Leather and carbon fibre combine in the steering wheel, complete with LEDs to remind you when to change gears, which is a joy in your hands.
Leather and carbon fibre combine in the steering wheel, complete with LEDs to remind you when to change gears, which is a joy in your hands.

A supercar with a conscience

GLOBAL warming could well be harnessed with an injection of sub-zero coolness.

Hot on the heels of the carbon tax, the Ferrari California HELE’s arrival could not have better timing. This is a supercar with a conscience.

No longer do you need to drive the gawky Toyota Prius to make an environment statement. Sure, the California HELE will cost you about 430-odd grand more than a Prius (and puts out nearly triple the amount of CO2 per kilometre), but beneath this gorgeous skin beats a green heart.

The moniker stands for high emotion low emissions and includes some remarkable technology.

For an extra $2750 over the $460,000 bottom line, you get more torque as well as improved economy courtesy of an idle-stop function and more efficient fuel, cooling, climate and transmission control systems.

But surely a Ferrari buyer doesn’t give a continental about pumping nasties into the atmosphere? Apparently not.

“Our customers love technology…this is the latest cutting-edge technology,” said Edward Rowe, the public relations manager for Ferrari’s Australian importer – Ateco.

“We think every customer will tick the box because it’s a demonstratively better car.”

The HELE is part of Ferrari’s cleaner approach to operations. To limit its carbon tyre print, Ferrari has been working on cleaner factories, changing work practices and developing renewable energy resources.

Since implementing its plan, the supercar maker reduced its C02 emissions by 30,000 tonnes.

Surely all this “greening” has made the California softer? Think again.

Comfort

This model shocked the motoring world when first launched.

It’s a four-seater Ferrari that actually shows some respect for the passenger. Traditionally, the prancing horse has been all about the driver.

While criticised by some for being too soft, the California is a delight for passenger and pilot. Superbly appointed with soft-touch leather in every direction and brilliant ergonomics with figure-hugging seats, it’s a grand tourer with grand performance.

That applies primarily to the front seats…the back two are purely for looks.

Not even a child’s legs could fit behind the front pews – unless those seats were positioned near the dash. But it’s a lovely space for bags and other small items.

The steering wheel, complete with LEDs to remind you when to change gears, is a joy in your hands. Leather and carbon fibre combine and complementing the look is the red starter button, ride control and paddle shifters.

The tachometer is the primary driver gauge front and centre. Keeping an eye on your velocity takes some concentration with the speedo positioned on the right-hand side.

Roof up or down, the California cabin is an awesome place to be. There is no wobble, it feels rock-solid – even with the roof down.

Without the lid, you do hear more of the all-consuming soundtrack generated by your right foot.

On the road

While not as hard-edged as some of its siblings, the California HELE has a split personality.

It’s remarkably easy to drive around town. Cruising on the highway or negotiating city traffic takes little effort and it hardly breathes at 100kmh.

It’s only once you get up into the rev range that things get exciting.

Working up to a hefty 8000rpm redline, the Ferrari sings with all the might you would expect from the marque.

It has a savage thump – enough to send you from standstill to 100kmh in under four seconds.

And the grip available is just astonishing. Throw into the mix great balance and ceramic brakes, which need little prodding to provide awesome stopping power, and the smile rarely leaves you face.

The auto stop-start function worked mostly during our brief test (there were a few occasions where it kept running), and it’s by far the quickest system we’ve used. It takes little more than the time you lift your foot off the brake and hit the accelerator, for the V8 to roar back to life.

What do you get?

Apart from looks from just about every road-goer? Well, also in the mix is the full safety kit that surrounds stability control, air-con, sat nav, cruise, hard-top roof that folds in about 15 seconds, and an infotainment system with 16.5cm touch-screen display.

Other options

Competition is tough to find, but you could also consider the Mercedes-Benz SL500 Convertible ($334,840), Maserati GranCabrio ($328,000) or even a Bentley Continental Supersports 2D Convertible ($531,631).

Running costs

Fuel consumption drops to a respectable 11.5 litres/100km on average, with careful use of your right foot…as if. If the price tag scares you, don’t even ask about the insurance, or the replacement rubber, or the servicing.

Practicality

Well, practically everyone will stare in your direction.

The front passenger will be happy with the creature comforts, not so those in the back. Best leave that to your jacket.

There is a small boot and you can get child seat attachments.

Funky factor

Anything with a prancing horse on the bonnet deserves adoration. This thing is beautiful.

The lowdown

A mesmerising coupe or a refined roadster. You get two cars in one, with a thumping heart. It’s possibly the best real-world Ferrari produced. HELE’s not standard, as Ferrari likes to maintain specification levels for the life of its models. Racing green has never been so alluring.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Ferrari California HELE.

Details: Four-seat rear-wheel drive convertible supercar.

Engine: 4.3-litre V8 generating maximum power of 338 kW @ 7750rpm and peak torque of 510Nm @ 5000rpm.

Transmission: Seven-speed double clutch sequential.

Consumption: 11.5 litres/100km

CO2: 270g/km

Performance: 0-100kmh in under four seconds; top speed 310kmh

Bottom line: $459,650; HELE $2750.


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