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.
What’s it like?
Spend too long in the company of the spec sheet and you’ll start to ponder whether it even deserves to have a prancing horse on its nose.
With 30bhp less than an F430, but a kerbweight higher than a 599GTB, the California could be accused of having not enough power and being asked to do too much.
Even Ferrari concedes that its claimed sub-4sec 0-62mph time has more to do with the efficiency of its launch control, the non-existent gear shift intervals and the closeness of its ratios than the punch from its engine.
Visually the California looks reasonably well proportioned in the metal, but poorly detailed inside and out: the crease going up the door doesn’t work, the back of the car is rather too busy while in the cabin the main analogue instruments are unattractive and not helped by an adjacent screen for relaying less important information.
Not the most prepossessing of starts for such a car, you’ll agree. What is needed is five minutes at the wheel on a decent road. Then all those concerns and fears vanish like a wisp of smoke in a stiff breeze. This car doesn’t just deserve to be thought of as a Ferrari, it is a fine Ferrari at that.