Ferrari California T review
The Ferrari California T is the first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40 - but it's more cruiser than bruiser
The Ferrari California T takes on cars such as the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and Bentley Continental GTC V8. Its combination of a front-mounted turbocharged V8 and a folding hard top make it a popular choice.
The first turbo Ferrari road car since the F40, the California T is more powerful and more efficient than the big selling first- generation California.
It has a more relaxed character than the mid-engined 458 Italia, but it's by no means slow. It’ll hit 62mph in just 3.6 seconds while the twin-scroll turbo engine produces 755Nm of torque. It also features ceramic brakes and a twin-clutch gearbox, while the folding hard top retracts in just 14 seconds.
While it retains the same aluminum chassis and identical dimensions to the California launched in 2009, the California T only shares the roof and windscreen with its predecessor. At the front, a reworked grille, more stylish light clusters and sleek bonnet give it a familiar Ferrari GT face.
The side air intakes feed air to the intercoolers, while the new bonnet vents let hot air escape. In profile the flanks of the California are inspired by the famous late fifties 250 Testa Rossa’s pontoons, while the sculpted doors and reworked sills also help it stand out. And, in spite of having to cover the folding hard top, the tail is lower.
The exhausts, which were stacked on top of each other on the California, have been replaced by a more traditional horizontal arrangement and the rear-end generally looks lower and wider thanks to some clever panel re-profiling.
Inside, the California T features the same modern and classy cabin style as the rest of the Ferrari range. All the major controls are located on the wheel, while a speedo and a multi-function TFT screen flank the central rev-counter. Ferrari’s latest infotainment system features a DAB, 3D navigation mapping and a premium audio system.
Designed to be a luxury convertible you drive everyday, Ferrari says California customers have different priorities to drivers of hard-edged sports cars like the 458 and F12. Designed to strike a balance between comfort and performance it retains the aluminum chassis of its predecessor but with an all-new turbocharged V8 engine and reworked suspension the California is faster and more dynamic than ever.
Tuned to deliver more torque as you go up through the gears the T has 755Nm in seventh and across the full range of the engine there’s lots of in-gear response. Throttle response is very positive and the engine builds to a crescendo at the 7,500rpm redline.
Clever work with the exhaust pipes has ensured the V8 retains an evocative Ferrari soundtrack, while launch control means it’ll hit 62mph in just 3.6 seconds and go on to a near 200mph top speed.
A lower centre of gravity, revised active dampers and a quicker steering ratio has sharpened up the California’s handling. There’s still a little bit of roll and the steering is a fraction light, but it turns in positively, there’s lots of grip and the handling balance is reassuringly neutral. The manettino lever on the wheel allows you to choose Sport or Comfort settings - with Sport delivering a sharper throttle, faster gearshifts and stiffer damping. Although, like other Ferrari’s, a button allows you to decouple the dampers to deliver good ride quality regardless of the manettino setting.
Road noise is well isolated with the roof up and it’s not too blustery with it down. The California T isn’t the sharpest or most engaging car to wear the prancing horse badge but it strikes a nice balance between being an out-and-out sports car and a comfy open grand tourer.
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 decent stopping power and if they’re not used on track promise lots of durability. While the 3.8-litre turbocharged engine is all-new it’s made alongside and shares some components with the units used in the Maserati Quattroporte, so it’s well proven. Ferrari also claim there is genuine knowledge crossover from the latest turbocharged F1 engines.
Better still, Ferrari’s four-year warranty means you’re have piece of mind for a while and there’s the option to buy a warranty extensions up to a maximum of 12 years.
The California T’s rear seats really are too small for regular use, but as 99 per cent of owners choose them over the rear bench, the car is now exclusively offered with them. They do have Isofix child seat anchors and they’re also useful as extra luggage space, especially as the rear seats also fold down, which allows you to pass longer objects down the length of the cabin.
The two-piece roof folds into the boot in 14 seconds, and still leaves 240 litres of luggage space, while there's 340 litres with the roof up. It only operates when you are stationary. The revised cabin features wider seats, a bigger glovebox and map nets on the back of the front seats. You can add practical options like a rear parking camera, tyre pressure monitoring and stone chip film from the options list, and there’s even bespoke luggage that fits snuggly into the California’s boot and rear seats.
It’s never cheap to own a Ferrari but the California T is claimed to be 15 per cent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor – so fuel bills should be a bit smaller. Even so, don’t expect to achieve much more than 20-25mpg. Ferrari offers a stop-start system as an option on the California, which drops emissions to 250g/km.
As with all new Ferraris the California comes with seven years of servicing included regardless of mileage and is covered by a four-year warranty. And the California has traditionally had stronger residuals than large V12 models.