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- Capable handling
- Artful sheet metal
- Top-down experience with hardtop convenience
- Enough space for weekends away
- New turbo engine
- Hefty—more a tourer than a sports car
- Recalcitrant 7-speed automatic
- Rear end appears bulky with top lowered
Perhaps the best weekend getaway car of Ferrari's lineup, the 2016 California T combines the brands traditional look and feel with a little more open-air flexibility.
Although the idea of an entry-level Ferrari is more realistically a used one—get in line, sir or madame—the Ferrari California serves, at least on pricing terms, as the entry point to the current range. Although the California is neither the highest-performance model nor the most beautiful from the brand, it's been given a lot of love the past couple of years—most notably last year with improved styling, an all-new powertrain, and in honor of the new turbocharged V-8 engine, it's been instead given the California T badge.
The California T is quite possibly the most daily-driving-friendly of the current lineup—if perhaps you look past the all-wheel-drive FF's inherent all-weather capability. There's plenty of open-air fun potential (and insulation from the elements) from its retractable hardtop, while an adjustable ride control allows you to select the personality of the car—making it tuned for serious performance only when that's what you want.
The California's exterior design has been brought more in line with the rest of the current lineup, thanks to the refresh it received this past year. With that, it received new headlight units, a subtly restyled lower fascia and grille, and a new hood design that subs in a pair of heat extractors for the previous hood scoop. Fender vent elements were also reshaped alongside, while the doors were reskinned to extend the vents' trailing edges. The rear end is still physically tall, but some subtle resculpting of the bootlid's rearmost edge brings the visual height down a tad. Overall, the exterior recalls classic Ferrari roadster designs, with long, flowing lines and arched fenders.
With the California T name change, it also gained an updated interior, with the same careful mix of leather, metal, and plastic laid out in Ferrari's typically lush, yet purposeful fashion.
The 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged engine puts out 553 horsepower and is the first turbocharged powertrain offered by Ferrari since the days of the F40. It's matched to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle. The engine's variable boost management system lets it increase torque output with each subsequent transmission gear, maxing out at 557 pound-feet of torque. Handling improved in the California T translation, too. The suspension design has been revised, faster magnetic dampers are fitted, and a new, quicker steering box replaces the old unit, which was no slouch itself. The California T also uses the latest versions of Ferrari's F1-Trac and electronic stability software—and dynamics are said to get better as the new engine is mounted lower, also lowering the center of mass and soothing weight transfer.
The T model should hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds compared to the California's 3.8-second time. The more-powerful car also manages to reduce fuel consumption. Ratings by the EPA stand at 16 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined compared to 14/19/17 mpg before.
As a hardtop convertible, the California T's cabin merges the best of the roadster and coupe worlds, with a well-built, sturdy feel to the interior that hasn't always been typical of Ferrari. Passenger room is good up front, but the plus-two rear seats are best reserved for children or extra gear. There's a new seat design with more bolstering, and while we'll say the trunk is useful for a carefully packed weekend away, it's hardly spacious. The folding hardtop operates smoothly and quickly, opening and closing in about 15 seconds.
Of course the California T, can be custom tailored to an owner's every wish, with special colors, trims and accessories. You won't end up with the same car as anyone else.
Standard features on the California T include navigation, USB connections, and even something you might not expect from a Ferrari sports car: cupholders. There's some modern tech here, too; Apple CarPlay has arrived, and a new digital gauge system, called Turbo Performance Engineer is located between the two central air vents.