It's a bit awkward, I suppose, that I got so excited about the one-litre, £7,995, 62.8 mpg VW Up in my previous review. And inconvenient that I went on to say that a new generation of cheap, fuel efficient models was making me question what I liked and needed in a car.
For this month's test model, with options, has a price tag of £207,657, which would buy you 26 VW Ups. You could actually purchase an entire Up for less than it costs to fit this car with diamond-polished 20-inch rims. Moreover, the engine is more than four times the size and offers nearly eight times the power.
So how can I justify raving about it? Well, in its defence, the Ferrari California does not have an entirely reckless attitude to the environment. It has a stop-start device, which cuts the engine when it would otherwise be idling in traffic. And, relatively speaking, with Ferrari having, in 2007, set itself the objective of reducing CO2 by 40%, this car is not inefficient for a supercar.
Besides, I can't imagine anyone using this car every day. The California is something to enjoy for leisure, so comparing it to a VW is like comparing a Rembrandt to a Monet print, or Stevie Wonder to will.i.am. It's not for getting from A to B, it's about getting from one random spot to another in the most stylish and entertaining way possible, just for the heck of it. For this, the Ferrari California is the best car I've ever driven.
The driving experience is ferocious and heart-stopping - so much so that I did not even dare to try the car without its driver aids, and chickened out of testing the launch control. But, in the city or on the motorway, it is perfectly manageable and flattering.
As for its looks: wow! With the roof in place, it is as mean and unapproachable as most Ferraris. But pull it down and you have something heartbreakingly pretty.
As I passed through Birmingham one sunny evening, a young lady actually tried to throw herself into the cockpit. In London, a pedestrian came up to the California at a zebra crossing and kissed the badge in appreciation. And, despite its staggering fuel efficiency, that didn't happen very often in the VW Up. ***** - 5 OUT OF 5
SPECIFICATION - Ferrari California
|Engine:||4,297 cc, V8, petrol|
|Power:||453 bhp @ 7,750 rpm|
|Torque:||358 lb ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed F1 dual clutch|
21.6 mpg (combined cycle)