Test Drive: 2010 Ferrari California

The California moniker returns to Ferrari’s Prancing Horse stable 

The Ferrari’s California GTB 250 Short Wheelbase of the late 50’s and early ‘60’s is now a highly prized collector car, with limited availability and a lofty price tag if and when you are even able to find one. A 1961 example recently sold for a king’s ransom. The producer of the legendary Italian supercar is staging a comeback of the California nameplate with the all-new 2010 Ferrari California. It is the legendary Italian automaker’s first Granturismo with a retractable hardtop and styling that rivals their F430 Spider in terms of beauty and performance capability. It also happens to be Ferrari’s first mid/front mounted V8 engine to feature Direct Injection.

The engine is a 4.3-liter, longitudinally mounted 90-degree V8 with Direct Fuel injection, which cranks out 453 horsepower @ 7,750 rpm, along with 357 pound feet of torque @ 5,000 rpm. The engine mates to an F1 dual clutch automatic transmission with 7 gears plus a console-mounted reverse button and steering column mounted paddle shifters. In keeping with Ferrari tradition, power drives the rear wheels. As in Formula 1 cars, the driver of the California is able to change several setup factors of the car utilizing a single, steering wheel mounted selector dial. It is called the Manettino by Scuderia Ferrari drivers, and functions as a commutator switch featuring five specific settings: Ice; Low Grip; Sport; and Race. There is also a setting that turns off both the traction and stability controls, giving the driver full control over the car’s actions.

As with the original example, this latest California Ferrari is a car of rare elegance, born with a spirit to race, that evokes exclusivity, master craftsmanship and exemplary refinement. Obviously, while the 2010 version echoes the spirit and emotion of the past, it also possesses a wealth of modern technological innovations to enhance one’s driving experience.

The Ferrari California’s breathtaking design is the result of a combined effort with Ferrari’s historical partner Pininfarina. The styling displays an athletic form with sculpted lines and surfaces that flow gracefully, reflecting ideal proportions with the top up or down. The sides emphasize fluid motion via a strong dynamic line that runs from the stylized “gill” in the quarter panel, through the door, rising above the handle and curving over the rear fender and muscular wheel well arch, to the short overhang of the rearend. The vehicle’s nose develops the overall theme characteristics typified by the convex and concave surfaces that blend harmoniously and effortlessly. The functional slender air vent in the hood is flanked by teardrop headlamp clusters above the slatted “egg-crate” grille and front splitter and lower air vents. The overall styling prompts a host of descriptive terms – curvaceous, racy, breathtaking, stunning, sexy and outrageously beautiful. It sits low, with the wheels and tires nicely filling the wells without any wasted space around them. As with other Ferrari models, the California comes across visually as a fine piece of sculpture, displaying the same appeal and elegance with its top up or down, exhibiting proper proportions in either mode. The coefficient of drag wasn’t listed, but it’s definitely aerodynamic and no doubt as slippery as it looks.

The California’s interior exhibits the same tasteful sophistication as the exterior. The leather seating features special stitching, perforation and unique strap detailing. Occupants sit low in the car, which is exaggerated by the high, rising beltline. Switchgear is positioned for optimum ease of use, and the analog gauges are highly legible. The engine start button is wheel mounted, and there is no traditional gear shift per say – gear changes are manipulated by the column-mounted paddle shifters, with the exception of reverse gear, which is activated by a center console mounted button.

Not everyone is destined to own a vehicle bearing the highly recognizable Ferrari shield for many reasons – the two primary issues being that their production is quite limited, and they are also quite expensive, putting them out of reach for the average consumer. The Ferrari California is actually the lowest priced model in the Ferrari stable, starting at $192,000. Even though one would naturally believe it to be more due to the sophisticated, fully automatic retractable hardtop. 

My test Ferrari California was fittingly finished in a bright (Ferrari) Red exterior, with the interior executed in a Tan leather theme with contrasting piping and other unique details. The base price for the California is an entry level $192,000. The Gas Guzzler Tax elevated total sticker to $196,450. The price ceiling is virtually unlimited through Ferrari’s personalization program offered through the coach works, Carrozzeria Scaglietti. One may select options such as: carbon fiber or aluminum interior trim and detailing; distinctive bodywork colors; integrated Ferrari shield set above the wheel arches; colored brake calipers; carbon ceramic material brakes and more.

SUMMARY:  Driving the Ferrari California is certainly more rewarding than simply looking at it. The car tends to overload one senses –it has everything going for it, and is without question a truly emotional creation. Any ‘dyed-in-the-wool’  gear-head is sure to relish the authoritative rumble emanating from the mighty V8 and its exhaust. Acceleration is mind-boggling, (even without utilizing the Launch Control feature) unless of course you want to simply cruise about, showcasing its beauty in a leisurely manner.

Shifting through the gears may be done in rapid-fire fashion with the F1-style steering column mounted paddle shifters. The seating is not only visually pleasing, but exceptionally supportive as well, with a feeling of spaciousness. The quality of the ride is surprisingly compliant considering the car’s ride height and low profile performance rubber. The handling is indeed “Ferrari-like” – with positive on-center preciseness. The California stays flat through challenging twisties and backroads, without the tires chirping at all. Maybe I wasn’t pushing hard enough, but hey, when you’re entrusted with this kind of ride, why press your luck by taking unnecessary chances.

 Where I previously hadn’t been bitten by the need or desire to place a Ferrari in my garage, I have been now. It is a car that instills lust – a vehicle that epitomizes Italian passion. Long live Enzo in the cars that bear his legacy. This is a car that I would buy in a heartbeat if only I had the wherewithal. Perhaps someday. Currently, the waiting list ranges from a year and a half to two years, so put your order in early and often for this rapid mobile art form. Think of the California as Ferrari’s entry level supercar.

 

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