What is it?
Proof that Ferrari is a company that, though trading in supercars, is striving to improve its environmental credentials. Ferrari has had a policy to make meaningful CO2 cuts since 2007, and it has been publicly experimenting with hybrids for even longer than that.
However, the first showroom fruit of this policy is a new stop-start version of the company’s most accessible model, the front-engined, 453bhp V8 California. The car, being built in right-hand drive form from this month, gets a stop-start system together with a coordinated package of efficiency-building measures that together cut emissions from 299g/km to 270g/km, with a commensurate drop of around 10 per cent in fuel consumption. (Ferrari is still working out the official figures.)
The package is known as HELE (for High Efficiency Low Emissions) – a name that, it is promised – will be offered on other production Ferraris in future, although perhaps not the Enzo-level specials. As well as stop-start, you get an intelligent engine fan, fuel pump and air-con compressors, which all operate on light load or when the car is decelerating. Additionally, the transmission is now adaptive and shifts up early when the driver isn’t hurrying, which saves fuel.
Engineers say the major fuel saving is in town (about 17 per cent) whereas motorway driving nets a fuel saving of about only one per cent. Initially, HELE costs £820, but it is likely to become standard on the California within a few months.
What’s it like?
On the road, the car is little different from a ‘normal’ California, except that the reluctance of the ancillaries to consume torque on acceleration puts extra shove (around 15 lb ft) at the disposal of the driver.
The engine starts promptly and smoothly after it has cut out at intersections; as soon as you realise the system is dependable and smooth, you stop thinking about it. In Drive on light throttle openings, you’re dimly aware that upchanges occur at very low revs, but torque goes so far down the scale, and the gearbox responds so crisply, that it’s never a problem. Greener it may be, but the California’s stop-start tech drains nothing of its usability or supercar aura.