That Cali feeling
Ferrari’s California T may be aimed at a slightly different mindset Than The lithe 488, but in its dna is The story of a legend
To car lovers, the name Ferrari conjures up many images, from lithe, mid-engine supercars, to fire-breathing, iconic hyper cars. But in truth, for much of its history, Ferrari was the past master at creating something rather different. Go back to the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies, and Ferraris were as much a part of a boulevardier’s style arsenal as a track-ready weapon.
Yes, enzo Ferrari understood the ‘race on sunday, sell on Monday’ adage, but he also knew his customers. The rich and famous who bought his cars wanted to be seen, and wanted to look good whilst being seen. so although many were designed almost exclusively for the track, many more were more road-focused, albeit with that Ferrari power lurking under the hood.
Throughout the ‘sixties, Ferrari churned out a long list of simply stunning open-top cars. These convertibles were built for men wearing Jason King sunglasses, usually accompanied by a beautiful female companion, wearing deep red lipstick and a Hermès headscarf. They were just as likely to be seen pottering along at 10 km/h in the centre of Monaco, as they were doing over the metric tonne on the early highways of europe.
Probably the most famous of these was the iconic (and now ferociously expensive) 250 california, which was designed by scaglietti in a moment of sheer brilliance. The v12-engined 250 was an exquisitely designed two-seater spider, with some of the greatest lines of any car ever produced. Built in 1957, it has since become
nothing ‘low-powered’ about it, with the car boasting 453 horsepower and 485 Nm of torque at launch.
Then in 2014, the present generation California T was launched, with a new 552 BHP, 3.9-litre, turbocharged V8, marking the first turbocharged car from Maranello since the 1987 release of the stunning F40 supercar.
Trying one out in Dubai in mid-summer can’t be the the wisest choice, but with temperatures dropping a little at night, I also had a few fleeting roof-down moments as well.
Anyone who has sampled Maranello’s other products will be surprised by the T, as it’s quite a different beast. It’s more cruiser than bruiser, and certainly has a more sedate drive than, say, a 488 or F12. Yes, it’s very quick, but it doesn’t have that punch and electrifying delivery that you get from Ferrari’s other cars. It’s clearly aimed at those who want to enjoy the drive, rather than those who feel like getting there before they’ve even left.
The power delivery is smooth, despite the turbo, with little noticeable lag. I’ve never liked turbocharged cars, but the T doesn’t feel like a turbo, so the driving experience isn’t tainted by the all-or-nothing delivery of many cars with forced induction.
The California T sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds flat and from 0 to 200 km/h in 11.2 seconds. It is also more fuel-efficient, to the tune of approximately 15 per cent, in comparison to the previous California. The handling is, of course, excellent, with a lovely front/rear balance. It also has huge brakes, which allow you to push things perhaps a little further than you should.
The interior is simply stunning and hard to fault. Some of the electronic interfaces aren’t as resolved as the big German brands, but it all works and won’t upset you. As with all current Ferraris, I can’t stand the steering wheel-mounted indicators. For me, they just don’t work in the real world, away from the racetrack.
The biggest change to the California T over its predecessor is the rear design. The earlier model had a lovely nose and flanks, but the rear wasn’t the prettiest. It was too high, too big and didn’t project the elegance the brand is famous for. The new car’s rear design, however, has been fixed in the flick of the designer’s pen. The new T has a stunning rear end, which compliments the rest of the car’s sleek design. There really isn’t a line I don’t like, regardless of whether you have the roof up or down.
This is a simpler introduction to Italy’s most famous logo, albeit with the pace and looks we’ve come to expect. It’s a lot easier to live with in comparison to a mid-engined car, and this model actually has room for two small people in the rear, opening up the brand to previously excluded customers.
And that’s really the story of the T. It’s part of that ‘Sixties ethos of roof-down, easy-to-live-with, performance motoring. And just like the original California models, given an open road and a willing driver, it can still kick up its heels and live up to the badge on the bonnet.
So it might be hot outside, but now there’s no excuse for not slipping on your mirrored sunglasses and getting the wind in your ‘Sixties hairstyle.