- Eye-catching style
- Capable handling
- Top-down experience with hardtop convenience
- Plenty of room for gear
- Nearly two-ton curb weight
- Seven-speed automatic is a bit recalcitrant
- Beginning to show its age
As the entry point to Ferrari ownership, the 2014 California balances performance, style, and practicality surprisingly well.
The Ferrari California isn't the highest performance offering from the brand, nor is it the most beautiful. But it lays a strong claim on being the most practical--and that's a wonderful thing for a Ferrari to be.
Daily driving and Ferraris aren't concepts that normally go together, but with the California, you'd be forgiven for the mashup. After all, the California's folding hardtop lets it perform double duty as a near-coupe and a convertible; its balance of performance and comfort make it very well-suited to both a spirited canyon run and the daily commute.
The California's exterior design is, after several years on the market, lagging somewhat behind the latest cues and kinks from Ferrari's newer models, but it still presents a dramatic, clear branding statement. The long, flowing lines, arched fenders, and curvaceous sides all complement the classic roadster proportions. Inside, the California looks very much like its newer brethren, with a careful mix of leather, metal, and plastic laid out in Ferrari's typically lush, yet purposeful fashion.
Powering the California is a potent 4.3-liter V-8 engine rated at 490 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque. Prior to 2013, the California was rated at 460 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the additional power, the California now accelerates to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, and hits a top speed of 193 mph.
Handling is, as you'd expect of a Ferrari, quite impressive--at least up to about 9/10ths. Pushing the limits is not in the California's repertoire, as it's tuned for comfort and practicality more than track-ready feats of speed. Still, a Handling Speciale package is available for those who desire a bit more edge, and even at 9/10ths, the California is blazingly quick.
As a hardtop convertible, the California's cabin merges the best of the roadster and coupe worlds, with a well-built, sturdy feel to the interior that's not typical of Ferrari. Seat room is good up front, but the plus-two rear seats are best reserved for children or extra gear. The trunk offers fair space, but isn't quite capacious. The folding hardtop operates smoothly and quickly, opening and closing in about 15 seconds.
A pop-up rollover protection system is standard, and a rearview backup camera is available.
Standard features on the California include navigation, USB connections, and even the unthinkable: cupholders. For those with a taste for more, Ferrari is open to personalization of the California through its various programs. Last year, a new selection of triple-layer colors were added to the 5,000 hues already offered.