Any new Ferrari is a big deal in the car world, but this new Ferrari California T is extra-special.
Not only have the Italians finally morphed the ugly duckling of the range into something rather sleeker, it's boosted by turbochargers.
That's the reason for the 'T' suffix on the California T's name, and makes this the first forced-induction Ferrari since the iconic F40 supercar.
Why has Ferrari turbocharged the new California T?
It’s a win-win situation. Turbocharging makes the new Cali faster and up to 15% more frugal than its predecessor (Ferrari says), and links the engines of Ferrari's road cars and the new turbo’ed F1 racer. That should keep the marketing types cheerful.
Up front the California T uses a revised version of the Ferrari-developed twin-turbo V8 that Maserati deploys in the Quattroporte. Be careful: call it a rehashed Maserati engine and you’ll wake up with a prancing horse’s head in your bed. There’s more than a badge-swap going on under the bonnet.
The California T’s V8 displaces 3855cc (vs the Maserati’s smaller 3799cc) and uses a bespoke flat-plane crank for better performance, at the expense of some of the limo’s refinement. Essentially, it’s been turned into a proper sports car’s engine.
Is the Ferrari more powerful?
Way more powerful. The new California’s 3.8-litre V8 develops 552bhp (up 62bhp from the old naturally aspirated Cali, and only 10bhp down on a 458 Italia). And – get this – it delivers 49% more torque. 557lb ft is on tap at 4750rpm, and Ferrari promises the retuned V8 has next to no turbo-lag. The Maserati V8 has 523lb ft, and the old California is left panting with only 372lb ft.
How fast is the new Ferrari California T?
Fast enough to give smug 458 Spider owners a real fright. Using the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox's launch control mode, the California T sprints to 62mph in 3.6sec, and tops out at 196mph. Modena’s £200k mid-engined drop-top, the 458 Spider is only 0.2sec and 2mph further down the road.
None of the California's key rivals get close to that kind of pace. Aston Martin Vanquish Volante? 4.6sec, 183mph. Bentley Continental V8 GTC? 4.7sec, 187mph. Twin-turbo V12 Mercedes SL65 AMG? 4.0sec, 155mph. The California T certainly doesn’t go like a baby Ferrari, it seems…
Any other cool performance kit?
A quickened-up, hyper-alert steering rack, and adaptive magnetic dampers that react 50% faster for more precise handling, according to Maranello. Standard ceramic brakes haul the California T to a standstill from 62mph in 34 metres. The new car is also 5kg lighter than first-gen California was at launch, but 25kg heavier than the outgong California was at the end of its life, due to weight-saving evolution throughout the car's lifespan.
Ferrari has sweated buckets over making the new twin-turbo California bark like a Ferrari should, in spite of its noise-killing turbos. A three-piece cast exhaust manifold and turbo housing, plus that flat-plane crank has reportedly done the job, with Ferrari promising we’re in for a soundtrack worthy of the badge, right across the rev range.
And it's kinder to the environment, you say?
Maranello claims the new Cali T is 15% more fuel efficient in everyday driving, and even better on the official EU test cycle. According to the lab figures, it’ll do up to 29.6mpg (up from 21.6mpg) and emit 250g/km (previously 270g/km) when equipped with stop-start.
What's new inside?
A 6.5in touchscreen, which looks very VW-esque to us (no bad thing) and an F12 Berlinetta-style console hosting buttons for the gearbox’s automatic mode, reverse, and launch control.
Mostly, it's similar to the existing California. You get typical Ferrari details like a prominent rev-counter, three-mode manettino switch and ancillary controls on the steering wheel, plus XXL gearshift paddles hinged at the steering column. And of course, it's all open to the elements in 14 seconds.
Note the ‘Turbo Response’ gauge atop the dashboard, nestled between the ventilation pods. It displays a percentage figure of how much boost is available – so much classier than a simple ‘boost pressure’ readout, don’t you think?
Has the California's folding hard-top been improved?
Ferrari reckons the folded ‘RHT’ (Retractable Hard Top) impinges less on boot space, and from our first look at the car, the old car's lardy backside has been subjected to a much-needed tone-up. The ugly stacked exhaust pipes are gone, a huge rear diffuser accentuates the wide stance, and the 'pontoon' curves that hint at the classic ’60s 250GT California are better resolved.
Would you still level a 'just an overgrown Honda S2000' jibe at this California? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
California here we come...
You can order your own turbocharged California T from March 2014, when the car will arrive at the Geneva motor show along with a confirmed price tag. CAR understands that Ferrari intends to set the California T’s price much the same as the outgoing car’s £152,154 tag.
That said, it'll still remain the entry-level Ferrari model, staying a good deal cheaper than a 'basic' £178,526 458 Italia, or the £198,971 Spider version of the 458.