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2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
by Tegan Lawson

For those who have long dreamed of driving a Ferrari along a winding road, the wind in your hair and not a care in the world, I’m happy to report it was everything I dreamed it would be.

The Ferrari California T is the Italian carmaker’s entry level model and it’s more of an ‘everyday driving car’ than something like the hardcore 488 GTB or F12 Berlinetta.

It’s the sensible one. Yes, a sensible Ferrari that can be used as a daily driver – as opposed to some of the harder riding, more track-focused, almost untamed machines.

When the opportunity arose to spend a day cruising around in a California T, I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was. Or how nervous.

This is a truly spectacular car, both visually and technically. From the beautifully crafted leather, Alcantara and carbon-fibre interior to the powerful 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine under the bonnet which produces 412kW at 7500rpm and 755Nm of torque at 4750rpm and with a sprint time of 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds.

It might be the entry-level car in the Ferrari line-up, but it’s still not exactly cheap. The two-door cabriolet is priced at $409,888 before on-road costs. The vehicle I was driving for the day had a few options, including the Handling Speciale package – the addition of which can be visually picked out by the matte grille, rear diffuser and exhaust tips.

2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip

Though the options list is extensive, some of the highlights included red brake calipers, two-tone roof, 20-inch diamond cut forged wheels, carbon-fibre all through the interior – including the cup holder – as well as the famous Cavallino stitched into the headrests in Rosso.

All of these extras bring the as-tested price to $522,657. Now you know why I was nervous and feeling slightly intimidated.

Our group met at the stunning Pacific Bondi Beach development in one of the penthouses – also known as a Lighthouse or skyhouse – overlooking the famous stretch of coastline.

After snacking on exotic fruit (seriously, can anyone tell me what the orange coloured segments are? It’s definitely not an orange), drinking coffee while drinking in the view and meeting the Ferrari team which will join us on the trip from Bondi to Bowral, we were ready to start our engines.

Slipping into the low-slung driver’s seat was exciting. As you would expect, the cabin is divine. The leather seats are supportive and comfortable, it smells amazing, and there are even two seats in the back. Not that you would use them very often, they are so tiny that even children would feel penned in.

There is a surprising amount of boot space, 340 litres in fact. Although the second row would have possibly been put to better use as storage space, it is nice to know that you can squeeze four people in if necessary.

2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip

The steering wheel is covered in buttons, and suddenly I was wary of it. I wasn’t touching anything until I’d been given a rundown!

My trepidation was quickly doused when it was all explained. Starting a Ferrari is different to starting a normal car, you have to turn the key, and then push the start button on the steering wheel.

There is no conventional gearshift either, even though this has a seven-speed dual-clutch sports automatic transmission. To put it into drive, just bump the paddle-shift and you’re ready to roll. There is a button at the bottom of the centre-stack for reverse and when the car is turned off, it puts itself into park.

Once we’re all settled in to our respective vehicles, it’s time to get moving. At this point the cars are lined up in convoy undercover, and as each ignition fires, the sound is incredible – it’s the Ferrari symphony and I could feel the vibrations fluttering in my stomach.

Even though it is winter, the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm, so the hardtop roof was stowed away – and it does this at the touch of a button in just 14 seconds.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I gently applied pressure to the throttle. There is a misconception that all performance cars are hard to handle, but the California T is definitely not. It rolled smoothly out of the driveway and into the traffic.

2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip

We took the long way to Bowral, winding through the Royal National Park, getting more confident behind the wheel with each passing kilometre.

Of course the scenery is stunning, if you haven’t driven through the national park and over the Sea Cliff Bridge, put it on your list of things to do. Once you break free of the twisty, tree-covered stretch and head further south along the coast, there are some lovely places to stop for a coffee.

However our group was headed for Bowral, and the two-hatted Biota restaurant. We rejoined the highway close to the Southern Highlands and got to stretch the Cali T’s legs at higher speeds before pulling into Biota.

The California T has front and rear-view cameras, as well as rear parking sensors and the cameras are particularly helpful when you’re slowly edging the nose into a parking space. The bonnet is long and sloped, and I certainly didn’t want to put a mark on it!

When it comes to entertainment technology, it also has a touchscreen infotainment system and Apple CarPlay.

Lunch was a spectacular affair. Biota is known for producing many of its own ingredients on the grounds. It also sources organic, local produce and the degustation has a reputation as being divine. Of course, driving and degustations don’t go hand in hand, but we were still served an impressive selection from the menu.

2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip

Satiated after a three-course meal, we had an hour to explore the local area on our own, before re-forming the convoy and taking the highway back to Sydney.

One of the few negatives of the California T is the fact that the roof can’t be opened or closed while driving, the car must be at a complete stop. Though we didn’t have a problem on the day, it’s worth noting that should you get caught off guard by we weather somewhere with few places to pull over, you could get a little wet.

It was easy to forget I was in control of a machine worth a cool half-a-million dollars. The California T was a dream to drive. Despite its size and power, the steering is so light and precise that you felt like you could control it with a single fingertip.

The driving modes were fun to try out. Comfort was exactly that, Sport fired it up, boosted the exhaust note and made the magnetorheological dampers more responsive, and there was a compromise mode called Bumpy Road that combined the sport’s performance elements with a softer suspension set up.

It took barely any time at all to feel right at home behind the wheel. It’s not intimidating and the drive experience is incredibly exciting in every way – from the sophisticated and luxurious interior to the engineering and capability of the car.

2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip
2016 Ferrari California T Handling Speciale:: Bondi to Bowral road trip

I certainly wouldn’t object to driving this every day. It’s comfortable and oozes status and success. It was nice to spend a day living the dream. Ladies and gents, the Ferrari California T is a strong incentive to work hard so you can play hard.

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