The Car Connection Ferrari California Overview
The Ferrari California T was the automaker's "entry-level" sports car, if there is such a thing. It was replaced in 2017 with the Ferrari Portofino, which is an evolution of the same idea. It's a hardtop convertible that can seat four passengers—on paper.
For those familiar with Ferraris, the combination of comfort and speed might not be a surprise, but for those new to the brand, the California strikes a remarkable compromise between the company's race-bred heritage and the demands of comfortable daily driving.
Rivals for the California T include the Porsche 911 Cabriolet, the Maserati GranTurismo, Lamborghini's Huracan and the AMG-powered Mercedes SL-Class models.
The California received significant changes for 2015, including a new turbocharged engine and a T appended to its name to denote the change. In typical Ferrari fashion, the subsequent two years have been essentially carryovers.
MORE: Read our 2017 Ferrari California T review
When Ferrari's first folding-hardtop convertible went on sale back in 2008, it was powered by a 460-horsepower, 4.3-liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine. This marked several other firsts: the first Ferrari engine to use direct fuel injection, the first use of the company's dual-clutch transaxle, and the first use of a multi-link rear suspension in one of the brand's cars. While most of those items have carried over, the powertrain saw big changes for the 2015 model year.
The California carried forward from its 2008 arrival to 2012 largely unchanged. In the spring of 2012, Ferrari updated the California, giving it 30 extra hp and removing 66 pounds as compared to the previous model. The weight savings came by way of more aluminum in the car's construction, while the extra power was enabled by revised exhaust manifolds and computer tuning. Ferrari also added an optional Handling Speciale package to the revised model, with a quicker steering rack and stiffer springs. The result was a more precise and powerful California that still retained the overall relaxed demeanor.
Inside the Ferrari California, you'll find two comfortable and relatively spacious front seats, plus two compact rear perches best reserved for extra luggage with only occasional use by smaller passengers. The materials inside rise to typical Ferrari standards, and through Ferrari's highly personalized customization programs it can be made as opulent, sporty, or simply unique as you'd like. Exterior colors—and nearly any other feature of the car—can also be specially chosen through these programs.
An updated version called the Ferrari California T arrived for the 2015 model year. Heavily revised and restyled inside and out, the California T gets a brand-new engine—upgraded from a 4.3-liter V-8 to a new twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 with 552 hp and 556 pound-feet of torque. Power again is shipped to the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle. Ferrari estimates 0-60 mph times of under 3.6 seconds, while top speed rises to 195 mph.
New springs and latest-generation MagneRide magnetorheological dampers (more than 50 percent faster than before), combined with body-motion accelerometers, help reduce roll and pitch to deliver more precise handling while keeping the ride supple. The California T also boasts quicker steering courtesy of a new steering box and a modified suspension setup, while electronic systems such as the F1-Trac traction control and electronic stability have been upgraded to Ferrari’s latest spec.
A new infotainment system graces the California T's center stack. Its 6.5-inch touchscreen controls audio and navigation functions and is also compatible with Apple's CarPlay system, which allows control of a pared-down set of iPhone apps through any of the stereo's buttons, the touchscreen, or Siri-powered voice control.