Are You Esperienzed?
Ferraris are unquestionably exotic, so it should stand to reason that when Ferrari decided to hold one of its Esperienza Ferrari events (in a nutshell, a guided driving tour for prospective buyers), it decided to do so in Chiang Rai. Getting there was an adventure in itself, which is testament to how exotic the locale is.
The nearest airport with a direct flight from Singapore is Chiang Mai International Airport, and from there, a further 200km to Chiang Rai through sinuous roads cut into the hillside.
Unfortunately, the mode of transport for the three-and-a-half hour drive to Chiang Rai was a little less than exotic. A Toyota HiAce minibus is hardly a high watermark for exoticism, though you have to give the driver’s deft driving and its quilted faux leather headliner due credit for making a brave stab at it.
Chiang Rai’s hilly terrain is perfect for prancing with some prancing horses, specifically the Ferrari 488 GTB and 488 Spider.
The Ferrari 488 gives up a little over half a litre of displacement over the 458, but gains turbocharging, something not seen in a mid-engined Ferrari since the F40 in the 1980s. Power goes up from 570bhp to an almighty 661bhp.
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance and if I tried, mostly because of having to follow a police escort in a Toyota Camry for the duration of the drive.
On the bright side, what I can say about the Ferrari is that it’s an absolutely brilliant everyday car. The 488’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers seamless shifts, the helm light and the adaptive dampers in the “bumpy road” setting turns the Ferrari 488 into an ersatz luxury limousine.
And it’s not just about the refinement. All-round visibility is excellent, the air-conditioning system powerful and all controls fall easily to hand and foot. The Ferrari 488 even has a great sound system, though the exotic locale really made itself felt in the radio stations on offer, comprised exclusively of ones that played Thai oldies and talk shows.
But all journeys, as they say, have an ending. My sojourn through the more rural parts of Thailand terminated at Singha Park with a hot air balloon festival and rock concert. And at the end of that day, a day in which I took in the bucolic charm of Thailand’s far north along the way, I still can’t tell you (conclusively, at any rate) if the Ferrari 488 will carve up back roads with the sort of Latin fervour that will leave them screaming for mercy.
Then again, after spending an entire day driving an Italian stallion built with that express purpose in mind, neither was I.