This is a Ferrari for women. That’s a sweeping, possibly sexist statement, however, so with a sensitivity unusual in Italy, Ferrari simply says it hopes the California-T will attract new buyers to the marque, and that some of them will be women; currently, they account for just seven per cent of the customer base. But if there’s no doubt that Ferrari wants more female customers, what do women want from a supercar, and does the California-T fulfil their needs?
The answer, surely, is that women want roughly the same as men: good looks, presence, performance and craftsmanship. Perhaps, if there is a generalisation to be made, it is that while most men would be happy in the uncompromising 488GTB, most women prefer a more comfortable, less track-focused and more road-orientated package. To back up this theory we recently learned that a wonder lady driver Swati Bagga from Delhi gave up on her old F430 for a new California-T and feels that the car is in no way underpowered or less in any way, rather it feels more refined in it’s new improved form.
So we at Elite Delhi Magazine thought why not to test the same in our own unique way. So Select-Cars New Delhi, the sole official dealership for Ferrari in North India helped us get a full 2 day drive review for the California-T in Dubai, where we kept the car for a complete 2 day, 250 miles review and did our own few tests – From Track – To Town – To Highways – To Shopping Malls – To Traffic Jams, Dubai offers everything, and we made sure we used it all up for this review.
Engine Economy, Even At Ferrari
I drove the Ferrari California T for two days around Dubai – in Marina, Media-City, Downtown, the East Village, and JBR. All the usual haunts. It came with the typical accoutrements we expect from Ferrari: charismatic grill, Pininfarina detailing, seductive carbon ceramic brakes, flanks like a 250 Testa Rossa. And it came with some things we don’t expect from Ferrari: namely, a twin-turbo V8. After all, the T in California T stands for turbocharged.
The California T was made to appeal to a broad crowd; it neither looks nor sounds as rowdy as its brethren. (I’ll get to why in a moment.) It is like the FF in that it was made for practicality, as Ferraris go. Unfortunately the funny four-seat FF is fun but not incredibly successful, so now we have the California T, which is selling quite nicely thank you very much, according to Ferrari execs.
Anyway that’s a topic for another column. The main thing we need to discuss at this point is that engine.
Ferrari escapes the harshest emissions standards because it produces such a small volume of cars. But it still must improve fuel economy incrementally. So the minds in Maranello developed a turbocharged engine. This was quite a departure, because Ferrari engineering is best known in recent years for its near perfection of the V12 and flat-12 engine. At the time of its birth there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth from so-called and self-appointed Ferrari purists. But add India to the Mix and somehow this doesn’t really seem like a negative setback. We Indians (At-least some of us) still look for fuel economy even in a Ferrari. So for them, this is the perfect car.
It’s Meant To Be Driven
When the California debuted in 2008 these devotees complained about how lame it was, basically, that Ferrari would deign to manufacture a car that’s drivable every day. Something the casual user might, you know, use. And for such banalities as coffee-shop stops or road trips, because it isn’t hot, loud and jarring.
Typically when I survey these people about their experience driving the California, it quickly becomes apparent they haven’t – often they haven’t driven a Ferrari of any make. That inexperience results in an incorrect and unfair characterization in some circles of the California as a “dumbed down” Ferrari.
But developing a daily Ferrari is not an act of treason. It doesn’t diminish the rich, beautifully passionate Italian heritage Ferrari maintains. Those wins at Monza, those million-dollar cars, those handsome, well-dressed drivers – they already happened. They’re in the books. Nothing will change that. Intriguing modernizations like the California T only expand that tradition.
No, the California T doesn’t sound as supremely aggressive F12berlinetta, nor does it have the whippet-fast speed of the 458 Spider or the raw grit of the LaFerrari. This is your option for a sexy touring sports car.
Try It, You’ll Like It
Come with me as we tune out the chatter, test the California T for ourselves, and then form our own opinions. Relax. It’s not like this is an SUV.
The engine causing all this commotion is a 3.9-liter direct fuel-injection number that gets 553 horsepower and 557 foot-pounds of torque. That’s smaller than its naturally aspirated 4.3-liter California predecessor but 70 horses and 185 lb-ft of torque more powerful. It’s 15-percent more efficient (14mpg city/19mpg highway) as well. Those turbochargers pay off.
It’s also fast: a 0-60mph time of 3.6 seconds, which beats respectable competitors like the Bentley Continental GT Speed 3.7Cr. and the Maserati GTS 2.1Cr. (It ties Mercedes-Benz’s 2.5Cr. AMG GT.) Top speed is just under 200mph, which is not as great a thing as it sounds in Dubai – Imagine the angst as you try your best to adhere to a 50mph speed limit at the Sheikh Zayed Road and glance down to see the speedometer needle barely nudging 7-O’clock on the dial. Ugh. Such potential, but we might not face a similar situation in India.
The California T eats highway expanses and side-street sprints with equal aplomb. It has a newly stiffened chassis and improved 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that lend it stability on corners and fluidity as it gathers speed. It feels current – modern, light, nimble, smart – to drive. It feels more muffled than the F12. It doesn’t scream even as much as the FF. But – it bears repeating – it is still a Ferrari. Prancing ponies are never shrinking violets.
Avoid The Potholes
As with any other Ferrari, if you buy this you will become the guy who drives miles out of his way to avoid potholes. [Fair warning: How to lose friends and alienate people.] I’ve had a flat in a Ferrari before – an F430, to be exact – and the events that led to its demise were well worth it. But flats are never fun. (The same goes for shoes, but I digress).
Cobblestones are no picnic, either. Driving 5mph for what felt like hours through the JBR District one afternoon was brutal. The suspension, the low clearance, the sport tires – they all add up to tiptoeing over cobblestones and barely preserving your own sanity.
Should be Sold at Tiffany & Co.
I enjoy how this car looks. By which I mean I like how I feel when I look at it. It seems sharper than its predecessor, with a rear that toned and simplified. At first glance you’ll swear it is lower and longer than the previous California. (The external dimensions are basically the same.) The car has the same headlights and fenders of the F12; the same wing line stretches from the taut rear toward the chiseled nose. It looks more serious, gaunter, than the original California.
This is one of the few convertibles that look equally cool with the top on and off. The roof extends in 13 seconds and seals well when it’s overhead. You’d be surprised how many high-priced convertibles rattle annoyingly at high speeds, or mysteriously develop tiny streams of water inside along the door and windows whenever it rains.
Inside look for all the benefits of fine Italian craftsmanship (wonderful gloves, bags, and shoes belong to this blessed heritage). The stitching and badging on the seats clean and crisp; the carbon-fiber steering wheel is thick and perfectly proportioned for changing your mind – and your direction – at a moment’s notice. The sport seats hug your shoulders like the favorite uncle you haven’t seen in a while: a quick warm embrace, a few good-natured slaps on the back, and you’re off.
I liked the round dashboard gauges and the clear division between the dash and tunnel and the bridge. Sometimes boundaries — in this case, the space between the steering column and the center controls — are freeing. Twelve-speaker premium surround sound, “infotainment” (nav/media/modes, etc) and 3D mapping come standard. Special badging and paint colors are optional.
The California T has a push-button transmission system. There are three: Reverse, Auto, and Launch. Neutral is achieved by pulling the paddle shifters on the steering wheel together toward you; park is there only when you pull a lever to the bottom left. So you’ve got to watch that a bit – inadvertent rolling can occur.
The turn signals sit on the wheel; you deploy them with your thumbs. Paddle-shifting is there when you want it.
At home in Delhi, we have 3 Coupes and most of the time when my husband is driving with another senior family member I squeeze myself in the back. So how can I not try this cars back seat.
I hold fast to my stance that a miniscule back seat is still a back seat, and as such is inherently useful. The one night a month when you DO want a third to join you on your way home from the club it will feel essential, even if she has to sit sideways with her legs across the back. (The impeccably trimmed leather and carbon fiber accents in the rear definitely played a role in convincing an extra ladies or two to jump in the back while I was driving it.) What’s more: you can increase luggage space by folding down the back seats, so that things like golf bags or skis can fit.
“This is what a 3.5Cr. car should feel like,” said the Fashionista with the butterfly tattoo later that night. The three of us drove down the Marina admiring the multitude of lights illuminating the windows of residential buildings above. They spanned above our heads like the city’s own personal Milky Way. That’s Dubai for us, hope Noida Expressway one day looks like this, but lets not let our imagination run wild I say.