The drive of a lifetime along the Big Sur coastline in the new Ferrari California T
There are some things in life you’d be hard-pressed – or possibly a fool – to pass up. Like another piece of chocolate. Ahem. Or someone giving you the key to a shiny new Ferrari. So when I was offered the opportunity to travel to Big Sur last week to test drive the new Ferrari California T, my answer was simple and emphatic: yes.
One thing I should mention right off the bat is that I am not a “car guy” in the connoisseur/geeky/gear-head sense of the term. I’ve owned some nice cars. I’ve driven some nice cars. And I appreciate and understand what makes them awesome machines from an aesthetic standpoint as well as what’s under the hood.
So when Joe Richardson said to me at lunch after I arrived at the Ventana Inn, “You always know when you’re talking to a car guy,” he knew that I wasn’t the same kind of car guy that he and Ben Clymer from Hodinkee – also at the event – were.
(By the way, in a former life, Joe wrote a fantastic car blog, which he should be encouraged to start up again.)
That’s my way of saying, if you’re looking for a technical review, this isn’t the blog post for you. What I can promise, however, is an honest to goodness description of the experience, which just happened to be nothing short of amazing.
Now, I’ve driven luxury cars in the six-figure price range before, but nothing as exotic, sexy – in that Italian way – or expensive as a Ferrari. It was always one of those cars I’d glimpse only rarely – usually in the pages of a luxury magazine, certainly not on the street – and never gave too much thought as something that was attainable.
But beyond the price tag, for me, Ferrari has always given off an air of unapologetic masculinity – an automotive testosterone bomb, if you will – which never completely jibed with my outlook on personal style and appearance. Look at the 458, 488 or LaFerrari. Freaking sexy as all hell, but you’ve got to admit that those aren’t cars for everyone.
The California T, on the other hand, is not that kind of Ferrari. When I first saw the car in person, I was surprised. In a very pleasant way.
The car’s profile and stance isn’t nearly as aggressive or imposing as other models in Ferrari’s lineup. If there is such a thing as an every day Ferrari – or a Ferrari for the guy who doesn’t think he “fits” in a Ferrari – this is it.
I have to admit that the idea of getting behind the wheel of this vehicle was both extremely exciting and kind of nerve-racking. A 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 engine with 553 horsepower is certainly something I’ve never had the opportunity to handle before.
Sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time and receiving instructions on the car’s features and how to use them, I was definitely getting butterflies in my stomach. Especially the guidance to not use, under any circumstances, one feature in particular.
On the thin center console, there are three buttons. One is for putting the car in reverse. Another is for engaging or disengaging automatic shifting. And the last is the launch control. From a dead stop, engaging the launch control will, well, launch the car very, very, very quickly. And since I had no intention of launching into the Pacific Ocean, I recommended we put some tape over that button.
Starting the car – the sound. The initial burst is menacing, filled with power and potential energy. It’s a deep sound. It’s muscular. It’s throaty. It’s unlike anything I had heard.
How does it feel to drive? Exhilarating. It’s a race car that you can drive on the street. The suspension is stiff. The transmission is amazing. For most of the drive – save for the city driving – I opted to drive the car manually with the paddle shifters. Why on earth would you not?
As you’d expect, the car is fast. Very fast. I paired off with Ben and we both deliberately allowed a generous amount of road to open up between us and the cars in front of us just to downshift and floor it. Let me tell you, that will put you back in your seat!
Let’s talk about the setting. Is there a more appropriate place to drive a Ferrari California T than on the California coastline in Big Sur? Not that I can think of. The views were spectacular and inspiring, even when they were zipping by at 120 mph. I mean, I imagine… Anyway.
After about 30 miles up the coast, we turned inland onto Carmel Valley Road. Once you hit the hills, the road becomes extremely twisty. It was a thrill to drive and brought me back to some of the sick descending and cornering I used to do on a bicycle. I just wish it was a closed course!
Ben and I took turns leading. With 10 years of cornering experience via bike racing under my belt, I thought I might be able to take Ben to school, but not only was I not putting anything over on him, but he took me out of my comfort zone several times.
A Ferrari will always get a reaction. No surprise there. I experienced two different types. One was the one you’d expect – people gawking and/or wanting to talk about the car. The other was, “Asshole!” I found this one particularly puzzling, seeing as how it was shouted at me when I was going just 25 mph in traffic!
Nevertheless, driving a Ferrari for the first time was something I will never forget. And the fact that it was a whirlwind trip to Big Sur – I was literally there for 36 hours – only added to the magical and unreal nature of the experience.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
He Spoke Style