All I want for Christmas?By Simon Donohue
December 19, 2008
I’m guessing that the credit crunch has a lot do with my sitting at the wheel of a Ferrari. No, they haven’t started selling them 50 per cent off at Woolworths or throwing them in with fire-sale MFI kitchens.
But it’s worth remembering absolutely everything is relative.
And if ordinary mortals being relatively skint at the moment means they’re not buying Ford Mondeos, then it stands to reason that relatively flat-broke bankers and property magnates are loathe to put a down-payment on a Ferrari right now.
Unless they’ve got a relatively wealthy relative, that is.
It’s a genius plan – offering to lend lowly me a Ferrari, that is – and one which should at least go some way to redressing the natural balance of things.
It’s started to snow in winter, fuel prices are falling, houses are dropping to levels which once again make them available for multiples of real people’s salaries, and retailers have slashed the cost of Christmas.
All that remains is for wealthy motorists to see a member of the proletariat at the wheel of one of “their” cars and the rebirth of capitalism will be complete.
My Ferrari – even though a weekend loan hardly constitutes permanent ownership – is a disappointing shade of silver.
I’d hoped that it would be properly brash, something like the pictured yellow or its bright red sibling, and screaming about how I have so much money that I don’t actually need any taste.
So it’s a subtle Ferrari.
Being the Spider version, it has a cloth folding roof – an absolute must if rich people are going to be able see that there’s a pauper at the wheel.
And it has a growl like a lion with toothache, too, so you really know that it’s coming.
But, and I’m trying not to be smart, it’s not exactly practical.
I mean, the best part of £150,000 and seats for only two people. And
I can’t open the boot either, which is in the front, but I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be able to get a bicycle in it.
What it does do, however, is travel very quickly indeed.
But even that seems a little silly, given that the point of the exercise is being seen at the wheel and only a man seemingly determined to break his ageing Audi A4 comes close to keeping an eye on me for long.
I’m not even sure I like the way it looks that much. I’d climb over a Reliant Robin to get to a Ferrari, but it’s not a thing of motoring beauty in the way that a Maserati GrandTurismo is, or even a funky Fiat 500.
But it’s jam-packed with authentic technology inspired by Ferrari’s F1 exploits and I can see why it would appeal to the kind of people who wear those £10,000 watches which radio for aerial assistance should you happen to fall in the sea.
It also has some absolutely amazing numbers for those self-same people to bandy around at the 19th hole.
This two-seat, mid-engine, monster comes with a price tag of £147,705. Its 4.3 litre V8 engine is good for 490bhp and will whisk you from stand-still to 60mph in a dizzying four seconds.
And if those figures don’t have your chin scraping the floor, it manages only 15.4mpg… when it’s being driven gently.
However, even a non-discerning gentleman like myself can work out that it has lots going for it when it comes to performance.
My nerve runs out a long time before the engine’s stultifying capabilities.
Accelerating away from traffic lights would be exhilarating and addictive… if it wasn’t so terrifying.
When the weather is wet, as it is during my days of “ownership”, the thing struggles to get its 490bhp of power down on to the road, hammering away like a turbo-charged cement mixer in need of new tyres.
But it has loads of toys.
You change gear by using PlayStation-style – come to think of it, they’re actually Ferrari-style – steering wheel paddles.
There’s a clever manettino switch with which to change the car from fire-breathing to rocket-powered or nuclear-powered but-watch-out-there’s-front-on-the-road mode.
Everywhere you look there are Prancing Horse badges – on the steering wheel, on the air vent cowls, on the bonnet – to the extent that it feels a little bit Burberry on the inside.
And, as is customary in a Ferrari, a bright yellow rev counter takes pride of place at the centre of the instrument panel, which is nowhere near as sensible as the layout in a Citroen C2.
Oh, and it has a launch control too. That allows you to line-up the car’s nose, F1 starting grid style, and rev like fury until you get the green for go, unleashing in an instant all the power you’d ever need.
I don’t use it.
All told, I respect the Ferrari F430 Spider but I don’t love or covet it any more than I yearn to own a draughty old country house or play billiards instead of pool.
My working class sense of proportion, austerity and value for money means I’d think twice about owning one even if did have the money.
And the fact that I couldn’t currently get a self-certified loan even if I wanted to makes handing it back all the easier.
- Model: Ferrari 430 Spider 4.3 litre V8
- Price: £147,705
- 0 to 60mph: 4.1 secs
- Top speed: 196mph
- Insurance Group: 20
- Emissions: 420/35 per cent
- Consumption: 15.4mpg