Monday, 1 December 2014

Why I want a Ferrari F355 for Christmas

THE NATION’S best pub, I’ve long maintained, is hidden in a hamlet in a remote Cumbrian valley.

It’s 15 miles from the nearest train station and the bus service is next to non-existent, so the only way you can realistically reach it is by bringing a designated driver who’ll happily ferry you home afterwards. The ales on offer are also a bit limited – there are six of them, and they’re all brewed in the building next door.

As a practical proposition it’s pretty much useless, but the tipple is so tasty the pub counts Prince Charles and Sir Chris Bonington among its fans. The location alone means it’ll only ever be an occasional indulgence, which makes the few occasions I do manage to enjoy it that little bit more special.

In other words, it’s a bit like the first Ferrari I’ve been fortunate to get a go in. Even for someone who writes about and drives all sorts of cars, taking the helm of Maranello’s finest is something I’ve spent years longing to do. So far I’ve managed to bag the keys to a Lotus, a Jaguar, an Aston Martin and a Rolls-Royce, but until now people have always been too sensible to allow me access to a Ferrari.
Better still, it wasn’t some tired old Mondial that’s overdue its next service or a 400 that’s missed a decade’s worth of TLC; the Ferrari in question was the F355, which the motoring mags in period always praised as being as being the company’s return to form after the dud that was the old 348. A 1997 F355 GTS which had been meticulously maintained 360 days of the year, just those five days when it’s deemed sensible to take it out for a blast.

The weird thing was that, even as a hugely expensive mid-engined supercar, it was no harder to drive in the real world than the Nissan Note I’d been piloting a few hours earlier. I didn’t know whether to be delighted or dismayed; on the one hand, you really can take a Ferrari F355 to Tesco, but on the other it’ll feel strangely anodyne when you do. The steering’s too over-assisted and the V8, at real world speeds, is barely awake.

Nope, the only way to treat a F355 is the way Ferrari intended. Plonk your right foot into the carpet on the wrong day (which in Cameron’s Britain, is pretty much every day) and you’ll either end up heading backwards into the nearest hedge at high speed or looking at your shoes in the nearest police station.

But on the right day, with great weather and a road where you can safely exploit it, the Ferrari sings. The perfectly-weighted steering, the howling 3.5 litre V8 and the electronic dampers join forces, doing magical things you previously didn’t think were possible in a car.

It is, like my favourite pub, something best enjoyed on a handful of occasions. To answer all those questions your inner eight-year-old is asking – yes, the Ferrari F355 really is as good as everyone says it is.

You just have to choose your moment carefully.

1 comment:

  1. I think most people would consider a Ferrari - especially in red - an ideal Christmas present.