Ferrari California review

Our Rating: 
2008 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Ferrari California is a 2+2 hard-top convertible designed for boulevard cruising more than the race track

Everyday usability, engine note, clever folding roof
Fussy styling, lack of luggage space, fuel consumption

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The Ferrari California takes on cars such as the Aston Martin DB9 Volante and Bentley Continental GTC V8, with its combination of a powerful V8 mounted up front, a 2+2 seating layout and a folding metal hard top. It has a more relaxed character than the mid-engined 458 Italia, but it's by no means slow. A mid-life refresh raised power from its 4.3-litre V8 by 30bhp to 483bhp, so 0-62mph takes just 3.8 seconds. It also features ceramic brakes for superb stopping power, and was the first Ferrari to use a twin-clutch gearbox when it was first launched in 2008.

Our pick: Ferrari California


Engines, performance and drive


Leave the Ferrari California in comfort mode and the engine is muted and the suspension supple, but on the right road this is still a true Ferrari. Mid-life updates have cut 30kg from the weight and boosted power by 30bhp, so the 483bhp 4.3-litre V8 provides impressive acceleration. Turn the wheel-mounted Manettino switch to Sport, and the exhaust barks into life, the gear changes are sharper and the whole car feels more alert. The twin-clutch gearbox is a highlight too, with smooth auto shifts and super-fast changes when you use the paddles. A Handling Speciale package can also be ordered, which adds stiffer suspension and a faster steering rack.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Ferrari offers a stop-start system as an option on the California, which around 10 to 15 per cent of buyers go for. It drops CO2 emissions from 299g/km to 270g/km and fuel consumption improves from 21.6mpg to 23.8mpg. As with all new Ferraris the California comes with four years of servicing included and is covered by a seven-year warranty.

Interior, design and technology


One of the difficulties with folding metal hard-tops is to create a sleek design with the roof up or down, but the Ferrari California has achieved just that. The swoopy exterior design won't be to everyone's taste, but certainly turns heads. Nice touches include the stacked exhaust pipes and circular rear lights. The interior manages to combine technology and old-school luxury at the same time.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


The rear seats really are too small for regular use, although they do have Isofix child seat anchors. See them as extra luggage space though, and the California starts to make more sense. The two-piece roof folds into the boot in 14 seconds, and that still leaves 240 litres of space (there's 360 litres with the roof up), which is enough for a pair of weekend bags. The rear seats also fold down, which allows you to pass longer objects down the length of the cabin.

Reliability and Safety


Modern Ferraris are now beautifully made and a far cry from the temperamental older models - and there have been no major issues reported with the California. Multiple airbags are fitted as standard, and in the event of an accident roll over hoops are deployed immediately to protect passengers. The standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes provide enormous stopping power and resist fade even when worked hard.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012