First you turn the manettino, the adjustment dial on the steering wheel, from comfort to sport. Then you floor the accelerator. In barely a breath the needle on the large yellow dial that rules the dashboard approaches the red zone—8,000rpm. The speedometer, smaller and set to one side like an afterthought, springs into action, the car surges ahead and your stomach is left behind. Tug the paddle on the right of the steering wheel and the gearbox changes up. The rear exhausts make a sound like both barrels of a Beretta shotgun. The effect is enhanced, on this occasion, by the fuel—99 octane from Tesco in Basingstoke. Then, wham again as you move up through the gears, approaching warp speed. For anyone who has been lucky enough to drive one, this can be only one car: a Ferrari.
But an unusual Ferrari. Besides being a source of high-octane juice for petrolheads, Basingstoke also has its share of Friday-afternoon traffic jams. As you join the queue for a roundabout, the burble from the V8 engine suddenly stops. Lift your foot off the brake as the queue moves forward and the engine is running again in a fraction of a second (230 milliseconds, to be precise). But when you wait before pulling onto the roundabout, the engine doesn’t stop. Clever, this: the car’s computers can tell that the steering wheel is turned slightly, as it tends to be when you are waiting to turn at a junction, so they keep the engine running, ready to nip into a gap in the traffic.
Stop-start technology is not new, at least in economy-minded cars. But in a Ferrari? This one is a California, a convertible suited to sunny climes and wide open roads. Why anyone would want stop-start as an option in such a car mystified me. So it would, I determined, remain switched off. But then in the queue at red traffic lights I had a twinge of guilt, so it went back on. In town that can reduce fuel consumption by 15% and CO2 emissions by a similar amount. From a car averaging around 12 litres/100km (24mpg), that is hardly going to save the planet. But then, every little helps.
Supercars are sold in such small numbers and used so little (secondhand models are notorious for their low mileage) that their contribution to global warming is negligible. But exclusivity wins few favours from legislators imposing tougher fuel-economy and emissions regulations. So this is only a start for Ferrari. It has to make its cars more efficient and cleaner. But would a green Ferrari still be a Ferrari?....