Friday 1st October 2010


Save the planet, drive a Ferrari? Yep, works for us...

Despite often repeated opinion that buyers of exotic cars don't give a fig about fuel consumption or the environment, Ferrari is offering a 'greener' version of its £143,870 California, writes Russell Bray.

The good news is that with more efficiency comes a little more power to enjoy. It's called the optional HELE system, for 'high emotions, low emissions' (hmm, not sure about that), and integrates Ferrari's first automatic stop-start system, with 'intelligent' control of the engine fans and fuel pumps, along with electronic control of the air-conditioning compressor and variable gear-shift patterns according to recent driving style.

Ferrari says the stop-start system can cut fuel consumption in heavy traffic by up to 15% and exhaust emissions fall by up to 23% with all the systems considered. Using a CPU to control the air conditioning compressor not only cools the cabin more quickly but reduces by 35% the torque absorbed by the compressor.

Power used by the fuel pumps and the engine fans are both cut by 25%. At high motorway speeds engine fans 'coasting' or running quickly increases aerodynamic drag, so they are adjusted according to speed and engine need resulting in a five per cent drag reduction.

Under normal running conditions all these measures mean the 453bhp, 4.3 V8 engine has an extra 25 Nm of torque available to boost throttle response.

Bearing in mind the cost of re-homologation Ferrari does not quote performance benefits, still stating that using launch control the California can accelerate from rest to 60mph in under four seconds and reach a top speed of 193mph. According to previous official figures the California achieves 21.2mpg on the combined cycle.

Ferrari was determined that the California's stop-start system wouldn't harm the visceral driving experience and after a morning blasting round the hills and in turgid traffic in Modena it's pleasing to report that it doesn't.

In traffic you can't really feel when it's in Diet Coke mode, and all the aggro returns with only tiny throttle movements. A couple of times there was a slight lurch as the 4.3 litre V8 cut, but you notice the silence more just as when a Grand Prix engine stops instantly.

Because some Ferrari drivers use their left foot to brake in two pedal models which now dominate sales, the engine fires up if you touch the accelerator pedal as well as if you take your foot off the brake or pull the right hand gear change paddle for an 'up' shift.

The re-start time is officially 230 milliseconds which near instant and so effective this is the first stop-start I wouldn't be tempted to turn off. And you can still blip the engine at traffic lights.

As regards UK road tax even though CO2 emissions have been cut from 299g to 270g/km the car is still in band M with £435 tax after the first year's £950 tax, but it's still an impressive achievement.

By Ferrari pricing standards, when the yellow paint job on the current UK 458 Italia press car is £18,000 extra, £820 isn't much for the stop-start system and other gubbins. Green fig leaf anyone?

Author: Riggers