2010 Ferrari California Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Published on July 09, 2010

Rear end styling shows elements of previous Ferraris but is nevertheless a wonderfully radical departure for the prancing horse brand. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 09, 2010

It really doesn't get much better than this until you step over the $1 million threshold. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 09, 2010

Rear seats are for kiddies only, but handy in a pinch just the same. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 09, 2010

Ya, this is what it's all about! The heart of any Ferrari is its engine, and the California's V8 is a joy to look at and even more enjoyable to hear, let alone feel by the seat of your pants. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 09, 2010

Would be a nice addition to the stable. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 09, 2010

There's few experiences as rewarding as driving a Ferrari at full throttle. (Photo: Ferrari)

Published on July 09, 2010

Track-bred, all Ferraris benefit from decades of motorsport. (Photo: Ferrari)

Published on July 09, 2010

With each new model introduction Ferrari improves its interiors in design, functionality and quality. The California is no exception. (Photo: Ferrari)

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Published on July 09, 2010

Ferrari's California GTB 250 Short Wheelbase of the late 50s and early 60s is now a highly prized collector car, with limited availability and a lofty price tag if and when you are able to find one. A 1961 example recently sold for a king's ransom. The producer of the legendary Italian supercar staged a comeback of the California nameplate with the 2009 California, and fortunately Ferrari has given us another one to play with this year. It is the legendary Italian automaker's first Gran Turismo with a retractable hardtop and rivals their F430 Spider in terms of beauty and performance capability. It also happens to be Ferrari's first front-mounted V8 engine, a mid/front layout actually, which additionally is the first Ferrari engine to feature Direct Injection.

The engine is a 4.3-litre, longitudinally mounted 90-degree V8 with direct fuel injection that cranks out 453 horsepower at 7,750 rpm, along with 357 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. The engine mates to an F1 dual clutch automatic transmission with 7 forward gears plus a console-mounted reverse button and steering column-mounted paddle shifters. In keeping with Ferrari tradition, power drives the rear wheels. As with Formula 1 cars, the driver of the California is able to change several setup factors of the car utilizing a single, steering wheel-mounted selector dial. It is called the Manettino, and features five specific settings: Ice; Low Grip; Sport; and Race and CST. In Race & CST modes the F1 superfast transmission will swap gears in as little as 100 milliseconds. There is also a setting that turns off both the traction and stability control, giving the driver full control over the car's actions.

As with the original example, this latest California Ferrari is a car of rare elegance, born with a spirit to race, that evokes exclusivity, master craftsmanship and exemplary refinement. While the 2010 version echoes the spirit and emotion of the past, it also possesses a wealth of modern technological innovations to enhance one's driving experience.

The Ferrari California's breathtaking design is the result of a combined effort with Ferrari's historical partner Pininfarina. The styling displays an athletic form with sculpted lines and surfaces that flow gracefully, reflecting ideal proportions with the top up or down. The sides emphasize fluid motion via a strong dynamic line that runs from the stylized "gill" in the quarter panel, through the door, rising above the handle and curving over the rear fender and muscular wheel arch, to the short overhang of the rear end. The vehicle's nose develops the overall theme characteristics typified by the convex and concave surfaces that blend harmoniously and effortlessly. The functional slender air vent in the hood is flanked by teardrop headlamp clusters above the slatted "egg-crate" grille and front splitter and lower air vents. The overall styling prompts a host of descriptive terms – curvaceous, racy, breathtaking, stunning, sexy and outrageously beautiful. It sits low, with the wheels and tires nicely filling the wells without any wasted space around them. As with other Ferrari models, the California comes across visually as a fine piece of sculpture, displaying the same appeal and elegance with its top up or down, exhibiting proper proportions in either mode. The coefficient of drag wasn't listed, but it's definitely aerodynamic and no doubt as slippery as it looks.

The California's interior exhibits the same tasteful sophistication as the exterior. The leather seating features special stitching, perforation and unique strap detailing. Occupants sit low in the car, which is exaggerated by the high, rising beltline. Switchgear is positioned for optimum ease of use, and the analogue gauges are highly legible. The engine start button is wheel-mounted, and there is no traditional gearshift per se – gear changes are manipulated by the column-mounted paddle shifters, with the exception of reverse gear, which is activated by a centre console mounted button.

Not everyone is destined to own a vehicle bearing the highly recognizable Ferrari logo for many reasons – the two primary issues being that their production is quite limited, and they are also quite expensive, putting them out of reach for the average consumer. The Ferrari California is actually the lowest priced model in the Ferrari stable, starting at $192,000 USD. Even though one would naturally believe it to be more, due to the sophisticated, fully automatic retractable hardtop which is constructed of aluminum.

Accessing fresh air motoring by lowering the top is accomplished by the mere touch of a button, which requires only 14 seconds to complete. The top is executed in two sections, one of which folds under the other and then slides neatly under the large one piece rear tonneau/tail section which then closes over the entire assembly in an innovative movement, respecting styling demands while improving its own functional characteristics, such as weight, opening speed and quietness. The innovative hardtop storage system also ensures minimum use of space, thus providing optimum versatility in the use of interior volume with the top up or down. For the first time in a Ferrari, the rear seatback folds down allowing longer items such as skis or golf bags to fit through from the trunk. None of the basic values of this Ferrari GT have been compromised. With the top system, in terms of active safety, there are roll hoops that deploy automatically when pending irregular yaw is sensed.

My test Ferrari California was fittingly finished in a bright (Ferrari) Red exterior, with the interior executed in a Tan leather theme with contrasting piping and other unique details. As mentioned, the base price for the California is $192,000 USD. The price ceiling is virtually unlimited through Ferrari's personalization program offered through the coach works, Carrozzeria Scaglietti. One may select options such as carbon fibre or aluminum interior trim and detailing, distinctive bodywork colours, integrated Ferrari shield set above the wheel arches, coloured brake calipers, carbon ceramic brakes and more.

Driving the Ferrari California is certainly more rewarding than simply looking at it. The car tends to overload ones senses – it has everything going for it, and is without question a truly emotional creation. Any gear head is sure to relish the authoritative rumble emanating from the mighty V8 and its exhaust. Acceleration is mind-boggling (even without utilizing the Launch Control feature), unless of course you want to simply cruise about, showcasing its beauty in a leisurely manner.

Shifting through the gears may be done in rapid-fire fashion with the F1-style steering column-mounted paddle shifters. The seating is not only visually pleasing, but exceptionally supportive as well, with a feeling of spaciousness. The quality of the ride is surprisingly compliant considering the car's ride height and low profile performance rubber. The handling is indeed "Ferrari-like" – with positive, on-centre precision. The California stays flat through challenging twisties and backroads, without the tires chirping at all. Maybe I wasn't pushing hard enough, but hey, when you're entrusted with this kind of ride, why press your luck by taking unnecessary chances.

For those who are prone to pushing the envelope, driver control is enhanced by the Control for Stability and Traction (CST) with F1 TRAC – that's English for Controllo Stabilita e Trazione -- an exclusive traction control system that was originally introduced on the 599 GTB Fiorano and subsequently adopted for the 430 Scuderia. The system is faster and more sophisticated than traditional traction control systems and results in a 20 percent increase in acceleration when exiting high-speed turns.

Where I previously hadn't been bitten by the need or desire to place a Ferrari in my garage, I have been now. It is a car that instills lust – a vehicle that epitomizes Italian passion. Long live Enzo in the cars that bear his legacy. This is a car that I would buy in a heartbeat if only I had the wherewithal to do so. Currently, the waiting list ranges from a year and a half to two years, so put your order in early for this rapid mobile art form.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Ferrari, 2010, California, $99,999+,

Geographic location: California Road

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