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Ferrari California T revives the Italian cruising tradition


The Ferrari California has been oft maligned since its release in 2008, mainly by fools who never drove one, and/or viciously competitive adrenaline junkies with no understanding of the joys of comfortable and expedited Italianate cruising.

Ferraris, as anyone with any real knowledge of the brand’s history will attest, were not always or only corner-carving track demons. Certainly, company founder Enzo Ferrari got his start as a racing tuner, and there have been many Ferraris that have carried forth this ballsy, high-strung legacy. But some of the greatest Fezzas in history have been big, luxurious, powerful, front-engined grand tourers, meant, as their abbreviated name implies, for long drives in high style.

The California was created as a sort of entry-level GT, with a potent and sonorous V-8, a power retractable hardtop, and room for four passengers (so long as two of them were infants and/or imaginary.) As such, it was an extremely entertaining companion for freeways, mountain twisties, and weekend romps. It was also quite lovely, save a cap that fit as awkwardly as that Arby’s hat of Pharrell’s and a rear that looked to have completed a few million too many power squats.

As part of its recent and atypical drive to deliver new or refreshed product more frequently than each lunar leap year (see: LaFerrari, F12, 458 Speciale, etc.) Maranello has just unveiled here at Geneva an updated an improved California, and it has updated and improved on all of its strengths.

Replacing the previous, and melodious, naturally aspirated 4.3 liter V-8 is a crinkle finished twin-turbo 3.9 liter unit shared, somewhat, with Maserati. Don’t be put off by the downsizing or the powertrain twinning, as Ferrari has been making Maser mills for years, to great effect, and in this application, the motor grinds out about 15 percent more horsepower and 50 percent more torque (553 hp/557 lb.-ft.) than the previous California motivator, all of which arrives with more alacritous onset.

Similarly quickened will be your 0-60 times, and your pulse, as this thing looks even more stunning than the outgoing car, with proper and almost traditional Pininfarina scoops, cuts, and bulges. We’re especially fond of its eyes and thighs, which give it a sort of muscular and adult erudition. Also faster will be your iPhone 5 connectivity, as Apple's new CarPlay system will be available on the California when it launches, integrating many of your apps into the Ferrari's infotainment unit. (Ferrari says that 90 percent of their owners have iPhones — and they're working on the other 10 percent.)

Following the California’s unveiling, we went behind the Rosso Corsa velvet rope for an exclusive “restricted” press conference with Ferrari executives. We asked Matteo Torre, Ferrari's product communications specialist how the customer for the new California differed from the old, aside from being quite wealthy (base price will be around $200,000). He said, “It is the same target.” Again with the percentages, he informed us that 70 percent of previous generation California buyers were new to the brand, a trend Ferrari hopes will continue. We imagine they'll succeed.