Are supercars always super impractical? We took the Ferrari California, with its ample boot and child seat fittings, for a suburban spin.
Supercars aren't the most practical vehicles in the world. Anyone who's ever driven one will know they're about as useful as a ham sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah unless you're hooning around a track.
Ferrari has wholeheartedly embraced this trend of unrelenting inflexibility, but there's one model that looks set to change all that. The California, the prancing horse claims, offers typical Ferrari performance without compromising everyday usability. To test this claim, we hopped into the hardtop convertible for a few days to put it through its paces as an everyday runabout.
The California is available in two passenger configurations. Ferrari provides a version with two front seats and a rear bench for skis or golf clubs. It can also supply a 2+2 interior setup that features two normal seats up front and two smaller pews for occasional passengers or infants -- this is the one we took for a suburban spin.
The 2+2 is extremely comfortable up front. Our buttocks felt instantly at home in its heated leather seats, which can be electrically adjusted forwards, backwards, up or down and provide plenty of support during hard cornering. There's more than enough leg and head room for front passengers, too, even for those who carry the burden of being freakishly tall.
Round the back, it's a very different story. The 2+2 model doesn't provide anywhere near enough room for things that are the approximate size and shape of a human being. The only way anyone's getting in the back of this thing is if they ride side-saddle with their legs spread across both sets of seats.
Isofix child seat restraints
That said, the California is surprisingly baby-friendly. It comes with two Isofix anchor points in each of its rear seats. To use them, you simply lift a leather flap to reveal the anchor points, clip in your Isofix base and mount your baby seat on top. Installing all of this is pretty tricky with the roof in place, but by unfurling the California's metal folding hard top (which takes all of 14 seconds) you'll give yourself plenty of room to manoeuvre.
It's not all plain sailing. You'll need to move the front passenger seat as far forward as possible to accommodate the baby seat and tilt the seat back towards the windscreen to make room. As a result, taller passengers will be extremely uncomfortable, as they'll be forced to lean forwards slightly for the duration of the journey.
The 'seat' behind the driver's seat also has Isofix anchor points, but these are virtually useless unless the driver takes some sort of sick pleasure in having his or her chest pressed up against the steering wheel.
Luggage space in a Ferrari is a bit of an oxymoron, or it was until the California turned up. This car provides 340 litres of room with the top up and 240 litres with the top down (the roof takes up 100 litres of boot space when retracted). In either configuration, it provides enough room for one large-ish suitcase, some golf clubs or the chassis component of a Bugaboo Cameleon push chair.
Sadly, there's not enough room in the boot for the seat or pram section of said push chair, but if your car seat clips into the push chair chassis, you're laughing all the way to the nursery.
Room for shopping
There's plenty of room in the California for the weekly shop. Between the laughable rear seats and the just about adequate boot, you'll be able to pile in your weekly Lidl load without issue -- and it'll accommodate larger hauls, too.
Retract the metal folding roof and the rear 'seats' provide enough room to wedge a small Ikea bed-side table, a couple of bean bags or, if you're feeling adventurous, a 51-inch plasma TV.
Sure, you'll need to refrain from unleashing the California's 453 horses to ensure your purchases don't fly out the sides of the car, and you'll have to find somewhere else to put your baby, but it beats renting a van.
Any city car worth its salt will have very low emissions, and we're pleased to report the California does a decent job in this area, too. The car comes with an optional HELE (high emotion low emission) system that reduces carbon emissions from 299g/km to 270g/km. Sadly, that's not enough to drop the Cali into a lower road tax bracket here in the UK, but it's slightly easier on the environment -- driving the California is now the equivalent to driving three Toyota Priuses instead of 3.3.
The HELE system comprises Ferrari's stop&start system, which is one of the best engine stop-start systems we've come across. It only ever stops the engine when the steering wheel is dead centre to avoid cutting the power at junctions or roundabouts, and it restarts in just 230ms, instead of the 700ms it usually takes if you were to switch it on and off yourself.
Have a look at this video to see it in action.
How does it drive?
We're happy to report the Ferrari California is an absolute pleasure to use around town. Its suspension is compliant -- even on the sorry excuses for roads we have in the UK -- its steering is light, and it will happily chug along in slow-moving traffic with zero fuss.
The car's twin-clutch gearbox, which shifts ludicrously quickly at high speeds, can adapt its shift pattern for the streets. It actually learns how the user drives and can decide the ideal point at which it changes gear. It'll change up much sooner if you're the type of person that likes to take things easy, or allow the engine to rev its nuts and bolts off if it detects you're a bit of a hoon.
Drive it slowly and it's rather like a Mondeo -- if the Mondeo cost £147,000 and had enough power and torque to reverse the rotation of the earth.
The Ferrari California is surprisingly capable. It's fast enough to warrant that Ferrari badge, but it's also incredibly impressive as an everyday car. It has enough room for relatively large loads (and enormous ones if you've no shame whatsoever), is easy and comfortable to drive and its emissions aren't quite as murderous to the environment as some other supercars. If you're looking for a motor that's gorgeous, fast and versatile, we recommend you start saving those (10.4 million) pennies immediately.
Price: £146,960 Engine: 4.3-litre V8
0-60mph: Under 4 seconds
Max speed: 193mph
Fuel consumption: 24.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 270g/km