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evo car of the year 2009 - Ferrari California

‘You’re never in doubt you’re driving a Ferrari’ evo 134

A different kind of Ferrari. A multi-tasking, all-things-to-men (and women), sports-car-cum-GT-cum-retractable-hardtop-convertible Ferrari with retro leanings and a recycled name. Yes, there are issues.

Some claim that being a front-engined V8 – unprecedented in Ferrari’s 64-year history – the California actually started out as a Maserati project. Some say that with its chubby kerb weight and refined double-clutch transmission it’s a shameless sop to the US market and that 460bhp (30 fewer than in the F430) isn’t enough. No, this year’s entry from Maranello is controversial all right: controversially easy to drive, comfy and refined. It has a 14-second retracting roof that Mercedes would be proud of. Indeed, it takes the the fight to the opposition with almost Teutonic levels of thoroughness. But is it good enough at being a Ferrari to win eCoty once more?

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From what we know to date, it’s far from a lost cause. As we discovered with our road test in issue 134, as well as being faster than it has any right to be, the California is also the owner of a talented chassis and an extremely stiff body structure that doesn’t flex, shimmy or shake. Handling is fluent and composed; flick to Sport mode and it sharpens up impressively. And if the GT side of the California’s character is, perhaps, the stronger, it retains the capacity to thrill. Apparently Schumacher helped judge the balance between ease of driving and all-out thrills. We’re about to find out if he got it right.

Non top-five verdictStill just one percentage point ahead of the Artega is the Ferrari California. It’s a great car for a long journey and we know it can do the figures it claims, but it doesn’t sparkle as we know Ferraris can on roads like these. Perhaps it was unfair to expect it to, but we think it was right to offer it the opportunity.

Specifications

RankingTenth
LayoutFront engine, rear-wheel drive
EngineV8, 4287cc
Max power453bhp @ 7750rpm
Max torque358lb ft @ 5000rpm   
Weight1735kg
Power-to-weight265bhp/ton   
0-60 mph3.8sec
Top Speed193mph (claimed)
Basic price£143,320
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