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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Astonishing 2+ Seater

By Charles Philip Granere

The Ferrari California offered a number of firsts upon its debut in 2008. A retractable hardtop. It's the first Ferrari to sport a retractable hardtop, to rock a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission, and the first to wield a front-engine V8. It's also got something called backseats, which seems like a cute concept for a Ferrari -- a "2+" is the technical term. The $230,000 auto is called a "grand tourer" I suppose for this reason, though you'd better find some small friends or very young children if you want to do any grand touring without major leg circulation issues. It's a natural classic, all good looks and serious performance, and it's got a foot in the present and the past.

This is a Ferrari after all, and it makes no apologies for conceding a few extra seats. The eight cylinders get you to 60 from a standstill in just under four seconds, well on its way to 193 mph, an impressive speed that is the result of long hours in a wind tunnel.

Speaking of flying, you probably remember the California's ancestors from a movie called "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." The mythic car in that film was a (say it with me now) 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. You'll remember the most famous dignitary of the 250 series as the car in the 1986 John Hughes classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." That was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California, one of few than a hundred cars (as noted by Cameron). (The car in the movie was a replica, not an actual 250, because if it had been, Ferrari enthusiasts would have burned down Hollywood had Hughes actually destroyed one of the rare beauties.)

So the new series, which could just as easily have been called the "Utah" or the "Connecticut," adopts the name of that 50-year-old classic and lays in all the new gadgetry of this, the modern era. But anyway yes the new California gets its name from those cars of yore, and while it's sure a fine product from those Italian fellows, it seems to have gotten a lot of gossip about being a "nice" car.

Pretty but not exotic, and with a rear end that offends some, it's clear that the new California has a mellow side that its cousins do not. And this is partly in the design -- a car that can do many things well, and most of them better than almost every other car on the road. So while it's a bit peculiar for a Ferrari, it's still a breathtaking machine when compared to gosh, anything with a backseat. Just make sure you call shotgun at least once. And while the front end brings to mind, say, a dignified Aston-Martin, the rear gets a lot of grief for being a bit too big.

But Ferrari was serious when it decided to build a car that could perform but could also fit a small child (say, the child of your mistress) in the back seat. A little something for everyone, it seems. Everyone who has $230,000 and a wish to take your best normal-sized friend and your best small friends for an exhilarating trip.

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