Ferrari California T gets sharpened up with new Handling Speciale package

Published: 22 January 2016

► New Ferrari California T HS option revealed
► Includes stiffer springs and a new exhaust
► Only available on new cars for around £5200

Thinking about ordering a Ferrari California T but want it to have a bit more verve and acoustic presence? Then step this way! Ferrari’s rolling out a new ‘Handling Speciale’ package for the drop-top California, which is designed to cater for those owners wanting just a bit more from the classy twin-turbo GT.

The HS option features a host of revisions, all of which are aimed at sharpening and exaggerating the California’s performance in order to deliver a more sporting feel. One quick and easy way to achieve that goal is to stiffen the car up, which is exactly what Maranello has done. The front springs are now 16% stiffer, the rears 19%, and the damper settings have been revised to suit.

Ferrari says that the revamped suspension cuts pitch, roll and dive in cornering, but that it does result in a reduction in ride quality; if you’re looking to boost cornering performance then there’s going to be a compromise somewhere along the line. The ride height remains unchanged, though, so you shouldn’t have any trouble clearing our sleeping policemen.

What else does the Handling Speciale option include?

There have been updates to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In Sport mode it’s now claimed to offer quicker and punchier shifts, enlivening the experience for anyone behind the wheel. Ferrari’s given the traction control system a light overhaul, too, which should help you deal with the California T HS’s livelier nature and allow you to make better use of that twin-turbo power on rougher surfaces and out of corners.

What any enthusiast will similarly no doubt appreciate is the addition of a louder, more aggressive exhaust. Ferrari says that the new system has been developed with the revamped engine and gearbox mapping in mind, in order to ensure that it delivers an appropriate note and volume when the car’s being driven in a suitably sporting fashion.

There are relatively few aesthetic changes, though, so outside of the louder exhaust system passers-by are unlikely to notice that you’ve spent even more on your California. Visual tweaks consist of a new front grille, finished in grey, a rear diffuser finished in the same colour and matte-black finishes for the tailpipes and vertical diffuser elements. There’s a plaque in the cockpit, too, helping your passengers confirm that – yes, indeed – they are riding in an HS-equipped California T.

Ferrari California T HS

What’s it going to set me back?

Ferrari says that in mainland Europe the HS option will cost around €7000. UK pricing is yet to be confirmed but, based on Ferrari’s figures, expect it to be in the region of £5200. That would bring the total price of an HS-equipped California T to around £158,500. It’s not available as a retrofitted upgrade, though, so you’ll have to be ordering a new California if you want it.

Despite the revised exhaust system and other tweaks, the twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 that propels the California delivers the same 553bhp, 557lb ft and 7500rpm redline. Similarly, straight-line figures are unchanged: 0-62mph in 3.6sec and a top speed of 196mph.

If there’s a vague recollection of this happening before, by the way, don’t fret –  you’re not imagining things: Ferrari did the same back in 2009 with the original California. That HS upgrade benefitted from weight reductions and more power, however, and commanded a premium of £4320 when it was launched.

The new Ferrari California T Handling Speciale will be on display at the 2016 Geneva motor show, which starts on 1 March.

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car