For all the joking about how horrible CES is, we actually had a pretty good time this year. It was a great bonding experience for a team with a lot of new members. And one of the bigger treats was the Ferrari California T that we had for a few days at the end of our trip.
Our 2015 model lists for $273,430 and had just 343 miles on the clock when it arrived on a flatbed truck at 3AM. For two days it was by far the nicest car in the Marriott Courtyard parking lot across from the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was my first CES with The Verge but that car, with its $12,486 custom Rosso California paint job, made me the most popular guy in the Verge trailer.
It's not the newest or most powerful Ferrari, but it's still a Ferrari. For most of us, it was the first Ferrari we'd ever had the privilege to ride in. Two of our ranks were especially enthralled with the beautiful red machine, and I asked them to share their impressions.
Enjoy. We surely did.
A few years ago I was ruined by sushi. It was barely 6 o’clock in the morning, and I was eating slabs of it straight off the boat at the Tsukiji Market, and it was some of the best sushi I had ever had, and I knew I was ruined by it. The sushi back at my neighborhood spot in New York would never taste the same again.
That’s what the Ferrari California T was, for me, at CES this year. My colleague Jordan had one on loan. The whole week I was all "Oh hey look at this new wrist thingie it tracks your steps" and Jordan was all "Oh hey look at this red $273,000 550-horsepower V8 convertible sex machine I’m driving around." He was nice enough to give a few of us a ride. That’s when I was ruined, again. My Jeep back home? Forget it.
When I say "a few of us" it might conjure up an image of three gleeful Vergers crammed into the California T, but that wasn’t possible. The California T is technically a four-seater, but the backseats are merely luggage racks for your Louis Vuitton Keepall bag or your purebred pet or your new infant. (Actually, don't drive an infant around in this thing.)
So Jordan gave us each individual rides, driving us down the Las Vegas Strip and enjoying the stupid smiles on our faces. One hundred miles per hour felt like 60. The noise it made was mean. But not vicious, not a rip-your-throat-out mean. It’s a diva mean, a pop star in Vegas: I’ve been here before, and I’m going to put on a show.
Even if you’re not a car person, even if you’ve never been self-aware enough to think about how you might be perceived if you drove a luxury vehicle like this, the California T will test your limits with its sheer impracticality. How much does this thing cost and will I ever in my lifetime afford one, how fast can it go, will I regret this in the moment before we crash into a guardrail, what exactly are people thinking as they gape at us, how many valets have had 1980s Hollywood fantasies about taking this for a joyride... it’s that kind of car. The leather interior reeks of a life refined, of boats and yachts and champagne and Italian designer clothing, with just enough of a kick — visible bright red stitching throughout — to remind you that it’s all flash.
I even took a weird delight in the touch-sensitive gauge on the dashboard. You can take a girl out of a nerd convention, but you can’t take the nerd out of the girl.
How was I supposed to know this wasn’t a race car? But, as Jordan described it, the California T is supposed to be your weekend driver, one you’re more likely to take to The French Laundry than you are to Laguna Seca. Of course! The French Laundry. That sounds nice. That sounds like another place that would ruin you. But then there’s real life. The next day I took a Southwest Boeing 737 home and went back to my Jeep. We would never speak of the California T again.
I finally get it. It took me three decades to land my butt in the passenger seat of a supercar, but now that I have, I understand the boy racer mentality completely. Riding in a Ferrari is simply thrilling. It’s a thing you experience and feel rather than account for. Ninety percent of that can be put down to the acceleration, which sinks my body into that ostentatiously stitched leather and leaves me with a stupid grin on my face that I just can’t wipe off. Childlike glee box: checked.
But there’s more to the whole Ferrari experience, of course. There’s the organic, beastly quality of hearing the roar of the engine and seeing it matched with the rapid motion and agility of an alpha predator. There’s the smell of the leather interior, which has now imprinted on my mind and will forever remind me of going way too fast on Las Vegas’ highways. There’s also the way other people’s eyes light up when they see the valet hand you that crimson-red key, though that’s the least appealing part to me.
I’ve always been a fan of supercar design, and I’ve sometimes wondered why their makers don’t issue the same aggressively styled chassis with more practical engines and affordable prices. Now I realize how blasphemous a thought like that even was. These are pleasure machines, designed to stimulate the senses in an exceptional, thrilling way, and their form should reflect their function. I do still feel like there should be some way for more of us to experience this stuff, though: maybe supercar rides should be provided as a public happiness service?
The greatest joys in life are simple. The swoosh of a perfect three-pointer in basketball. A first kiss. Or the escalating guitar solo of "Stairway to Heaven." I’m adding riding a Ferrari to that list, and looking forward to finding out how Lamborghinis compare.