This lightly disguised Ferrari California mule is said to be testing powertrains and running gear for the next-gen model, likely to be on sale around 2014/15.

A key detail is the engine in this test car, which on-lookers reported to sound like a turbocharged unit and is likely to be a version of a new V8 family now in production at Maranello.

The raised bonnet line and extra cooling vents could also be a sign that the turbo engine has a taller package height that needs more under-bonnet space and heat management.

However, insiders say that the unusual exhaust arrangement on this mule is purely a test-car requirement, needed to clampdown on noise output at the Fiorano test circuit, where strict operating regulations are in force to pacify local residents.

The new V8 family is Ferrari-designed and already in production having has just appeared in the Maserati Qattroporte in a twin-turbo 3.8-litre version, although there’s no word yet on whether Ferrari will use the same capacity.

Despite appearing first in a Maserati, Ferrari is insistent that the unit is thoroughly theirs, having been designed and built in Maranello at a new £40 million facility.

Ferrari has previously confirmed that it is working on downsized engines to meet tougher exhaust and emissions tests, with speculation suggesting that could even include the first road car V6 since the 1968 Dino.

However, sources suggest that might be a step too far for the next California. Instead a lightly blown 3.8 V8 could easily match the 453bhp output of the current California’s naturally aspirated 4.3, while performing well in exhaust and emissions tests.

The twin-turbo version in the Quattroporte, for example, already makes 523bhp, although Ferrari will want to ensure the engine delivers its power in the direct manner that owners are accustomed to.

A date for the California replacement is also the source of some speculation. Ferrari’s mid-engined cars are on a five-year replacement cycle, its V12 models seven-years.

Some commentators have suggested a six-year cycle for the California, suggesting a late 2014 reveal and early 2015 sale for a car that was first seen late in 2008 and launched early in 2009.