Purists may have winced when Ferrari introduced the softer California in 2009, complete with its folding metal roof and controversial styling, but there’s no doubt how much of a rip-roaring success it has been for the Modena-based firm. The coupe-convertible GT opened up Ferrari ownership to a whole new group of people, with Ferrari claiming 70 per cent of total California sales were to customers who had never owned a Ferrari before.
Now there’s a new one that sees the California evolve into the California T replete with refreshed styling and an all-new turbocharged engine. Although the wintry weather wasn’t ideal, this was our first chance to drive it in the UK.
A 3.8-litre V8 twin-scroll turbo replaces the old naturally-aspirated 4.3-litre V8. Power is up from 483bhp to 552bhp and torque has leapt by 250Nm to 755Nm. And to quell complaints that a turbo will never respond like a naturally-aspirated motor, Ferrari has waved its magic wand and created an engine that loves to rev, has barely any turbo lag and, most importantly, sounds like a proper Ferrari V8.
Push the red starter button on the steering wheel and the 3.8 growls into life. Prod the throttle and the power comes in virtually instantly, and while the sound of the turbo whistling away is something new, it adds another level to the aural pleasure. Floor it and the engine wails up to the 7,500rpm rev limiter, while grabbing another gear is a satisfying experience – the seven-speed, dual clutch box fires through gears and keep you pinned to your seat.
The California T doesn’t just benefit from a new engine, Ferrari has tweaked the other mechanical, too. The latest version of the company’s SCM3 damping system features as does a switch on the steering wheel allowing the driver to change the ride comfort.
Springs that are 11 per cent stiffer, a steering box with a 10 per cent quicker rack and Ferrari’s F1-inspired traction control system – that’s better suited to turbocharged engines – have all been added to the California T. The new engine sits 40mm lower than the old engine did and the whole car is 20mm lower than before, aiding road holding.
It means that entry-level Ferrari GT handles better than it ever has done – it’s not 458 sharp, naturally, but it is sharper than the car it replaces. Overall, it feels neutral in fast corners – which is no bad thing for the types of customers the Cali T will attract.
To our eyes, Ferrari’s makeover of the car’s styling has worked particularly well. The old car’s fussy looks have been replaced with simpler and prettier lines, and while every panel has been changed, it’s at the front and at the rear where the changes are greatest. The folding metal roof remains and does its party trick in 14 seconds flat, but only when the car is stopped – a negative point compared to its nearest rivals.
Inside, Ferrari has kept the recipe the same, which is no bad thing, but the major news is the addition of Apple’s CarPlay bringing the whole driving experience bang up to date. And bang up to date nicely sums up the California T – an already successful car that has become a lot more desirable.
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