What is it?
A fourth model series for Ferrari - and the first new production Ferrari with no direct antecedent since the Dino 206GT was launched in 1968.
It is, says Ferrari, a convertible, a GT and a sports car all under one retractable hard top roof. It is Ferrari’s first ever front-engined, V8 road car, the first with a directly injected engine, the first with seven gears, and the first with a double clutch transmission. In short and for Ferrari, it is a revolution.
Some things, however, remain the same. Its chassis and body are all aluminium like every other Ferrari in production and, while Ferrari claims the 4.3-litre V8 is all new and cites the fact that even its bore and stroke are different to the 4.3-litre V8 in the F430, it does at least concede the two engines share block castings in common as, indeed, they do with the 4.7-litre engine Ferrari makes for Maserati and Alfa Romeo.
In the California it develops 453bhp at 7750rpm and 357lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. Ferrari claims this latter figure when quoted as a specific output (83lb ft per litre) is a world record for a normally aspirated, petrol-powered car.
The new gearbox is made for Ferrari by Getrag and, following a generation of front-engined Ferrari practice, sits as a transaxle between the rear wheels.
Ferrari does not quote a gearchange time because as the next gear is always pre-engaged, the shift is ‘effectively immediate.’ A manual transmission will be available later next year but Ferrari anticipates a less than 10 per cent take up.
There’s a small philosophical shift in the California’s suspension, which now comes with the double wishbones you expect at the front, but eschews them at the back, preferring a multi-link arrangement. Like all other new Ferraris, carbon ceramic disc brakes are standard.
The hard-top folds fairly conventionally, by stacking the rear windscreen on top of the roof, whereupon both sections disappear under the boot cover; but this being a Ferrari, it has to do it quicker than everyone else. For most convertibles, a time of around 20 seconds to turn into a coupe is the norm. We timed the California at 14sec.