Ferrari California brought a number of new things to Ferrari when it was launched some years ago. The direct-injection V8, the twin-clutch gearbox, and the folding hard-top were all first seen in California and were introduced to bring a new type of customer to the Ferrari brand.
Things are moving fast at Ferrari, and now only a few years old, the convertible is already benefiting from a revision. Collecting more power, less weight, and an optional handling package, revitalized California is now more explosive than ever before.
Ferrari California has always been the ode of Ferrari to the sunshine state in the US of A and has existed as a variant or as a stand-alone car since the 1960s. And they’ve always been convertibles. The latest, the T, is Ferrari’s first turbocharged engine in two decades. Now, with supercars like a Ferrari, the feeling of going fast is just as important as going fast. And a lot of that supercar experience comes from a brilliant, intoxicating engine note.
All about the Ferrari California
Although it’s the slowest Ferrari available, Ferrari California is still extremely fast and power upgrades now make it even more desirable and add extra urgency to the top end of the rev range.
Lowered roof and vertically stacked exhausts reach their maximum woody potential in no time. The howl from the exhaust reaches a crescendo near the red line before a shotgun erupts like an echo as you change gear. It sounds unbelievable.
Ferrari was able to reduce the weight of Ferrari California by about 30kg by using modified alloys in aluminum chassis sections and changing the way they were bonded together. Unfortunately, weight loss does not result in any fuel efficiency gains.
The optional $2,750 HELE package includes stop-start technology and a smart fuel pump and engine fan. The new optional Handling Special Package, priced at $14,400, includes a nine percent faster steering rack, uprated suspension with 15 percent stiffer front springs and 10 percent stiffer rear suspension, and revised damper settings.
When the test car was fitted with the Handling Special Package, the first thing you notice at low speed is the faster steering rack. When you increase your pace and enter a few corners, the sharper steering rack becomes even more evident. The extra precision and feel of the wheel is worth every penny of the optional package.
Weighing at 1,735kg, there is still a degree of body roll and pitch and dive under braking, even with the optional handling package. The Handling Special Package does, however, improve California’s ability to cruise in selectable Comfort mode – not unlike the Mercedes-Benz SL.
Turn the Manettino dial to Sport, and Ferrari California will instantly start breathing fire. Take control of the gear shifts with the steering wheel-mounted on the paddle shifters, and the Ferrari California is instantly becoming a very entertaining sports car.
Is that the best Ferrari ever to be? No, no. It’s not for a Ferrari connoisseur. If you want seat-of-the-pants thrills where every action you take results in an overtly dramatic car reaction, it’s not California. This car is comfortable, fast, easy to live with, and does not require any of the compromises that high-performance cars usually do. And trust us, too. With your roof down, your favorite road down, you wouldn’t want to drive with anything else on your side.
Reasons why it did not become popular with Ferrari enthusiast
Performance and mpg
The Ferrari California’s rear-wheel drive is powered by a 4.3-liter V8 that cranks out 460 hp and a 357-pound torque. The only available transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual. According to Ferrari, the California is capable of sprinting from zero to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. If you care in any way, California is estimated to have 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
With a weight of about 3800 pounds, the 2011 Ferrari California is hardly an elementary sports car. Nevertheless, California’s road manners are exemplary, with a relatively smooth cruising and handling ride that’s sharp enough to justify the horse badge.
When it was introduced, many wanted to dismiss California as a flaccid poseur’s car. But driving it quickly proved any such assumptions to be wrong. The direct-injected V8 pulls hard and sounds amazing, while the new dual-clutch transmission is polished and efficient, whether you’re banging through the gears on the back roads or putting around town in automatic mode.
Like every current Ferrari, the new Ferrari California has a high-priced interior. Leather is everywhere (available in multi-tone combinations) and the overall design is contemporary and sharp. The steering-wheel-mounted “Manettino” button gives the driver control over a wide range of dynamic vehicle functions. The touchscreen entertainment system offers a variety of features, from hard-drive music storage to available iPod connectivity, but is essentially a silver-painted version of the head unit available in most Chrysler Group products. The $200,000 Ferrari association is bad enough, but its lower-than-average functionality is worse.
The back seat of California is so cramped that it would be stupid not to get the back parcel shelf instead—it looks nicer, and the back seat folds down either way. The trunk with the top up is an impressive 12 cubic feet, and there’s still a usable 8.5 cubic feet left over with the top down.
Some other noticeable cons
- Strikingly duller exhaust note compared to the non-turbo predecessor
- Poor quality of rear seats
- The problem of mass shifting in the corners