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The Top Gear car review:Ferrari California T
For:Masses of easily accessible power, handling and ride, practical-ish
Against:Steering a bit over-sharp, especially for cruising
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What we say:
Ferrari California T-take two. It's boosted in more ways than one now: a vastly improved car
What is it?
The California is Ferrari’s softest car, but the gentle roadster has been given a highly significant kick up the chuff courtesy an all-new twin-turbo V8 that delivers 552bhp and 557lb ft. This new engine suits the car’s easy-driving character, as well as letting you go longer before stopping for fuel.
New exterior panels shed the awkwardness of the former shape. Other innovations include slightly firmer springs for better handling, with re-tuned adaptive dampers for a better ride. If that’s not your bag, spec the £5,568 Handling Speciale pack with even stiffer springs, a nosier exhaust and new gearbox software. However underneath, the California is the same all-aluminium folding hard-top 2+2 as before.
This is still a Ferrari engine, pure and raspy in its sound and venomous in its response. Only rather less so. In the first three gears its torque curve is deliberately managed so you get the full surge only by travelling toward the red-line. But in the upper ratios, there’s the full wave of relaxing torque. So it can be a rev-happy supercar one minute, relaxed cruiser the next, depending on your mood. You can manage the quick-witted DCT transmission yourself, or let the auto program take over.
By the same token, the chassis fields huge traction and control when you’re pressing on, but a very civilised ride when you aren’t. The compact engine sits well back in the chassis so it feels a nimble machine. The only gripe is that Ferrari’s habitual high-ratio steering feels a bit edgy on what’s meant to be a car you can relax into. There isn’t a lot of feel to it either. No, this isn’t as involving as other Ferraris. Not meant to be, they say.
Roof-up, there’s little to betray it isn’t a coupe. Roof-down, cockpit turbulence is well controlled. The immaculate hair that’s likely to inhabit the California’s delicious cabin is unlikely to be ruffled.
On the inside
A new satnav/media system will soon include Apple CarPlay, bringing latest-gen tech to a classically styled interior. The seats and dash are new too: looking good, working well, and clad in Ferrari’s characteristically fragrant leather. The roof-down boot isn’t a bad size, and extends by dropping the rear seat backs. It really is a surprisingly practical thing for a prancing horse-badged supercar.
The 250g/km CO2 figure speaks of better consumption when you’re going gently; official Ferrari figures state 26.9mpg, almost unheard of from Maranello. Ferrari owners will notice not the money saved but tank range increased. Insurance and tyres and so-on will be punishing. But new Ferraris get seven years of maintenance included in the price (and a four-year warranty). As it is the most attainable Ferrari on sale, this extended package may well come as a pleasant surprise, even for those stepping from established premium makes such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Welcome to the Ferrari family.