In the absence of a London Motor Show this year, motor manufactures were eager to sign up and show off their current models at Lord March’s latest innovation, the Moving Motor Show. This was held on the Thursday before the traditional three day Festival of Speed kicked off. A massive purpose built 'pit stop' pavilion was built adjacent to the start line gantry of the hillclimb course. Lucky invited guests and prospective buyers were able to drive the cars up the full length of the 1.16 mile hillclimb before detouring past the scenic Goodwood horse racecourse back to the start. This gave the public the opportunity to see and hear the cars being put through their paces rather than watch them slowly revolve on a mirrored turntable inside some oppressively hot and stuffy hall at a traditional motor show.
Cars present on parade were the Lotus Evora, Morgan Supersport and Roadster Sport, Ford Focus RS500, the current Rolls Royce and BMW range, Alpina B5 Biturbo, Jaguar XJ V8, Audi R8 V10 Coupé, the new MG6 and TF, Porsche Cayenne, Peugeot RCZ, the Toyota Prius and Auris Hybrid, Mercedes Benz AMG SLS and C63, Abarth Punto and 500, Citroen DS3, Honda CRZ, Volvo S60, Nissan Juke, Mazda MX5 and the supercharged Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Then the two cars I drove. Both front engined V8s, both with names beginning with 'C', but that's pretty much where the similarities end.
First up was the new Chevrolet Camaro, due to become an official UK import early 2011. My steed was finished in bumblebee colours of bright yellow with black stripes. As with most American cars, it’s not exactly lightweight, but a 426 horsepower 6.2 litre V8 helps propel it from rest to 60 mph in under five seconds - with a limited top speed of 155 mph. As I nestled in behind the wheel, it felt really comfy and right at home, even though it was a left hooker. The Camaro is not a stripped out muscle car, but a modern, well equipped GT. As I trickled towards the start, the engine was hardly audible. When the start line marshal gave me the thumbs up, I unleashed the power of the V8 which began to bellow. That’s more like it! The gear changes from the six speed manual box were light, as was the clutch and indeed the steering. For a big powerful car I found it remarkably easy to drive. It corners pretty flat with very little roll and yet the suspension was extremely compliant with no jolting or thumping. All too soon I flashed across the finish line. The return route was narrow, tight and slow but the Camaro settled into pussycat mode and gently purred back to the start. It looks great, has a lot of presence, has an expected price tag below £40,000 and should be reasonable to maintain. And there’s even room in the back for friends and family!
Next was the gorgeous Ferrari California which is officially called a 'Two Plus', not a 'Two plus Two' as it is available with either a rear bench for luggage or two extra seats. The entry level price is £143,870 but the version on show would cost you £199,180 as it was loaded with extras. The wheels were a £7700 option, the carbon fibre centre console £2800, a further £1800 for the carbon fibre radio surround, £1500 for carbon fibre sills, extra for diamond stitching on the seats and door cards and so on.
The California claims a number of Ferrari firsts. It’s the first Ferrari with a front engined V8, namely a 4.3-litre producing 460 horsepower. The first with direct injection. The first with a seven speed dual clutch transmission and the first with a folding metal retractable roof. For me, the first thing I had to get used to was that in such a car, everybody stares. It’s that sort of car. As expected, it’s beautifully crafted inside and out and the engine emits a wonderful sound. Gears can be manually selected via up-shift and down-shift paddles mounted either side of the steering wheel or put into fully automatic mode.
For the hillclimb I elected to use the paddles and 'Sport' suspension setting. The Cali catapulted off the start line like a scalded cat and the rev counter swung rapidly towards the redline. A pull back on the paddle resulted in lightning fast gear changes accompanied by a F1 type 'crackle and pop' deliberately engineered in by Ferrari to make it sound pleasing. It does, and brought a huge smile to my face. The huge carbon-ceramic brakes retard quick enough to make your nose bleed, although I only explored a tiny bit of their true potential. After all, this car has a top speed of 193 mph and a 0-60 time to match the F430. It’s quite a big car but it didn’t feel it, as it’s so competent. At the top of the hill, I switched over to the fully automatic and 'comfort' suspension modes and wafted serenely back to the pavilion. The auto gear changes were seamless and barely detectable and the ride just about as comfortable as it gets. This is a Ferrari that would be equally at home belting down to the South of France for your holidays, thrashing through the Alps just for fun or pottering along the seafront at Monte Carlo. A real all rounder.