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Ferrari California driven

Driven July 2012

Ferrari California driven

How To Add Manliness: a Maranello Recipe. (1) Take one California. (2) Add 30bhp, 19Nm of torque and four new types of aluminium. (3) Blend until angry. That's how Ferrari - perhaps slightly piqued by suggestions its V8-engined folding hard top wasn't brawny enough to befit the Prancing Horse badge - has gone about upping the California's Y chromosome content, and the results are suitably macho.

With its extra power (liberated by a new exhaust, revised ECU and a very clever new reed valve in the lower crankcase) and stiffer chassis, the California is no limp-wristed relative to the 458 and FF. Though Ferrari admits the California is still aimed at a less chest-thumping audience, this is a proper supercar: flattening the 0-100kph sprint in 3.8secs on its way to a 312kph top speed, whanging up through the gears like a foldy-roofed banshee, cornering with face-restyling force.

Maybe it's those four new flavours of alloy (the old car had just eight; the new one, a whopping 12) that shave 30kg off the California's kerbweight, maybe it's the revised springs and dampers. Either way, we drove the California in a Niagara-spec downpour on the worst mountain roads around Maranello - crap tarmac, great pools of standing water, potholes, gravel - and it was sublime: beautifully balanced in even the slipperiest corners, allowing you to find the limit of grip (with 483bhp on a slick-wet road, this does not take long) but gently coaxing you back from the void with its delicate traction control. No, it's not as needle-pointed as the 458, but just as entertaining in its own way.

On the subject of needle-pointed, avoid the California's new Handling Speciale pack. An option - unusually reasonable by Ferrari-option standards, no? - it adds stiffer springs front and rear to reduce body roll by six per cent, and, most noticeably, a steering ratio quickened by nine per cent for a pointier front end.

The ‘upgrades' are a step backwards: the stiffer chassis is no improvement, while the quicker steering is frankly weird... so sharp that it gives the California's nose a nervous, unsettled feel that undermines the car's GT credentials. On a clear, sticky race track, no doubt the sharper cornering and twitchy steering would be wonderful, but anyone planning to use their Cali on a regular basis in the UK - and, unlike those snooty 458 owners, many California owners do drive their cars daily - should steer clear of the HS pack.

Besides, it doesn't add any extra noise, which, for all its fastness and handlingness, is the California's trump card. Fold the roof, pulverise the throttle and enjoy the pummelling ear massage of a naturally aspirated Ferrari V8 doing its uproarious thing. Manfully.

Sam Philip

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