweet Lord they seem to have every franchise under the sun.
But the ones I wanted to drive are those we don't have down here: the likes of Ferrari, Bentley and Maserati (I've driven one of those before by the way). So after a few lovely sandwiches, a cup of tea and my rather loud proclamation that their sales executives had the best jobs in the world, we turned our attention to driving.
Let me be honest, again. I had to restrain myself, a fully-grown adult, from being overcome by that boyish gaze that comes over people in the presence of cars like these.So I just said 'wow' a few times and silently prayed I'd get a good stint behind the wheel of the Ferrari California 30.
Technically, it was a secondhand car. And it is called '30' because it has 30bhp more than 'conventional' - and is 30kg lighter.
Of course it will shortly be overtaken (if that is the word) by the new California T which I drooled over a little at Geneva. That, by the way, is due in the showrooms up there in late October. Prices will start from around €270,000. The 30 was, I'm thrilled to say, in red. I wanted it to be no other colour to go with the sound of that V8 (4,297cc, direct injection). Way out on a great circuit we went and then I got behind the wheel. With dual clutch transmission and a serious 490bhp (from a naturally aspirated engine that is remarkable) I whooshed off. I mean this can get to 100kmh from a standing start in 3.8 seconds. Yes, 3.8 seconds.It felt so easy, so fast. Steering wheel paddles let me rip up and down the gears - to hear the noise and feel the power.
Yes the steering felt light in the first corner but it did precisely what I asked of it and never lost its sense of grip and directness. The California is seen as being a car set up to attract women drivers as well as men - hence the lighter steering. Yes I'd have preferred maybe 10pc more weight in the steering but that's a quibble against the sheer straight-line power and verve this managed to generate. My goodness it leapt forward on the open road. You have to drive a car like this to understand why people rave about them. Of course it looks stunning and the sound evokes track-side excitement.But the flow of energy through it was, for me, the outstanding element. The wonderful feeling of movement at pace and the audible presence of power at your foot or fingertips. It's the kind of thing to whet one's appetite.They might not like to hear this but I've a feeling I'll be back.
Next week, please God, I'll have another dream drive to tell you about.