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Ferrari California 2010 review

As we — The Sunday Telegraph's elfin photographer and I — eased the Ferrari from almost completed new Elizabeth St showroom, one of the crew working on the joint gave vent to his disgust.

"There's another rich **** and his teenage girlfriend.''  Well, I suppose I should consider it a compliment that they thought we looked the part.  If $500,000 can get you into a spacious flat in an upwardly mobile Sydney suburb, that sum also gets you to the state's legal speed limit from a standing start in less than four seconds — and shreds your driver's license inside seven.

The Ferrari California is the latest model to arrive in Australia from the fabled prancing pony marque after a year in which sales of ultra-prestige models braked hard, but in which even the big red light of the GFC didn't stop 104 Ferraris selling in Australia.  Though significantly down on the 163 that sold here in 2008, the new Ferrari is one of the just arrived or forthcoming models that is refuelling the desire of the five per cent or so of the population who can afford such things. The waiting list for the new California dream stretches past six months.

Even in a second gear year, Ferrari's   sister brand Maserati sold 120 cars priced from about $270,000 apiece. While the ultimate brand, Rolls-Royce, sold ``only'' nine of its million-dollar plus land yachts in 2009, the arrival later this year of the so-called entry-level Rolls, priced around $600,000, is expected to at least quadruple sales of the world's most exclusive marque.

Developed with the input of Michael Schumacher, the roaring V8 convertible retails at $459,650, though with onroad costs and an options list that's bound in a book 1cm thick, the average price of getting one out of the showroom easily surpasses the half-million mark.

And while the California is not as intimidating as other Ferrari's, driving $500,000 of deposit taken machinery on Sydney's choked and crumbling streets is a forbidding prospect.  The California, said Edward Rowe spokesman for the importer Ateco, ``is a top end grand tourer that you can also take shopping''.

Would you though?  This is also the same model in which a motoring journalist was clocked doing 236km/h, resulting in him losing his license and his job. At the world launch in Sicily some 15 months ago, we exceeded that on the autostrada. The California is capable of 310km/h — 200 more than the state's legal limit.

So what is the point of having such a thing in city where the roads are crumbling, the traffic choking and more people were been killed on the state’s roads last year than in 2008?

Though driving this car in Sydney is the equivalent to reigning in a wild horse, or more accurately 460 horsepower, it would, Rowe claimed, fit through a McDonald's drive through.

And so it can — just so long as you're cold-sweatingly cautious of the 20-inch alloy wheels, the four of which are worth the price of a decent used hatchback, encased in tyres each of which costs upwards of $600.  Reverse parking 4.5m by 2m is also calculated to open the pores. Even speed bumps give you pause, to say nothing of most driveways — you might want to have yours purpose-built to avoid painfully expensive scrapes, as you should a triple locked and alarm-fitted garage.

Return the Ferrari having left it on the street for any length of time, and it's likely to be festooned with gawkers taking snaps. On the whole, the best solution might be to delete a few options a buy a lesser vehicle - say a Maserati Quattroporte - for doing the daily grind.

All the caution in the world won't stop your joy toy with its operatic V8 being grazed by resentful glances.There's something about wealth this conspicuous that needles the already-irascible Sydney motorist the wrong way.

Let you merge? No way. Cut you off? A pleasure. Tailgate you (or attempt to)? All the way.  And while in its home country, the driver of the humblest car greets the Italian aristocrat with manic gestures to give it some right boot, here it tended to be saluted with upright middle fingers.

It's part of the price you pay — but if you've $500,000 to drop on a Ferrari and a seemingly-mandatory trophy girl in the passenger seat, you won't much care.

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Range and Specs

(base) 4.3L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $110,700 – 139,920 2010 Ferrari California 2010 (base) Pricing and Specs