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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ferrari 2+ Seater!

Ferrari can do many things other car companies cannot, including building a machine that links past with present and that tries, however successfully, to be the fastest car to the market and back. The Ferrari California, premiering in 2008, takes its name from a 50-year-old classic while introducing some modern-day developments. 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. And as a result of this transmission it presents at least one last: The last Ferrari to offer a manual gearbox. 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.

Its link to the past is right there in the name -- the California is so named for the 250 GTs that awed a 20th-century world in the late '50s. It ended its life by sailing out a window, a scene which horrified the Ferrari cognoscenti in audiences across America -- who may still have unnecessary nightmares, as the car in that film was a replica. There were fewer than a hundred 250GTs made, and as a result they were valuable cars.

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. Performance is turn-of-the-century, too: zero to 60 in a shade under four seconds, a top speed of 193 mph, and due to long hours in a wind tunnel, the most aerodynamic car Ferrari's ever built.

But in the canon of Ferrari's aggressively powerful cars, the California has already gotten a bit of a rep for being nice. It's lovely, but not shockingly so. 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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