Not that long ago, Ferrari named one of its cars after the town in which it was made. So we ended up with the Ferrari Maranello. And now the company has announced its new entry-level model will be called the Italia. These are good names. But then Ferrari is lucky because the founder of the company had a cool name and he lived in a cool country where even football chants sound like poetry. Say, “You’re going to get your effing head kicked in,” in Italian and it sounds as though you are lamenting the untimely demise of your much-loved mother. In Britain we have no such luxury. Let us imagine, for a moment, that the founder of Lotus had adopted a similar model-naming policy to Ferrari. Would you drive a car called the Chapman Norwich? No. Neither would I. Or a Lyons Coventry. Or a Henry East Midlands. Or a Herbert Birmingham.Mind you, I wouldn’t want a Gottlieb Stuttgart either. Or an Adolf Wolfsburg. Occasionally, Ferrari names its cars after the people who’ve styled them. Recently we had the Scaglietti, and that makes me go all weak at the knees, but again, it wouldn’t work here. Or the newest Range Rover would be called the Gerry. And Aston’s DB9 would be the Ian. Sometimes, though, Ferrari names its cars after other places in the world. We had the Superamerica and the Daytona and now we’ve got the California. California is a brilliant name. Elsewhere in the world, all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey. But in California the sun always shines. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. I like California. I got engaged there. I can’t understand why more car firms don’t use evocative place names when dreaming up handles for their cars. Ford did it with the Cortina, of course, but actually it wasn’t named after the ski resort. It was named after a cafe on the King’s Road in London. It’s not as if we’re short. I’d drive a Vancouver or a London. I’d drive a Calcutta or a Buenos Aires. I was going to say I’d drive a Wellington but, much though I love the place, I actually wouldn’t. Or a Nice. Strangely, however, when a car is named after a famous place, it’s always bloody Monte Carlo. We’ve had the Lancia Montecarlo, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Ford Comète Monte Carlo, the Dodge Monaco and the Renault 5 Monaco. Why? Seriously, why name your car after a dreary, boring, rain-sodden tax haven full of prostitutes and arms dealers? Get an atlas, all of you, and let’s have a Chevy Buttermere. Or, better still, let’s get back to the California. We’re often told that a car looks better in the flesh than it does in pictures and I’ve always scoffed at this. I look horrible in pictures because I look horrible in the flesh. It’s not Nikon that gives me yellow teeth and a beach-ball belly. However, I can report that when it comes to the California, the camera really does lie. The images you’re looking at this morning in no way do the car justice. Roof up or down, it is absolutely beautiful. Now for the tricky bit. Ferrari says that this, its first ever front-engined V8, has been aimed at women. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. And then aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh some more. How can you possibly target half the world’s population? Are the people at Ferrari saying they’ve made it soft and cuddly? Because if they have, my wife will hate it. Or have they given it pink seats and a tampon dispenser, in which case the other half of the population will run a mile? You can design a film for women. It’ll have Hugh Grant in it. And you can design knickers for women. But a car? You might as well design a car for homosexuals. What sort? A big bull dyke or Graham Norton? So far as I can tell, the only big difference between the California and all the supposedly male Ferraris is the traction control, which comes with three settings rather than five. This is a good thing. It’s still not a perfect thing, though, or there’d be only two: on and off. No matter. The California feels like a Ferrari. It feels digital rather than analogue. It feel dizzyingly light and agile. It feels like no other car made today. Comparing it to a Lambo or an Audi R8 is like comparing lightning to soil. The steering is incredibly light. American light. And yet there is a feel there, and a fluency that you will find in no other road-going car. The engine may be the same size as the unit found in the middle of an F430 but the bore is wider and the stroke is shorter. It sounds like the recipe for a screamer, but it isn’t. It feels lazy and torquey. The speed’s still there, though. It gets from 0 to 60 just as quickly as the 430. There is, however, a fly in the silicone. It comes with a flappy-paddle gearbox. Now this may be a double-clutch affair such as you get in a VW Golf but it’s still not right. I’d rather have a conventional automatic. This aside, though, the California is an amazing car to drive. Quiet and comfortable when you want it to be. Vicious and snarling when you don’t. But there are some warts. First, as you drive along, you can’t help but notice the bonnet flaps about in the wind. The last time I saw this from the driver’s seat of a car, I was in a Montego. Then, at the back, you have a boot lid that weighs 9m tons. If this car really is aimed at women, I dread to think who they had in mind. Fatima Whitbread, perhaps. And then we have the electronics. It is possible to connect your telephone via Bluetooth to the onboard computer, but every time you try to make a call, the voice-activated system will ignore your instructions and ring Steve Curtis, the powerboat champion. I do not know why. Then there are the speedometers. For reasons that are unclear, there are two — one dial and one digital — which give different readouts. This makes life particularly worrying when you are going past a Gatso camera. But then this is the price you must pay if you decide to buy a car from the bespoke tailors of the motoring world. Ferrari does not employ an army whose job for four years is to calibrate the speedos. It probably doesn’t employ anyone who realises they’ve fitted two by mistake. Of course, a specialist car, such as the 599 or F430, will spend most of its life in a pair of woolly pyjamas in your heated garage, so who cares if the phone will ring only Steve Curtis. But the California is designed to be used. And I fear that if you come to it from a Mercedes SL, its little Italian ways will drive you a bit mad. There’s another problem, too. It’s a biggie. Would I really buy the Ferrari and not the Aston Martin DBS convertible? That’s as tough as decisions get. The Aston has a stupid Volvo sat nav, a price tag from the Comedy Store, buttons that could be operated only by Edward Scissorhands and a fly-off handbrake that won’t. But, amazingly, it is slightly better to drive than the Ferrari, and, staggeringly, even better-looking. I think that if I were in the market for a comfortable two-plus-two GT car, I would buy the Aston. But I just know I’d spend my entire time with it wishing I’d gone for the Ferrari. And, to make matters worse, if I bought the Ferrari, I’d wish I had the Aston. And all the time, in either, as you endlessly got lost, got caught speeding and rang various powerboat champions, you’d have this nagging doubt that looks, style and soaring exhaust notes were not, in the real world, a match for the ruthless efficiency of a Gottlieb Stuttgart Sporty Light. FERRARI CALIFORNIA Engine 4297cc, eight cylinders Power 460bhp @ 7750rpm Torque 357 lb ft @ 5000rpm Transmission Seven-speed, paddle shift Fuel 21.5mpg (combined) C02 305g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 3.9sec Top speed 193mph Price £140,285 Road tax band M (£405 a year) CLARKSON'S VERDICT Mamma mia!