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French Riviera Driving Experience

Monday, 8 August 2011

Nervous passengers need not apply...

The Ferrari 360 Spider is regarded as being the first proper mid-engined convertible model from the Italian manufacturer.

Featuring a much more open cockpit than previous soft-top Ferraris, it feels far more like a genuine convertible, rather than just a car with a big sunroof.

Anyway, enough about the car for a moment.

What was I doing, sitting in the driver's seat of a Scuderia Red example, outside the Carlton Hotel in Cannes? Had I recently won the Euro Millions? Robbed a bank? Stolen it?

Sadly, the reality was not quite so glamorous: I had simply purchased a French Riviera Driving Experience, and the Spider was mine for thirty minutes! Before you ask, I did have a co-driver/instructor: a Frenchman called Philippe, who shared my love of all things Ferrari!

Anyway, back to the car for a moment. As you might expect, with a 3.6 litre V8 engine producing 400bhp, the Spider isn't exactly slow. 0-62mph is dealt with in 4.5 seconds, and if you were on a de-restricted section of a German Autobahn, you could hit 180mph with a minimum of fuss.

Driving with the roof down only enhanced the noise from the high-revving engine, and what a soundtrack it is! "C'est magnifique!" was Philippe's description, and I couldn't agree more!

Whilst our route did include several quiet, low traffic-density sections, even in the traffic of central Cannes, the Spider was amazingly docile, smooth, and fuss free at low speeds. I particularly liked the six speed manual gearbox: one of the last manual boxes fitted as standard to a Ferrari.

As for the roads, they were well surfaced, smooth, and twisty, with spectacular views! The 30 degrees Celsius ambient temperature wasn't bad either!

Philippe was particularly keen to demonstrate just how fast the Spider could go around corners. To demonstrate, he found a deserted roundabout and proceeded to go round, and round again, each time at an increased velocity. I can't say I've ever been taken around a roundabout at 115 km/h before, and I wouldn't recommend it to the faint hearted!

Sadly, the 30 minutes was up all too quickly, and it was time for this particular prancing horse to return to its stable.

Simeon Bowen-Fanstone