Ferrari California T review - Is the California T a true Ferrari?
A capable, fast and polished GT - the Ferrari California T is still lacking in that intangible Ferrari magic
The Ferrari California had quite a contentious introduction back in 2009; here was a four-seater, front-engined cabriolet with a folding hardtop roof, dual-clutch gearbox and questionable styling. In reality the California was always going to be a hard pill to swallow for die-hard Ferrari fans, but the reason for its introduction was to expand the Ferrari brand, reaching out to customers who would not have previously considered buying one of its cars.
The California did its job, becoming the single highest selling Ferrari model in the Italian marque’s long history – much to many car journalists’ dismay. So when the heavily revised California T arrived, it had the tricky task of trying to appease its critics while not turning off its adopters.
On the outside, Ferrari gave the California a substantial facelift, with only the folding roof mechanism surviving the process intact, but what was underneath the new metal saw even bigger changes. After a four-year development, the Ferrari California T introduced a turbocharged engine (hence the ‘T’) back to the Ferrari range for the first time in the 22 years since the F40 supercar ceased production.
It was always going to be a challenge for Ferrari to try and match the emotional appeal so prevalent in its naturally aspirated engines with a turbo unit, but thanks to some clever engineering, it seems to have gotten away with it.
Ferrari California T: in detail
Performance and 0-62mph time > The California T may be the entry-level Ferrari, but performance is startlingly fast, the car hitting 62mph in just 3.6 seconds.
Engine and gearbox > The T in the name denotes the presence of an all-new 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8, matched exclusively to a dual-clutch gearbox.
Ride and Handling > Despite a clear bias towards being a GT rather than an out and out sports car, the California T is still a Ferrari, so is more capable than owners could possibly need it to be.
MPG and running costs > The main reason behind the smaller, turbocharged engine is enhanced economy, the extra performance is just a bonus.
Interior and tech > Sharing the same basic architecture as previous Californias, the interior is lusciously finished, but lacks the wow-factor of less expensive rivals.
Design > The folding metal roof demands a tall rear deck, which is why the California T can look awkward from the rear. The otherwise car is a far better looking proposition than previously.
Prices, specs and rivals:
Ferrari offers just the one California T starting at around £155k. For that price specification is surprisingly generous despite Ferrari’s reputation for skimpy standard equipment lists. The reason for this is the market it competes in, as the GT aspirations of the California T ensure that high levels of kit are a must to compete with rivals.
If you still want to go over and above the standard trim, Ferrari will be more than happy to accommodate, with multiple seat, colour, material and paint options all available. As for dynamic options, magneto-herological dampers are available, but for evo types, the Handling Speciale pack is key to sharpening up a car that purists have always had a suspect opinion of.
That Handling Speciale pack costs £5,568 on top of the list price and consists of new front and rear spring rates, revised magnetic dampers, a new exhaust system that’s louder and features a crisper, sharper tone, quicker shifts for the ‘box, new logic for the traction control systems and a few very subtle styling tweaks. The take up on the Handling Speciale option for the old normally-aspirated California was around 20-percent.
Thanks to this dual personality, the California can be cross-shopped against a wide selection of rivals, the closest arguably being the Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet. On paper the two are very similar, both offering four-seat (ish) cabins, power in the mid-500 range and a starting price of around £155k. The 911 Turbo packs a bit more punch in the engine department and has even more standard equipment, but is still a very high spec sports car rather than true GT.
For something a little softer, the Mercedes-AMG SL63 offers a similar driving experience for a load less cash. At £116k the SL63 is more generously specified and has that magnificent V8 burble, but there is no getting away from the fact it shares a badge (and some switchgear) with an £18k hatchback.
Another option is the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S. Like the Ferrari, it’s a starting point of a very prestige brand rather than the top of a mainstream one. For just over £164k the GTC is definitely more of a cruiser, but with a brutish and sophisticated image that easily trumps the Mercedes and Porsche. If you are looking for sublime driving dynamics though, the Bentley’s 2470kg kerb weight (a huge 725kg up on the California T) is just too big a number for the GTC to be considered sporty.
|Engine||V8, 3855cc, twin-turbocharged|
|Max power||553bhp @ 7500rpm|
|Max torque||557lb ft @ 4750rpm (7th gear)|
|0-60||3.6sec (claimed 0-62mph)|
|Top speed||196mph (claimed)|