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Ferrari California
8/10

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Road Test

Ferrari California Stop Start driven

Driven November 2010

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A stop/start system on a Ferrari California, complete with a 4.3-litre V8, seems like a fairly token gesture to the environment, a bit like fitting low-energy light bulbs at the Drax power station. But let's not be hasty - after all, since 2007, Ferrari has been beavering away to try to lower its carbon output, and this Cali is the first stage in that process.

The headline figure is CO2 emissions are reduced to 270g/km, from 299g/km, and fuel economy improves by roughly 10 per cent to 24.0mpg. Welcome improvements, but hardly likely to encourage Greenpeace to add Ferraris to its company car list. It also currently costs an extra £820 for the stop/start system, though from January Ferrari is looking to make the kit standard on the California - no word yet whether the list price will climb when or if that happens.

Until then, it's worth noting that it's not just the stop/start facility that helps to lower CO2 and increase mpg. Ferrari has also worked on the fuel pump and the aircon unit, and now the dual-clutch gearbox ‘learns' your driving more quickly to make sure it's always in a more efficient gear. And the stop/start itself works brilliantly. You wouldn't have thought this was difficult - ‘Does it stop? Yes. Does it start again? Yes.' Job done. But the refinements on the Ferrari make it so much better than systems fitted on other paddle-shift gearboxes. It doesn't cut out at a roundabout, because the chances are you won't be stood still for long. And it knows you're at a roundabout because it detects the amount of steering lock.

Equally, when pausing in traffic, there's a slight delay before the California cuts the power. Just to make sure you really are stopping. This makes a huge difference. The problem with similar systems is they cut the power too quickly - in traffic jams, you're often only stopped for a split second before moving off again - so the engine is constantly cycling.

Not that the Cali is perfect. It might well be extremely smooth when it starts up, and very quick, but when the engine cuts out, it does so with a bit of a clunk. But that's about it. The gearbox does change up into a higher gear very quickly, which is slightly odd - I was in seventh only doing about 30mph. But because the changes are so smooth, it doesn't feel like it's hunting around.

Ultimately, though, for all the brilliance of the engineering in the California, this is window-dressing. While it's good that Ferrari is heading in the right direction, a dirty great V8 is now only a marginally less dirty great V8. It's great that all this tech has made no difference to the way the Cali drives, but if you buy a car according to the government's green rating, you'll still avoid it.

Piers Ward

On your drive for: £3,549pcm

Performance: 0-62mph in 3.9secs, max speed 193mph, 24.0mpg approx

Tech: 4297cc V8, RWD, 460bhp, 357lb ft, 1630kg, 270g/km CO2

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